Six Best Albums of 2006

Best Music Of 2006

For your listening enjoyment, the six albums that I enjoyed most from 2006. I’m not even going to try to put commentary on them since that’s just not my forté.

1. Love and Other Planets – Adem
2. La Revancha del Tango – Gotan Project. This is actually from 2003 but I didn’t discover it until last year. It’s definitely not in the same genre as the rest of the music on the list, but it’s good stuff.
3. World Waits – Jeremy Enigk
4. Veneer – José Gonzalez
5. Under the Iron Sea – Keane
6. Decended Like Vultures – Rogue Wave

[NEW]
You can listen to a Pandora station with a some of these artists (as well as a couple others) here. Finally, a 7th album for 2006 is The Format – Dog Problems.

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How to Have Better Conversations

Some time back I noticed two things:

  • I enjoy good conversations
  • I want to have more good conversations

Nothing revolutionary, but because of those things, I started thinking more about conversation and how to improve it. Here’s what I came up with.

These are some reasons that people converse:

  • Conversation brings back memories from your own life.
  • It validates your experiences and opinions and makes you feel understood and accepted.
  • It gives you knowledge about a subject you’re interested in. For example, what it’s like to live in South Africa, how it feels to be a parent etc.
  • It sparks ideas in you for improving your life, business or hobbies.
  • It gets you something you want.
  • It gives you the satisfaction that comes from convincing (or trying to convince) someone to change their opinion on some subject.
  • The feeling of satisfaction you get from helping someone feel better.
  • The power you feel for making someone feel bad. This is obviously not a good motive for conversation, but it is a real one nonetheless.
  • Conversation is a way to sort out your thoughts and feelings. By talking to someone who cares enough to listen, you often get the time and perspective needed to better understand yourself.
  • It’s an escape from stress and monotony. A way to laugh and lighten things up.

While most of these are valid reasons to have conversation, they don’t directly indicate what makes a good conversation. Ideally at the end of a conversation both people should leave looking forward to the next conversation. Before going on to how to have a good conversation, here are a few things that make conversation unenjoyable.

  • You didn’t feel listened to. The other person either didn’t stop talking long enough for you to speak, or when you were talking they were too busy thinking about the next thing they were going to say to hear what you were saying.
  • You didn’t feel understood. Despite the fact that the other person was listening intently, you didn’t feel like he or she actually understood what you were saying.
  • You felt manipulated. The other person tried to get you to do or say something you didn’t want to do or say.
  • Gossip. While tempting, gossip generally does not lead to a good conversation. It destroys trust–how can you be sure the other person isn’t gossiping about you?
  • Intellectual inequality. It’s hard (but not impossible) to have a good conversation if one party perceives the other as less (or more) intelligent. While this can still lead to a valuable and interesting exchange, it often does not.
  • Lack of common views. This can go both ways. If both parties to the conversation respect each other’s intelligence, differences in politics, religion, culture etc. can make for very interesting conversation and debates. On the other hand, if there is a lack of respect or extreme differences, conversation can become uncomfortable.

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Knowing what makes conversation good and bad, we can draw some conclusions about what to do in order to have a good conversation. Here’s the good stuff.

  • Don’t be selfish. It sounds harsh, but it’s not as obvious or easy as it seems. Conversation is give and take. There are times when you should listen and times to talk. Doing too much of either is not conducive to good conversation. Listen carefully to the other person then state your opinions after you understand theirs. Even if you are giving advice or teaching someone something, the listening/talking ratio should generally be around 50/50. In the end, the time you feel like you’re “giving up” to listen leads to better conversation. Everyone wins.
  • Prepare for good conversation. Read widely. If you know you’ll have a chance for a conversation, learn about the interests of the person you’ll be talking with. Keep up with the news. Broaden your knowledge. This not only will help you have interesting subjects to bring up, but it will help you understand the context of the conversation without interrupting it to ask for a definition. It’s is called cultural literacy.
  • Don’t manipulate, or in other words, be honest and up-front. For the most part, people will immediately recognize when they are being manipulated. You may get away with it, but the chances that the person will look forward to their next conversation with you are slim.
  • Reciprocate. If someone shares details about their life, it is natural for them to expect for you to do the same thing. It’s not good if after a conversation someone feels that they’ve laid their life bare before you and know nothing about you. The opposite is true as well.
  • Avoid gossip and complaining. Both of these things are extremely easy to do and both lead to negative, empty feelings afterwards.
  • Don’t be afraid to differ. Conversation is boring if everyone agrees. If you don’t agree, say you don’t and explain why.
  • Know and use your sense of humor in moderation. Figure out what’s natural for you and go with it.

