Record-a-May (I expect about one person to get that title)

Ever wanted to designate a month? These guys did: May is now "National Album Recording Month".

The Concept

Have you ever thought about recording an album? Don't have the time? Want it to be just right? Don't know how to play any instruments? Screw all that.

Here's their "rules":

1. Record 31 minutes in the 31 days in May.
2. Pick a title and make some cover art.
3. Anything goes. Original songs, covers, spoke word, comedy, or essay. Just make an album!

Seems pretty neat, actually. Sometimes the fear of not being any good gets in the way of having a good time. Who knows, maybe I'll even take part myself.

The other nice things about having a recording of yourself is that you can then put it on your MySpace page. Voila - instant friends.

Via some Ruby-on-Rails site. If you don't know what that is, that's fine. It probably just means you're not a nerd.


Spring cleaning

I spent a lot of the day fixing up my room, and the apartment in general. I tossed a bunch of stuff, some of which had been around for years. It's important to toss stuff out every once in a while. Paperwork especially, like old credit card bills, random coursework and the rest, has a tendency to stick around for no good reason.

The idea of spring cleaning makes a lot of sense; the sun starts coming out, and you realize that a lot of the stuff lying around is just an impediment to the important things, like being able to wake up to a clean room with the sun streaming through. I think that's a big part of why I couldn't live in California: I need some cues from the seasons.

Which is not to denigrate the important cultural contributions of California: for instance, "8th & Ocean", which I'm chilling and catching up on now. Good show, by the way.


Reading An Army of Davids

I'm about halfway through Insta-... I mean, Glenn Reynolds' new book, An Army of Davids, and it's quite good so far. The basic thesis is that the web and other technologies enable individuals, working together with loose organization, to do more than even the largest of companies or governments. It's mostly ideas I've seen before, but never all together in one place, and they really gain a lot of strength when they're all put side by side. Much like with his blog, he brings in a lot of other people's ideas,but he has the knack for tying it all together.

One interesting concept in the book is how much of our society's structure is strictly a product of the industrial revolution, which started in the early 19th century but didn't reach its peak until the mid-20th century; it's much easier to see what the idiosyncracies of it are now that we're moving into the new phase, the information revolution. Industrialization greatly increased people's life spans and living standards, but it also came with a lot of requirements: because of the high costs of both production and communication, workers, blue-collar and white-collar both, had to work in close proximity to one another. That led to mega-cities and giant corporations, with workers leaving their families behind for the day and punching in on a fixed schedule. That in turn led to a bunch of developments. Someone has to take care of the children while parents are away, and all those little future workers need training in performing rote activities - thus, the public school system. The big corporations possess an enormous amount of power and money - thus, the labor movement, in addition to Big Government, Communism, Fascism, and assorted other "isms" intent on either reining in or harnessing that power (of course, usually the government solution only ended up making things worse - as Reynolds says with his typical matter-of-factness, "much of the the twentieth century was spent in making this clear in various unfortunate and lethal ways.").

Additionally, there are all sorts of intangibles - a culture of smoking and alcoholism to act as a sedative after a hard day's work (see the fascinating first paragraph of this review of "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit") that, I think, is fading; a "generation gap" - alienation between parents and their children - that had never really happened before the 20th century.

The future, Reynolds says, is in some ways about a return to pre-industrialization culture - parents working at home while raising their children, more localized government; though in other ways it'll of course be quite different. He also makes a big deal about the so-called "third place", a place that's neither home nor work, where people can interact and do business. Coffeehouses used to be the place where important meetings were held in the 1700's, and now they're returning to that level of prominence (probably without the wigs though). Reynolds apparently wrote a lot of the book in the lounge area of a local Borders Books, and says he has a casual friendship with many of the other regulars. Given that I'm writing this at a West Village cafe, I can certainly relate.

There's a lot more, including the rise (rebirth, actually) of citizen journalism, distributed crime-solving, and how even big companies are flattening out their management hierarchies. I don't know if the second half will be as good, since it seems to be about space exploration, nanotech, and some of the other topics that a lot of people tend to skip when they read Instapundit.

All in all, thumbs up.


No rabbi consulted

Tom and Katie have baby, call her "Suri", claim that's Hebrew for "princess"; but the actual Hebrew word for that is "nesicha". Israelis now in the midst of a linguistic debate.


