Music: Map of the Problematique

Muse - Black Holes & RevelationsThe song “Map of the Problematique” by Muse gets me grooving and kicks my butt at the same time… every time.

I was very late discovering Muse but they have become my go to “muse” in so many ways. At least once a weak I put 3 to 4 albums of theirs in my queue and play them straight through in their intended track order — the songs are great individually but seem to carry even more weight when heard with their neighbors.

“Map of the Problematique” – by Muse on the album Black Holes and Revelations
Listen to Song & Read Lyrics →

New Kindle Voyage & DeDRM

Old "Kindle Keyboard"
Old “Kindle Keyboard”

The old Kindle Keyboard I bought four years ago and use the heck out of had been acting “hinky” for the last year or so. First it had gotten to the point that it wasn’t holding a charge as long as it once did. Worse with the massive number of books I kept stored in it, it would occasionally freak out. I suspect the database of metadata was getting corrupted and on waking the kindle up, the home screen would only display a few books, and then go about updating its database (which took forever) until it would eventually display all my books again. Even after I significantly removed the amount of books I was storing on the device, this still happened every once in a while, and waiting for the device to get its bearings so that I could continue reading my latest book was getting to be a pain.

New Kindle Voyage
New Kindle Voyage

On Christmas I had received a bunch of Amazon gift cards, and it finally placed purchasing one of the new Kindle Voyage e-ink readers that I have been coveting for so long in reach. I finally bit the bullet and got one, and so far am really loving it. I won’t go into all the new and awesome features here, as there are a ton of sites that do that. What I want to talk about is DRM.

As many know I like to keep a DRM free copy of books that I own on my computer so that I can read them on whatever platform or device I may choose. I don’t distribute or sell these of course, nor do I condone that. But for those who like me want control over their own purchases, they may find this useful. Continue reading New Kindle Voyage & DeDRM

Music: Possibility Days

Can’t stop playing the song “Possibility Days” by Counting Crows recently. All the lyrics are pretty good, but the bit below really grabs me for some reason.

“the color of everything changes
the sky rearranges its shade
and your smile doesn’t fade
into a phone call and one bad decision we made
and the worst part of a good day
is the one thing you don’t say
and you don’t know how but you wish there was some way
so you pull down the shades and you shut out the light
cause somehow we mixed up goodbye and goodnight”

Mentally Strong

A friend of mine on Facebook shared one of those inspiring a/o funny text graphics you see all the time. This was a serious one called “6 Things Mentally Strong People Do”. I’m not sure the person who originally posted it is the original creator as it looked like one of those canned images that has been around awhile. I thought the message was powerful enough that I wanted to remember it and strive to follow the things it recommends. So I stripped away the graphic and am just posting the message here so that I can keep reminding myself of it.

6 Things Mentally Strong People Do

  1. They move on. They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves.
  2. They embrace change. They welcome challenges.
  3. They stay happy. They don’t waste energy on things they can’t control.
  4. They are kind, fair and unafraid to speak up.
  5. They are willing to take calculated risks.
  6. They celebrate other people’s success. They don’t resent that success.

Review: Flickr Schedulr Freeware

I have finally gotten around to starting to process tons of old digital photos. To top it off I have been learning some new software, having recently received Adobe Lightroom for Christmas (thanks Dad). While doing this I wanted to start uploading my work to Flickr, but instead of uploading in occasional batches of photos as I worked on them, I thought it would be nice to have some system of uploading them spread out over a schedule. I found a couple of different apps that do just that. One PC app called Flickr Shedulr, and one web-based app called PhotoQueue.com.

Flickr Schedulr screenshotSo far I have been using the freeware PC app, called Flickr Schedulr, and I really like it. The first thing you have to do is link it to your Flickr account. This gave me a little trouble at first, but once I got it linked everything has worked great. The app is organized into several different screens or tabs. Read My Full Review →

Music: Muse – Redemption

Muse - The ResistanceThis animated music video for Muse’s “Exogenesis Symphony, Part III” from the album The Resistance is really powerful in my opinion. Made me want to cry… But they were “manly” tears… 😥

I’ve always liked the Exogenesis Symphony by Muse, but I hadn’t seen this video for Part III of that ‘rock’ symphony, “Redemption”. Apparently a shorter version of this animated video was created by the Japanese comedian Tekken using part of the song. The Muse band members saw it, and commissioned him to do their ‘official’ video for the song by expanding on what he had already done. The only decent quality online copy I’ve been able to find for it is this one with foreign sub-titles.
Listen to Song & Read Lyrics →

The deep and lovely dark…

Doctor Who - Listen

“The deep and lovely dark. We’d never see the stars without it.”
The Doctor — Doctor Who S08E04 ‘Listen’