I’ll finish by saying that I’m by no means an expert conversationalist so take my advice with a grain of salt, but hopefully you’ll find some of these tips useful. If you’ve got suggestions for having better conversations, by all means, comment!

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War of the Worlds Review

War of the Worlds
Last night we saw War of the Worlds, here’s my review in a nutshell (I’ll try not to spoil it too much if you haven’t seen it):

The plot of War of the Worlds is “run away from the aliens in large machines.” That is the entire plot, there is no love story, no hero, no real purpose for the invasion of Earth, no philosophy and no bad guy (at least none with any human emotions). Though most people on Earth die in the movie, almost no one with more than 45 seconds of screen time dies. The space from the climax to the end of the movie is about 2 minutes. In those brief moments, no real explaining of anything that happened during the rest of the movie takes place. Morgan Freeman (who doesn’t appear anywhere else in the movie) does at least make an attempt to give some justification for the sudden ending, but falls short of anything with substance.

The graphics are great, the sound is awesome and there are definitely some tense moments, but the acting is unconvincing and there is absolutely no food for thought.

Wait for it to come out on DVD is my verdict.

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Cracking the Millionaire Code Review

Cracking the Millionaire Code
Tonight I read (or rather skimmed) the book Cracking the Millionaire Code by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen (authors of The One Minute Millionaire) at Barnes and Noble (strangely enough they have the book out 3 days before it’s supposed to hit the shelves). It’s an interesting book.

The entire book is scattered with word and number puzzles and codes and things you’re supposed to figure out. I’ll admit I didn’t try to do any of them–to me they seemed too gimmicky. The authors also have a penchant for creating new words and use them often in the book. Among them, “loverage.” I found both the puzzles and new words to be a distraction from the content of the book, which was, from what I gathered, pretty good.

The goal of the authors is to create what they refer to as “enlightened millionaires”–millionaires who give back to society. One of the key tenants of their strategies is to look to a Higher Power for inspiration and to find a noble and virtuous reason for obtaining wealth. Once you’ve found this, essentially the rest of the job of making a million dollars should fall into place, provided you follow some other advice.

Some of the notes I took are on not breakthrough ideas, but on things that are meant to get you thinking seriously about your product and company.

They outline the five major areas or types of products and use the acronym PRISM to describe them.

  • Primary Products (e.g. a car)
  • Related products (radar detectors, spare parts)
  • Information Products (signage, consulting, manuals etc.)
  • Services (manufacturing, protection, sales, repair)
  • Media (advertising, entertainment, racing, collectors).

It’s an organized way of determining what market you’re in, and what your target market could be.

Later they give ideas to help you think about how you might change your business or product, asking you to ask yourself questions such as:

  • How would a Higher Power change this?
  • How would a billionaire redesign it?
  • What will this look like 100 years from now?
  • How could this be multi-sensitized (sight, taste, touch, sound)?
  • How would the worlds leading scientists improve this?
  • Where in the world could we take this? What in the world could we bring here?
  • How would a 5 year old improve this?
  • What if we could see like the blind and hear like the deaf?
  • What if we could bring back the past? (nostalgia)

In addition, they suggest considering doing one or some of the following to increase profit potential from an idea;

  • Enlighten it
  • Residualize it (make it work for you)
  • Create multiple streams of wealth
  • Combine it
  • Add to it
  • Subtract from it
  • Multiply it
  • Make it grow exponentially
  • Divide it
  • Maximize it
  • Focus it
  • Make it faster
  • Slow it down
  • Undo/Reverse it partly
  • Connect it to something else
  • Appeal to the sender
  • Attract its opposite
  • Make it “planet friendly”

Again, nothing revolutionary, but very good starting points for thinking about how to change. Overall, I don’t think there’s a code that’s broken by the book, but it is definitely a strong motivator, inspiring people to do seek to create wealth for noble causes and giving many good ideas on how to begin.

