Monday, May 31, 2010

MP3 Jukebox CD’s

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, and it’s time for road trips, pool parties and backyard barbeque's. Are you prepared? Are you ready to rock the house, or the car?

I am, and I’m gonna show you a no fuss way that you can be, too, using just a single CD.

It’s an easy thing to dock your iPod and fire up a playlist, so you’re probably saying; Meh.., who needs CD’s? Well, here’s the rub; sometimes you just don’t want the added hassle of connecting and protecting your iPod. You’re in a rush to be on the road and you don’t want to have to deal with the connecting, fiddling, disconnecting and stashing of your MP3 player. Or maybe you’re bringing music to a friend’s backyard bash. You know someone will end up messing with your iPod as the night goes on, plus you may be way ready to leave long before the party is over, and there’s no bigger buzz kill than turning off the tunes mid-song at a party so that you don’t have to leave your iPod behind, plus there’s no way to slide out unobtrusively in this scenario, and we’ve all needed to do that once in a while…

The answer is to create an MP3 Jukebox CD. You can fit approximately 160 songs in MP3 format on a 700MB CD-R disc and have 10+ hours of uninterrupted music. Most of today’s auto and home CD players are now capable of at least MP3 and WMA playback, and some of the higher end models support additional formats. All you need to do to create one is to copy your MP3 files to a blank CD-R in data format. Most burning software will actually have an MP3 Jukebox option. Sonic, Nero, iTunes, all have it built right in. With iTunes, you’ve probably got your favorite playlists already created, so it’s a piece o’ cake. The burning process only takes about 15 minutes to boot. At any given time, I’ve usually got a couple ready to go, and they’re custom tailored for all situations. The ever evolving “Party Mix”, the more sedate “Don’t Harsh My Mellow Mix”, you get the idea. The possibilities are endless.

One thing to remember when using iTunes to make your CD is that none of your iTunes purchased music is downloaded in MP3 format. The MP3 Jukebox function will still work, it will just skip over any M4p/M4a/AAC files in your playlist. You can either let it, or you can convert the file formats to MP3. If you’re gonna convert, ALWAYS make a copy of the original first, because what you strip out in the conversion process can’t be put back. When I rip music from CD’s into iTunes, I always select the MP3 format just for this reason, and when I purchase songs from the iTunes store, I always create a standard audio CD backup of them, and that’s what I use to create the MP3 copies. I usually close iTunes and rip the songs back in as MP3’s to a different folder using Media Player, that way my iTunes library isn’t bloated with repeats.

The other thing to note is that different players read and organize the folders on data CD’s in different ways. When I burn a playlist to CD in iTunes, my Bose Wave presents and plays them back in alphabetical order ie: AC DC, Allman Brothers, etc. When I pop the same CD into one of our car players, they play back in the original playlist order, which is what I prefer as sometimes I put a lot of effort into the mood and pace of a playlist. Not a huge problem though. If the device starts playing back alphabetically and that’s not what you’re in the mood for, you just hit the mode button on your player and select shuffle disc.

So, it’s an easy and painless way to have your music for the ride, the party, and as an added bonus, you can leave the CD behind as a little thank you gift for your host’s hospitality when you do finally bug out.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lost: After The End

I was totally impressed by “The End”. I sat riveted throughout the episode, and when it was over, I went outside and sat by the pool in the dark for a while, listening to it gurgle and splash, and mulled it all over.

I had spent the better part of the weekend getting the pool opened, and I was bone tired. I was also emotionally drained from the finale, with it’s unbelievably heart wrenching twists and turns, and as I sat there listening to the pump working overtime, filtering out all the algae and crud that had built up over the winter and returning pure clean water into the pool, I couldn’t help thinking that it was the perfect way to sum up Lost, and the perfect way to wrap up the evening.

The finale, and the final season on the whole, was just what we needed in these uncertain times, a reminder about what’s really important in life. Redemption, brotherhood, love, and above all else, doing the right thing no matter what the cost. Whether you loved or hated the finale, you have to give it that.