The Doctor at the end of a speech about the “superpower” of fear, and the reasons to harness and use it. The character Clara summarizes and expounds on this idea near the end of the episode:

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you? Fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster and cleverer and stronger. … You’re always going to be afraid, even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like a companion, a constant companion, always there. But it’s okay because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home. Fear makes companions of us all.” Clara — Doctor Who S08E04 ‘Listen’

Started re-watching the latest season (season 8 of the new series) of Doctor Who, as the last episode should be coming out in a couple of days. For the most part, I haven’t been a big fan of most of this season, but the first several were pretty good. And the second to last one kind of grabbed my attention too. It’s interesting to note that most of the episodes that I have liked from this season were written or co-written by Moffat. The other episodes haven’t necessarily been bad. They had great acting and production values as usual. It’s just that the writing (the plot and banter) just did not grab me and hold my interest. The first time watching many of them, I got involved doing something else while watching. Still there are quite a few episodes, this one included, that grabbed my from the get go and wouldn’t let go.

Ebook DRM Removal

CalibreJust realized that some of the Kindle e-books I have gotten for a little over a month now I could no longer open in other e-readers or apps. On books I own I believe I have the right to read them on the device I prefer and like to back them up in a way so that my access to my books is not controlled by some third-party which might go away. Anyway, I use the Calibre e-book management tool and have some user-created plugins installed which normally automatically strip the DRM from books I own when I import them into my Calibre library. This apparently had stopped working.

alf-logoIt’s been a long time since I installed these plugins and apparently something had changed in the Kindle DRM. I downloaded the most up to date version of the DeDRM plugins, then re-installed them into Calibre. I then removed the DRM locked books from my Calibre library and re-imported them and everything is golden again. Apprentice Alf’s blog continues to be a god send.

Kovacs = Neo-Noir?

Hmmm… Something I happened to notice recently. The name Kovacs comes up a lot in “modern” noir stories. Besides being a cool sounding Hungarian name it means “forger” or “smith”. As in someone who “forges justice” in spite of the injustice of the world that hammers away at him? Anyway, I discovered these recently in reverse chronological order but I suspect the references were NOT accidental but tips of the hat to previous stories in the genre.., Though I guess it COULD be coincidence…

 

Altered Carbon1. Takeshi Lev KOVACS (“Altered Carbon”, “Broken Angels”, & “Woken Furies” sci-fi novels) – a tortured war veteran and ex-envoy (a genetically engineered super soldier & spy) in the far future who often has to conduct investigations to solve mysteries in a very film-noir and neo-noir style, with numerous tips of the hat to Blade Runner and other futuristic neo-noir films & fiction.

 

watchmen-cover2. Walter Joseph KOVACS, aka Rorschach (“The Watchmen” graphic novel & movie) – a tortured superhero (or more properly anti-hero) that is a very dark noir-detective type character with serious “psychological issues” but a iron sense of honor. Lives an incredibly violent life, delivering brutal violent justice, and absolutely unable to “bend the rules” in what he perceives as right even when it means his own certain death.

 

À Bout de Souffle (Breathless)

3. László KOVÁCS (“Breathless” movie, French: “À bout de souffle” “out of breath”) – alias of car thief Michel Poiccard in one of the first neo-noir films, a 1960 French film that modernized a lot of the older film-noir tropes while making obvious references to the earlier genre. For example, the Kovacs character styled himself after Humphrey Bogart’s screen persona. Ironically the alias László Kovács is itself a “in joke” and a tip of the hat to the Hungarian cinematographer László Kovács who is most famous for his award-winning work on Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970). An American version of this French film was made starring Richard Gere, but unfortunately his character was not named Kovacs.

 

If only another one of my favorite neo-noir characters was named Kovacs too. He does have a foreign name. Though his is Turkish, he does have it out for Hungarians. And while his name is not Kovacs, the fact that the name is so unique does make it stand out. That and the fact that he is such a diabolical bad ass and not your typical noir anti-hero, but just an very mysterious and genius villain. Who is this character you ask?….

….

….

Keyser Söze from “The Usual Suspects” movie, of course, as played by Kevin Spacey.

The Usual Suspects

Music: These Presidents Still Rock

So I got an email from The Presidents of the United States of America recently…

Presidents Of The United States Of AmericaThe rock band, not the actual politicians who have held the office.

I knew that PUSA had put out a new album called “Kudos to You” recently and had downloaded some free songs that probably got me on their mailing list. I have actually been listening to them a lot recently, so decided it was past time to check out the new album more fully. After a quick listen to the tracks on their site, I went ahead and added this album to the earlier five PUSA albums I already own. It’s hard to believe that this band from the 90’s is still rocking it, (albeit with one new member and after a couple of hiatuses).

Below is a fun music video of one of the cool songs on the new album: Poor Little Me. Continue reading Music: These Presidents Still Rock