Evening Reading: 4/22/14

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Here’s a great read on the life and abandonment of AIM.  Here’s my take on instant messaging, from the day before Google Talk was released, in 2005.

Apple (or someone) really needs to come up with a reverse-lookup phone book.  The majority of calls I get at home are from suspicious numbers.  Google used to do it with a simple phone number search, but some Chicken Littles whined about privacy so Google removed most of the functionality.  Maybe Truecaller is the answer.  Maybe.  The taking a screenshot thing seems burdensome.

The Atlantic (love it) is streaming the new Old 97′s record, which will be out at the end of this month.  Here’s the title track.

Who Originally Said “I’m Not A Doctor, But I Play One on TV“?  I watched the show back then, and still didn’t remember.

The reason people hate airlines, and especially United, is because the gate attendants simply aren’t always nice.  I was on my way to Dallas last week and got to the airport early.  I walked up to the departure gate as an earlier flight was leaving and asked if I could get on that fight.  Not one of the three ladies behind the (not at all busy) desk looked at me or acknowledged my inquiry.  I thought maybe they didn’t hear me, so in a minute or so I asked again, nicely.  Nothing.  Eventually, one of them started typing away on her computer.  A few minutes later, she finally looked at me and said she’d put me on standby.  All I needed was a glance and some sort of response (yes, no, maybe) to be satisfied.  What I got was the sense that I was bothering them.

I was relatively late to the Oxford comma.  But I generally follow that approach now.

Fortran, FTW.  Fortran was the first programming language I (sort of) learned.  I thought it was a lot of work for a small reward.  Sort of like blogging.

This is exactly why I have never acted on my recurring urge to switch to a standing desk.

Yeah, I’m thinking Facebook’s Paper app is on the Google+ trajectory of use adoption.  I tried it.  I deleted it.

Not recommended:  Three times I have tried to use an Eye-Fi card.  Three times I have tossed them in the trashcan, irritated by the user-unfriendly, non-intuitive interface.  There is no way I am going to go through that sort of hell again just to create more cloud space, when Google and Amazon( AWS) are almost giving it away.

They aren’t that hard to swat.  If you have a fly swatter.

Harper Valley PTA-Fest

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Harper Valley P.T.A., written by the great Tom T. Hall, is one of the best and most coverable songs ever.

First, the version by Jeannie C. Riley that made it famous.  Yes, this is frickin’ awesome.

Up to now, my favorite covers have been this one by the wonderful Mary Jane Hooper.

And a mostly forgotten one by Syd Straw.

But there’s a new contender.  Kelly Willis.  Read about it at Twang Nation.

Sounds of Tech, Episode 3: All About the iPad

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Here’s Episode 3 of the Sounds of Tech (SOT) podcast.  Tech talk for grownups, with some fantastic music thrown in for good measure.  Let’s see how we can use tech to improve our lives, save us money and make us more productive.

Today’s show will help you figure out what apps to put front and center on your iPad and how to arrange them for maximum efficiency.

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Great songs played

One from Fever Tree’s 1968 record Another Time, Another Place.  Purchase links:  I can’t find any, if you know one, let me know and I’ll add it.

One from Fred Eaglesmith’s 1980 self-titled record.  Purchase links:  Amazon, iTunes.

More in a week.

Here’s the RSS feed.  Here’s the iTunes link.

It’s Time to Reclaim Religion

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To avoid any doubt and to lessen the chance we get off on some avoidable tangent, let’s summarize my religious views as of 2014.

I believe in God, fully and completely.  I pray all the time.  I am less sure exactly what God is, but I am certain some greater power is at play.  I don’t know that God micromanages the day-to-day operations of life (I tend to end up somewhere along the benevolent ant-farm line of thought), but that doesn’t affect what I want to talk about today.

I believe one’s relationship with God should be direct, and not via some person or organization who offers or demands to tell you what God thinks and what God wants you to do.  In other words, the more human beings you put between you and God, the more messed up things get.