Personally, I loved it. Sure, it left us with questions, but what good story doesn’t? I still wonder what became of Randall Flag in “The Stand”, what became of the whole world, for that matter. Did it get rebuilt, and if so, was it a better place for all that happened? I’d like to think so, but I don’t know. Was Flag the Devil? Was Mother Abigail a minion of God? So many questions. What I do know is that it’s one of my favorite stories by far, because like Lost, it was well written and had a message.

In the coming days, I plan to share my thoughts about the plot, the characters, and the many solved and unsolved mysteries of the island, as well as posting some of the key screen caps over on the Lost pages at For now, you should read Jeff “Doc” Jensen’s Lost Finale Recaps, Part 1 and Part 2. He does a much better job than I ever could.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

The End

Can you believe Lost is almost over? By the time you hit the rack tonight, you'll know everything. Well, maybe not everything, but most things. Actually, probably just some things.

Two and a half hours isn't nearly enough time to answer all of the questions I've got, but I'm sure they're going to answer the most important ones, and I'm also sure they're going to leave us with a few things to think on. This show has a propensity for answering questions with more questions, and I'm sure it will be no different tonight.

The only other thing I'm sure of about tonight's finale is that Ben is going to play a huge part in the episode, and in The Monster's demise, should the story play out that way. I've seen enough of Ben's machinations to know when he's playing someone, and he's playing Flocke, I'm just surprised that Flocke doesn't realize it yet.

Has The Monster lost a step? Flocke was looking pretty tired and raggedy in the last episode, especially when he was sitting on the porch in New Otherton with Ben. The sun on his face emphasized huge crows feet, and Ben's question about why he didn't just fly to where he was going was interesting. I didn't believe Flocke's answer for a second. I think Ben is on to something.

We've heard similar questions recently from people in his camp; "Why doesn't he just fly over to the Hydra?" and "Why doesn't he just fly off the island?". I think that like Jacob, his time is almost up, and his powers and judgement are faltering, and that just might give our heroes a fighting chance to defeat him.

Whatever Ben does, I'm sure he's going to pay for it with his life.

I've also got a feeling that Jack's reign as island protector is going to be short lived. Other than that, I think anything goes in this episode. In a nutshell, I'm prepared to be surprised tonight, and I'm looking forward to it.

Be sure to check out Doc Jensen's 3 Burning Questions You Need Answered on EW. He did a poll of his readers and the results are pretty interesting. He's also promised another post today before the finale, as well as his usual after episode "Instant Reaction".

See you on the other side.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lost – The Final Hours

After 6 seasons of Lost, we’re down to the last 3 hours and 32 minutes, all to be consumed in two sittings book ending a week jam packed with Lost programming.

If you’re a fan like me, you’ve probably been cooking up a stew of emotions this weekend. Equal parts excitement, anticipation and trepidation, all coming to a slow roiling boil, spiced with just a hint of both sadness and relief.

It’s the same feeling I get when I’m nearing the end of a good book. You want to know what happens, that closed book pulls at you to open it up and finish it off, but at the same time you’re wishing there was more, and perhaps worrying that the ending will leave you flat. In the end though, you always pick it up and finish it, and the ending usually has little to do with whether or not it’s a great story. The real measure is; did it move you, and did it leave an indelible mark on your psyche and color the way you think?

Lost has had its highs and lows, but through it all it’s remained constant to one thing, the characters and their struggle between good and evil. It’s always been about doing the right thing. The mythology of the island, as interesting as it is, has merely been a plot vehicle; a series of situations that constantly put the characters into moral dilemmas. The real story has been about how they deal with these situations, and how the results change them, and the world around them.

Their actions, whether good or bad, have changed us the viewers, also. The show has gotten us thinking and entering into dialogue with each other. Although a lot of the discussions have been about the island and its many mysteries, I’ve noticed that they always end up coming around to the right and wrong of things, and that’s the indelible mark it’s going to leave on us; that what we do influences not only things we see, but can influence the bigger picture, creating ripples that change people and events we’re not even aware of.

