Sunday, September 25, 2005

Possible over-exposure

I was on the front page of the local paper this morning, the Herald-Times. Here I am, with hundreds (actually thousands) of other Hoosiers, running to fight cancer and stuff. Unfortunately, there is still cancer in our world, and it wasn't a PR for me either. I did retire several months ago from competitive running, but it's like smoking, I've quit 3 or 4 times since that announcement.

This afternoon I spun the reggae classics (plus some new stuff they had in the studio) on WFHB from noon to 2 as guest selector for Reggae Children, for the guys who usually do the show and have been doing it for over ten years now. Like with running, I have made no money whatsoever out of the radio thing, but it seems to be impossible to give up. For a couple years I was even doing a monthly show from 10pm-2am, which was completely insane and eventually I stopped.

Fun fact: there is no computer in the air room at WFHB, making it unique among radio stations, where for the most part you'll find college dropout 20-somethings reading stuff off a screen (like in telemarketing sweatshops). This also helped set the atmosphere for the show, which today focused on that great period in reggae from 1974-1979 or so. King Tubby, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Niney and the Observers, and both I-Roy and U-Roy were represented, as well as a bit of dancehall (but no slackness).

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Kanye West is my official hip-hop hero

Check this out:,1002,271|97339|1|,00.html

I caught this this morning, thanks to TiVo and my wife, who was up this morning watching the benefit.

The looks on Mike Myers' face during this were priceless.

It went like this:

Mike Myers: blah blah forgettable blah plattitudes blah

Kanye West (voice shaking ever so slightly): "I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, 'They're looting.' You see a white family, it says, 'They're looking for food.' And, you know, it's been five days because most of the people are black. ...I feel hypocritical asking for money, because I went shopping before I gave any money. I didn't even watch the TV, I've been trying to turn away from it. But now I'm talking to my business manager, asking what's the most I can give."

Mike Myers: blah blah what people are supposed to say at times like this blah

Kanye West: "America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way -- and they've given them permission to go down there and shoot us."

Mike Myers (shaken somewhat, on auto-pilot now): blah blah give blah tragic blah

Kanye West: "George Bush does not care about black people. He...."

Mike Myers turns suddenly to West and starts to open his mouth...

(cut to Chris Tucker, backstage apparently in the middle of fetching a Coke from a fridge)

Chris Tucker (frantic): In the past few days, America has really come together to help the people of New Orleans and Mississippi. Do what you can. Send water, send trucks. We are all one. Please please please please, help help help help help help help.

(Tucker showed all what a showbiz pro he is by not looking at his watch midway thru the stream of 'help's to see how many seconds he had left to fill).

On a musical note, I really like what Kanye West did with the production on Common's latest album. I'm going to go out and buy his two albums, too.

They are: The College Dropout and Late Registration.

...after donating to Katrina relief efforts, of course.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Software Archeology, or Metal Machine Music (Part I)

Software is notoriously short-lived. Like baby sea turtles making their way to the sea, most software projects are doomed to die very early in their lives. Those projects that survive to maturity are often defective disappointments, like Paris Hilton, doomed to be quickly forgotten, unlike Paris Hilton.

Even if software survives its birth and lasts for a while, the odds are still stacked against it in the long term. Platforms change. Formats change. Storage media deteriorate and fail (some people are addressing these problems, fortunately).

A few years ago I stumbled upon a technological find in the unfinished basement of a home located in South Central Indiana. It was a box of 5 1/4" floppies, items that are not so common in this century. They were in a case made of fake wood with a transparent (and broken) top. They had not been stored in ideal conditions, and I didn't have much hope for them.

In the same building, in an upstairs closet, I found not one but two 1541 disk drives. These items can fetch up to $20 on eBay, but in the interest of science, I held on to mine.

It was hard to read the labels of the diskettes, as the writing seemed to be the work of a chimp with cerebral palsy. There appeared to be several games that were popular in the mid-80's (including that precursor to internet porn, Strip Poker) plus some code written by the aforementioned chimp, who has since gone on to write software for a number of other platforms and organizations.

There are plenty of free programs out there that emulate the Commodore 64, but most computers these days do not have 5 1/4" floppy drives, so there was still the problem of getting the data from the disks to my PC.

Fortunately, the internet brings together nerds with obscure obsessions. So one can obtain (or make your own) XM1541 or XA1541 cable allowing you to connect an ancient 1541 to the parallel port on your circa 1995 Pentium (whoa, one step at a time, can't jump to the present all at once) which runs Linux. There's software you can use that allows your computer to communicate with these relics. (There's software for Windows, too).

Once you have your cable and you've installed your software, you can start reading the disks to .d64 images. This is what I did, and to my surprise, out of the box of 20 or so disks, all but 3 were readable. I had to slow down partway through the process, though, as the drive soon got so hot I worried if I put a disk in it it would melt (I would later find out that many 1541s have found an ignoble end-of-life niche serving as hot plates in flophouses).

At this point I was very pleased, and after digging old C-64 commands like LOAD "*",8,1 out of my memory, I was up and running. It was a real Dr. Chandra plugs HAL back in moment (Good Morning Dr. Chandra. I am a HAL 9000 Series computer. Would you like to play a game of Strip Poker?).

Tune in next time for part II, which will include embarassing ancient BASIC code listings from both myself and Bill Gates.