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British Sci-Fi

NGC 300 - Another Galaxy
For the past couple weeks I’ve been on a British sci-fi kick… I can’t recommend highly enough The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (the book, not movie–you have read it… haven’t you?), So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, Life The Universe and Everything, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency or anything by Douglas Adams. Despite the fact that these books definitely fall in the category of sci-fi, they are also extremely funny and intelligent–Adams was a genius. I can’t even begin to describe how well he could describe feelings, atmospheres and settings. I’ve been listening to them in audiobook format on my new(ish) iPod Shuffle. Most of them are read by the author which makes it even better.

I’ve also been watching the new Dr. Who episodes on the BBC. I doubt they’ll go down in history as classics, but the casting is great and the stories are entertaining. Christopher Eccleston plays an excellent Doctor–he has this mischievous smile that fits the role perfectly. Billie Piper is also a great character–she’s a good actress and it’s nice to see a main character who, while still very pretty, doesn’t look like a supermodel.

Obtaining The Free Music

I confess, I haven’t bought a whole lot of music lately. I’ve downloaded it for free.

Legally.

3HivelogoI’ve found that there’s hardly time to pay for music when so many people are giving it away. My favorite spot for finding free music is 3hive. It’s a weblog created by someone who goes out and finds free promo downloads and links to them directly. Usually they’re good for about 3 or 4 free songs a day.

Emusic

Another place I recently scored 50 free songs is emusic.com. They give you 50 free songs for signing up, you can cancel at any time (which I did). Some of the bands I downloaded from there are Red House Painters, The Promise Ring, Moonbabies, Explosions in the Sky and others. You have to search a bit and there’s some trial and error involved, but on the whole it’s good (and free).

Other places I’ve acquired free legal music:

  • iTunes has had a free song a week since they started. I’ve found some good ones there ocassionally.
  • At work there are a couple guys with the same taste I have. We swap tunes every once in awhile (which is 100% legal under fair use laws).
  • I’ve had good luck finding free music on Subpop and AudioLunchbox (what a great site!).
  • Last.fm – this isn’t music you can keep, but if you have a profile on Audioscrobbler [my profile], last.fm does a good job of dishing out music that fits your taste.
  • Epitonic – Many more free songs.
  • PureVolume – More Free Music.
  • Rusty Spell’s Online Mix Tape

If you have suggestions of other good outlets for free music, I’m open to suggestions. As it stands, I’d guess I have a good hour of new music a day. More than I can possibly digest and that makes me happy.

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Electric Skateboard By eXskate

It’s been awhile since I’ve felt the wind in my hair. Since moving to the flattest place on earth (Newport News, VA) I haven’t been much of a longboarder. Last night all that changed. Read about my experience on an electric skateboard on Silverfish Longboarding.

Oh… the lack of posts on this site is because I’m working on another weblog that will be bigger, better, faster more. Actually two of them. As they say, ‘coming soon.’

Sub Pop. Good Stuff.

Lately pretty much every band on my playlist is from the label Sub Pop. What bands, you ask, are you listening to that are or were signed on Sub Pop? Ahh, here they are in order of current favoriteness.
1. The Shins. The Shins are hard to describe or compare to. Very, very creative and catchy tunes and lyrics. Try it. Go on, you know you want to.
2. Postal Service. I guess I am just bad at describing music, but Postal Service is electronic-indie-goodness. Composed of memebers of other bands (informative huh) they are very good.
3. Iron and Wine. Enough commentary. They’re good. Do it.