All right, enough of the deep thoughts. Here’s the rundown for the week ahead, with the new material marked in red:

Tuesday May 18th – What They Died For 9pm to 10:02pm
Saturday May 22nd – Repeat of the Pilot 8pm to 10pm
Sunday May 23rd – Lost Retrospective 7pm to 9pm
Sunday May 23rd – The End 9pm to 11:30pm
After a break for the local news there will be a special Jimmy Kimmel Live Lost Wrap Up from 12:05am to 1:05am

In preparation for finale week, you should read Doc Jensen’s latest column, and also this interview with the producers. Both are very enlightening. Doc has seen What They Died For, and has some great thoughts, as always. The interview with Carlton and Damon on the other hand, may cause you a little discomfort. They expound on what they’ve been saying for a while; all the mysteries won’t be solved. They’re going to concentrate on what they feel is important, and that’s the struggles and fates of our main characters, and let the episodes speak for themselves. No follow up Q & A’s, no explaining their intentions. It is what it is.

I don’t think we could ask for anything more.

Be sure to check out, for reviews, views, screen caps and links following each episode.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Not Such Deep Thoughts, Part IX

You know the drill by now; every time my head gets filled to overflowing with random thoughts, you get one of these, so let’s get right to it:

Speaking of drills, how about this mess in the Gulf? It turns my stomach to think of the devastation that’s in store. Now, I’m a realist, and I know that we can’t get along without oil, and that you can’t get oil without drilling, but we need to do it correctly despite the cost. There should have been an acoustic switch installed as a fail safe on the Deepwater Horizon, and the fact that the US doesn’t require them on all offshore rigs is ridiculous. We need to get regulations in place right now. We also need to start supplementing our oil usage with alternative energy sources yesterday. I don’t want to hear the argument that projects like Cape Wind will spoil the views in Nantucket Sound; this spill isn’t doing too much for Gulf property values, now is it? Or, that it won’t make a dent in our energy needs. Hey, it won’t power the entire state, but powering ¾ of the Cape is nothing to sneeze at. Just think, every barrel saved is another barrel for your SUV. It’s all about conserving our resources any way we can now, while we work at developing real alternatives.

The Red Sox really, really, suck this year. They looked great on paper coming into the season, and their come from behind win against the Yankees in the home opener had me all jeeped up, but they’ve been on a downhill slide ever since. On the bright side, they’re pounding the Angels this week, so maybe they’re waking up, and last year I thought the Yankees were toast when they were battling with similar suckage, but look how that turned out. Hey, ya gotta have hope…

The Celts and the B’s, on the other hand, are both doing very well. Both have made it to the second round, and the games have been hard fought and exciting (Tuuuu-kka!). Who would have guessed? We’re really pretty lucky to have such a wealth of pro sports around here, and who knows, maybe by the time these guys finally wind down their respective seasons, the Sox will have gotten back in the groove. Maybe.

I finally got to play with the iPad the other day, and while it’s definitely slicker than snot on a doorknob, its just not the right device for me. I’ve already got a Touch and a laptop, what the heck am I gonna do with an iPad? The way it’s tricked out right now, its only purpose is as a cool but expensive coffee table gadget.

I’m still working on my Peeps stash, and the ones that are left are aged to perfection.

My buddy Steve sent me a picture from his phone the other day of an album he was buying (see above). It was a vinyl copy of the 1968 Muddy Waters album “Electric Mud”, and it got me to thinking. Although I love the instant gratification that is iTunes, I really miss browsing through all the albums and CD’s in a real brick and mortar record store. The little thrill you get when you find a gem like Electric Mud amidst all the clutter, the heft of the album in your hands as you turn it over to check out the play list on the back, you actually felt like you were buying something substantial. I couldn’t wait to get home and unwrap it, pop it on the turntable, and then sit back and read the liner notes as my 301’s engulfed me in audio bliss. With iTunes, I usually end up having my first listen on my computer, which is a less than satisfying experience. April 17th was National Record Store Day, and there were a lot of vinyl releases to coincide. Matter of fact, there’s a 7” Beatles remastered vinyl coming out on May 18th , featuring Paperback Writer and Rain. Check out this website for more info on vinyl releases and to find a record store near you. My personal favorite is Aboveground Records in Edgartown, I could (and have) spend hours in there.