I believe that far too many of the human beings who would place themselves between you and God have agendas that aren’t always in the best interest of you or God.  This is not to say that there is no place for organized religion.  I simply approach so-called religious doctrine imposed by some human beings on other human beings as inherently suspect.  God is love.  Religious leaders often forget or ignore this foundational reality.

I believe that far too many people who claim to speak for religion and/or God are doing way more harm than good.  I notice more of this with Christians, because I am one (more on that below), but it is the case with all or most religions.

I believe that far too many people who claim to speak for Christianity are conscripting religion to further their own purposes.  If you doubt this, ask yourself the last time you heard a so-called Christian leader say “I’d really like to do X (marry my same-sex partner; drink a beer; you name it), but the Bible says I can’t.”  It’s always “those people would like to do X, but the Bible tells me that they can’t.”

If Christians don’t get a handle on this soon, there is a risk that, by acting in ways inconsistent with right-thinking Christian beliefs (take love and tolerance, for example), we will allow Christianity to become marginalized.  In other words, if you make good and just people choose between calling themselves Christians and acting in a good and just manner, they will choose the latter.  If I’m hesitant to call myself a Christian because of all the idiots and haters spouting off nonsense on Facebook and in the media, that’s a small problem for me, but a huge problem for a religion that wants to matter in 10, 20, 100 years.  I’m in my 50′s and I have a problem with the lack of love and tolerance exhibited by many Christians.  Imagine how young people feel.

A big part of the problem is that people (usually old men trying to hold on to diminishing power or influence) start rattling on about what the Bible means, and how if you don’t do this and that- or if you tolerate this and that, you are acting against the word of God.  The thing is, it’s not the word of God.  It’s some other cat’s interpretation of the word of God.  And more often that not, that cat has an agenda.

The Bible is a work of love, not a weapon of control.

If I came face to face with God and could ask him just one question, it would be: “Do you think the Bible is the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to Christianity?”  I think it’s an open question, not because of the Bible itself, but because of the way it’s used by some to influence and control others.  The two stupidest things I regularly hear are:

1. Global warming isn’t happening.
2. The Bible is the literal word of God and must be literally complied with.

The problem with number 1 is that it is clearly disprovable, by facts.  I suppose one can debate the cause of climate change, but its existence is no more debatable than the existence of atoms and molecules.

The problem with number 2 is that proponents of this theology pick and choose which parts are literal, while ignoring both the parts that don’t fit their objectives, as well as all the crazy stuff.  And there is a lot of straight-up crazy stuff in there.  By picking and choosing which parts matter and which don’t, the Biblical literalists disprove the foundation on which they seek to stand.

Which leads me to the list.  I am tired of debating people on a one-off basis every time someone posts some allegedly Biblical-based reason as to why we shouldn’t let some people marry, why we shouldn’t watch the Super Bowl (the topic of probably the most idiotic thing I’ve ever read), why this group is bad and the other group good, etc., etc.  So if you want to claim the Bible is the literal word of God and that word means we have to act in an intolerant or unjust manner, be prepared to explain the following.  I’ll add to the list over time.

Or we can stop fighting over the unimportant stuff and get back to love and tolerance.

9 Surprisingly Progressive Moments In The Bible

The 9 most baffling passages in the Bible, and what they really mean

10 Religious Verses Used To Justify Terrible Atrocities

10 Biblical Figures Who Teach Outrageous Morals

The ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ Is Real: What Now?

10 Truly Bizarre Or Unsettling Biblical Accounts

10 Misconceptions About Jesus

Millennials ‘Talk To God,’ But Fewer Rely On Religion, Survey Finds

​God’s 12 Biggest [Mean] Moves in the Old Testament

When Thomas Jefferson Rewrote The Entire Bible

Mary Magdalene Was Never A Prostitute

Hout and Fischer conclude that a big part of the decrease in religiosity can be attributed to “liberals and moderates declaring no religious preference as a way of rejecting the growing connection between churches and conservative politics, especially conservative cultural politics on topics such as the family, women and sex. [They] were saying, in effect, if that is what religion means, count me out.”