Fabulously assured destruction

I'm surprised the photos from Iran's totally-fabulous nuclear-capabilities press conference haven't gotten more attention online:

And, lift... by the way, odds that that's actually uranium in their hands are approximately zero

You didn't see Oppenheimer put on a display like that in the U.S. at the end of the Manhattan Project, did you? No, the Iranians know how to put on a show. You know Mark Steyn will have a snappy quote for the situation... here we go: "this is the dawning of the age of a scary us."

I don't know what motivates the Iranian government to telegraph their intentions quite so clearly. They have now stated their desire to destroy both Israel and Britain. I don't know that any previous dictatorial regime has made public statements like that at a time when its enemies could obviously do a lot more damage to it than vice versa. As I see it, there are two possibilities: the first is that Ahmadinejad and the rest of the Iranian government are scared about the shaky state of the regime, given the size of the opposition and the general democratizing trend in the Middle East, and they want to bolster their support both in the country and in the Arab/Muslim world. That would certainly explain the elaborate photo ops. The other is that the Iranian regime really are crazy, or maybe crazy-like-a-fox, and figure that the West won't have the will to stop them from going nuclear no matter what they do.

Either way, I think it would be an extremely bad idea to assume they're bluffing. Let me just say that whatever action it is Bush and/or the Israeli government decide should be done to get rid of the Iranian regime, I support it.

Any thoughts?


Spring blogroll renewal

I added Ivan Lenin's new, mostly-Belarus blog, Russian Mushroom, and Blogger Ale, a new blog by JD, a guy I've met a few times. Also I removed the defunct Slantpoint and Standard Deviance. I'll mourn ya till I join ya, as they say.


West Coast Customs

An anonymous haranguer (let's call her... 'Karol') says I should be posting more. Possibly this person is right.

So - as of two days ago I'm now in California, having gotten in time for my nephew's 2nd birthday party. He got a lot of presents; it took about two hours to open a lot of them. His favorites are the "tucks" (toy trucks). He knows who I am now: I am "Don" (rhymes with "own"). That's an abbreviation of "Dod Yaron", Hebrew for "Uncle Yaron". Well, I'll settle for a syllable.

Other than that, I'm just chilling, working on my project, catching up a little on the news (okay, one link - No Pasaran notes how France's problems are, in their own way, hilarious).

That's pretty much it.


All graphite and glitter

The top 15 skylines in the world, according to some guy. With photos. (Via Kottke.org).

Nice photos, if you're into architecture or whatever. Hong Kong's #1. Shanghai's looks like it's a big, bustling city on some other planet.


Voting room of one's own

Kuwait had kinda-sorta elections today, and for the first time they involved female voters and candidates (via Powerline). It's another small step for Arab democracy.

Which reminds me, fun fact about women's suffrage: the first U.S. election in which the women's vote changed the election was in 1996. And still the only one. If only men had voted we'd have been looking at President Dole. Take that however you want.


Random rundown

Ah... it's been a while, hasn't it? The big event recently that kept me from writing anything here was a four-day trip to Lake Placid, NY I took last week with my girlfriend. It's a great winter sports destination (and the site of two Olympics), and it was an eye-opener as far as what's available right here in New York State. Even in late March, you can still feel the burn of cross-country skiing on an Olympic-sized track! Get the adrelanine rush of downhill skiing on 3000-foot-high Whiteface Mountain! Experience nausea on a 50 mile-an-hour (guided) bobsled run!

All in all, it was fun, though.

Besides that... I've just been working a lot my project, I'm trying to get an initial version done within a few weeks. It's certainly true that I have less free time now than when I was at my real job. Back then I could show up at 10 or so, take care of doing some writing and reading other people's blogs, leave at 6 or so and still have time for lunch and a gym trip. It really feels different when you're doing something for yourself. And I don't have to wait for people to assign me things, which was actually often a big time sink at work.

Right now I'm at Soy Luck Club, a cafe in the West Village with good wi-fi and excellent meat-substitute paninis, and probably the best cafe named after a 90's novel about the ethnic-American experience. Well, at least until that "How the Garcia Girls Got Their Lattes" opens up.

Er, that's it.

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