I was totally impressed by the speed, skill and determination of the MWRA workers that fixed the Aqueduct failure this week, and by the way the whole thing was handled in general. Good job people!

I really like the way the Patriots drafted this year; big and beefy. Last season when it came down to physicality they were getting their butts handed to them, and that just won’t cut it in the hard fought AFC East. I think the big tight end Gronkowski is going to make an instant impact. I can see him becoming a short yardage binky for Brady. If Welker comes back and Hernandez works out, that would give them a lot of options. My only regret is that they didn’t pick up a running back. Hopefully they’ll bring in a veteran or two before camp. LaDainian would have been interesting, but that boat’s already sailed. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

One last thought before I go and I think I’ll have cleared out enough free space for now;

I love getting out in the yard in the spring. Raking, planting, fertilizing, planning my little projects for the season, improves my disposition. I tend to get a little grumpy and cranky towards the end of the winter and spring yard work helps pull me out of my funk. Looking out over the yard at the end of a hard day’s labor, thinking about those long, lazy summer days that are coming; priceless.

That is all.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Great Aqueduct Blowout of 2010...

has been a real pain.

I don’t know if it’s made the national news, but a HUGE aqueduct that supplies water to about 2 million people in the greater Boston area had a major blowout and had to be shut down. Water is still flowing, but it’s coming directly from various local reservoirs (read ponds), rather than from the MWRA processing plants.

It’s amazing to me that our taps never went dry, quite a feat actually, but the water we’re getting now is untreated and may or may not be contaminated by goose droppings, beaver poop and the like, which means an “Emergency Boil Order” is in effect. Any tap water used for preparing food, washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc. needs to be boiled first. Without boiling, the tap water is only good for bathing, flushing and fire prevention. Bathing, by the way, does not include washing your hands. Health officials are recommending that we use boiled water to wash our hands, or that we use a hand sanitizer if boiled water isn’t available. Of course to top things off we’re having a bit of a heat wave right now. Nothing like boiling up a bunch of water on a muggy 90º day. Nice.

The situation has been toughest on the local merchants though. Some restaurants have stayed open using disposable tableware, bottled beverages and boiling the water they use to wash the food, but a lot have just shut down. There’s also been a run on bottled water. The stores can’t keep it on the shelf, and fist fights have ensued.

We’re lucky on that front. There’s a spring water bottling plant right down the street from us, and they have coin operated taps accessible 24-7 that pump out a gallon for a quarter. We’ve got a bubblah in the kitchen, and once every 2 weeks or so I load up the truck with empty 5 gallon bottles and stock up. It just so happens that I did a water run last Sunday, so we’re golden. We were already using the water for cooking and drinking; now we also have a pitcher and bowl in each bathroom for brushing and hand/face washing. It’s kinda like camping, although the novelty is starting to wear thin and it looks like we may have to “camp” like this for a couple more days.

On the plus side, we’ve gone to all paper and plastic so there’s very little to clean up after meals, and the town next to us gets its water from a different source, so all the restaurants are open and busy, especially the Dunkin’s. Plus we’ve had a temporary respite from the endless chore of laundry. All in all, it could be a lot worse. The aqueduct was repaired in record time, and now we just have to wait another 24 to 48 hours for tests to come back clean.

When we do get the OK to begin usage again, our home lines will all need to be flushed. Proper procedures are outlined here on the Mass DEP site. Your water heater will need to be completely flushed, which may take a while depending on its size, so be sure to follow the procedures the DEP outlines. You don’t want to be getting sick after the fact, that just wouldn’t do.