Again, I love God.  I just don’t like a lot of the things human beings say about God.  It’s time for right-thinking people of all religions to take back their religion from those who would misuse it for their own purposes.

God is love.  Peace.

GoodSongs: Leslie Krafka – On·ward

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Here’s a sad little not-so-secret.  There just isn’t much of a music scene in Houston.  We’ve had some great bands over the years (Fever Tree, ZZ Top, the Dishes, etc.) and some fine musicians spent time here (Townes Van Zandt and others), but it’s nothing like the Austin or Nashville scene.

So, when I receive a review copy of a record from a Houston artist, you can rest assured I’ll take a listen.  In this case, I’m glad I did, because Leslie Krafka‘s new record is very good.  The music and arrangements are top-notch, as you’d expect from anything produced by Lloyd Maines.  Much of the writing and singing has a nineties-era Suzy Boggus vibe, and for those who didn’t know me back then, that’s high praise.  Suzy’s recording of the Cheryl Wheeler song Aces is one of my favorite tracks ever.  My favorite track on Leslie’s new record is South Texas Fall.  This song is a 10 on anyone’s scale.


She does a great cover of Drunken Poets Dream that oozes girl-power (though I continue to lament the way many musicians and almost all of Hollywood play to the false myth of cigarettes as cool and rebellious (when they are, in fact, stupid, unhealthy and offensive to anyone nearby).

Wine Women and Song is another favorite of mine.

On·ward is set for release on May 3, 2014 at Anderson Fair (I’ve seen so many amazing shows there; Steve Fromholz being one that immediately comes to mind as a favorite).  If you share my desire to support Houston musicians (and you should), check it out.

Ghosts is Out – Get Your Copy Now!

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It’s been many years in the making, but Idlewilde South‘s new record is available now, at Amazon,  iTunesCD Baby and Google Play. Give it a listen. You’ll like it.

Here’s a video of Joe and me discussing the title track.

Evening Reading: 4/10/14

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It seems inevitable that the world is moving away from desktop computers, through laptops to tablets.  I guess I am an iMac loving dinosaur, but I find it much harder to create anything on a tablet.  Read?  Sure.  Work?  Nah.

This would be the best thing that ever happened to every Apple TV competitor, which is why Apple won’t do it.  There are pennies in putting geeky headsets on nerds.  There are bags of gold in helping non-geeks to cut the cord and get elegant, on demand content.

Let me say it again.  No redesign on earth is going to save iTunes.  I love almost everything Apple, but I abhor iTunes.  It needs to be tossed and a new media application redesigned from the ground up.  I’m not the only Mac devotee who feels that way.

10 Most Unnecessary Movie Sequels Of All Time.  I’ve never seen any of them.  But I eagerly await Sharknado 2.  No, I’m not kidding.

This is good advice.  I do OK on humble and kind, as long as I trust the intention of those who would seek kindness (e.g., don’t knock on my door at 10:00 at night in some sketchy outfit and offer to sell me magazines).  I struggle sometimes with the calm part.

College costs are out of control.  I make way more than my parents and I’m not even considering my alma mater (Wake Forest) for my kids because it’s too expensive.  Yeah, it’s a great school, but not great enough to warrant the price.

Speaking of too expensive, Feedly, which I love and happily pay for, is really hawking Zapier.  I’d never heard of Zapier before, and there is no way I’m paying this much to use it.  Word of advice kids.  If IFTTT can be free (and I’d happily pay for it)….

OK, about this Heartbleed business.  Here’s the source you should trust.  If you use LastPass (and you should), they have made it very easy for you.  Click the LastPass icon then Tools>Security Check.

I don’t have much of a spam problem in my Facebook news feed.  What I do have is a lot of humblebrag.  I’m starting to dump folks who use Facebook primarily to humblebrag.  It’s tiresome.