Other good Sub Pop bands (if you’re still lacking music) are Looper (gone from Sub Pop now), Sebadoh, Sunny Day Real Estate (no longer on Sub Pop… or together for that matter, Combustible Edison (fun lounge music while it lasted) and, well, Pinback isn’t Sub Pop, but they’re on my playlist too.

Enjoy.

Guitar and Video Games

Ok, so there was no guitar, but it’s a great Sunny Day Real Estate (now the Fire Theft) song. Last night and tonight I spent a couple hours playing video games after a couple months of solid work from basically morning until bedtime. It was very, very theraputic. The game of choice? Halo for the PC, 1 vs. 1. I started playing with a bad headache last night and by the time I was done, I felt great! Video games do have a purpose after all…

And You Thought Your Job was Complex

You’ve probably never thought about how it would be to deliver papers, or the details of what goes into it. Today is your lucky day. I have a first hand account of exactly what goes into getting that paper on your doorstep each morning. This is an IM conversation I had with a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the especially good parts in purple. I’m (obviously) Marcus.

Paper Deliverer: I’m shooting for waking up at 1:30 to set up my inserts since they decided it would be funny to make me deliver 2 inserts on a single piece paper day
Paper Deliverer: tuesday is just ONE section that I have to worry about
Paper Deliverer: grab, fold, stuff…
Paper Deliverer: well I can fit 2 full size sections in the front seat of my truck…
Paper Deliverer: then it’s (from door to center) grab, slide onto next stack closer to me, fold, stuff
Paper Deliverer: not hard enough to even think about…
Paper Deliverer: well with inserts, some are full size, some aren’t, depends on the company advertising, and they’re going to be thin (think one sheet of paper) so if there are 2, and one’s a 3×5 booklet and the other’s a slick sheet of card stock, then that’ll make it 10x harder at least
Paper Deliverer: think grab from floor, grab from far side of seat, slide onto main sheet, fold, stuff
Paper Deliverer: usually it’s step one) first delivery: **** dental’s dumpster with ads…
Paper Deliverer: step 2) fold single piece paper
Paper Deliverer: but I’m going to try to put it all together to deliver everything that they want me to deliver
Paper Deliverer: since they’re giving me like 2 bucks for it
Marcus: do you seriously dump the ads in the dumpster?
Paper Deliverer: 1 penny per insert I believe which at 2 pieces times 320, that’s like 6 bucks
Paper Deliverer: whoopty doo
Paper Deliverer: and yeah, if they give me an ad on a tuesday, into the dumpster it flies
Paper Deliverer: unless it’s easy to roll with the main sheet (on a single insert day)
Marcus: why? are tuesdays no-ad days?
Paper Deliverer: it’s a single piece, I rest my hand on the stack and fold the top paper in half and in half and stuff it into a bag
Paper Deliverer: don’t even have to think going down the road
Paper Deliverer: now think trying to gauge a single piece of card stock off
of a pile with the light off going down the road and grabbing one off the top
and then putting it on another one, and then putting both of those on top of
a newspaper and folding it into quarters and then putting it in a bag and then
chucking it out the winder, knowing that you have to be somewhere more important
at 7:00

Paper Deliverer: at least monday, wednesday-friday, while being 2 piece newspaper
days, are 2 FULL sections, easy to grab a single one off of the top

Marcus: heh… the minutia of delivering papers
Marcus: i would have never even thought about it
Paper Deliverer: oh I know, me neither
Marcus: can i use those quotes if i don’t attribute them to you?
Marcus: ?
Paper Deliverer: and think, the newspaper carrier knows exactly what you drive,
where you park it every day, possibly which light you leave on, etc

Paper Deliverer: even though you don’t get the paper
Paper Deliverer: brb, I smell a carbonization smell ((insert name here)’s cooking… )
Paper Deliverer: what do you do with someone who tells a bold faced lie and then acts like they don’t know they’re lying?
Marcus: depends on who they are

The conversation is truncated here to protect the innocent. There it is. Now you know.