Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't Clean My Room!

Sheraton's incentive to guests saving the environmentRecently I stayed at a Sheraton hotel on business travel.  In many
hotels, I notice a note that says something to the effect of "Help us
save the environment: if you want your towels washed, leave them on
the floor; if you hang them up, we won't wash them."  I don't know
that the hotels always follow their own guideline, but I like the

Well, the Sheraton Raleigh City Center hotel goes one step further, in
what I think is a clever idea.  They have a little sign you can hang
outside your room by 2AM that says "Hey, don't have housecleaning come
and clean my room."  In return, the Sheraton will slip a voucher for
$5 every day except the day you check out.  That's plenty of money for
a latte and a banana at the coffee kiosk near the lobby, or I could
use it for a happy hour drink at the hotel's bar.

Maybe you'll think me filthy, but I don't always feel like I need the
room cleaned every single day of my stay.  This seems like a great way
to save the staff a little time, and some cleaning costs.  The five
bucks is not even really the point, although I like getting a little
cash out of the deal.  Mostly, though, what I like is that I feel that
I have a little control over the hotel's using a little bit less water
and power when it doesn't need to use them on me.

Oh, and every time I've hung their sign, they've taken the hint and
not come in to clean the room.  Nice job, Sheraton.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Request For Snapcasts on G-Snap!

I love the social event-casting service "G-Snap!" (twitter feed here, Facebook page here) It seems like every other week, I get another idea about a kind of event I'd like to follow with their service. Today's bright idea was PGA Tour events like the one this weekend, where it looks like Tiger Woods has a strong chance to win. But I don't really know enough about golf to create my own snapcast, plus I'm going to a wedding today and couldn't snapcast the event myself if I wanted to.

So I'd like to have a way to ask somebody else if they would snapcast this weekend's event. Plus, I think golf is perfectly suited to snapcasting.

I sent a message to the folks at G-Snap! Here's what I wrote, which I am copying here because it applies to the whole community of G-Snap! fans, not just the creators of the service.

Hey whipper-snappers,

I gotta question and am not sure where to direct it. Here's my deal:

I want to follow Tiger Woods at this weekend's PGA Tour event, and the live blog on just isn't gonna cut it:

So I thought "Hey, golf could actually be a great g-snap! goes at a pace that is slow enough that somebody could probably update the game stats fairly easily, more easily than the fast pace of a football game." And I bet there are a ton of business-type people who would follow golf on gsnap.

But here's my problem: I'm not going to snapcast golf, because I don't know much about it and don't feel comfortable. Instead, I'd rather ask if somebody would please snapcast the event.

How do I ask the G-Snap! community if somebody would please snapcast a golf event?

Is there a G-Snap! community site where I could ask something like this? You know, place a request for a snapcast?

Thanks for anything you can say. There's no rush to reply.


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Friday, August 7, 2009

Some drumline audio clips for DCI 2009

Tonight is the semifinals show for the Drum Corps International 2009 World Championships. I love this time of year, the height of summer and the height of musical competition. I can't get enough of the music, especially the drumlines (I marched in the Santa Clara Vanguard in 1985, part of the drumline, so I'm biased).

So for your listening and watching pleasure, here are a few clips of drumline coolness for this year.

By the way, do you have any favorite drum line audio or video clips? If so, comment on this blog post and share the links. I'm always looking for new, cool stuff to listen to.

(Vanguard 2009; the show this year is Appalachian Spring, by Aaron Copland)

(more Vanguard 2009)

(Blue Devils tenor flams; wow, those guys can move around the drums)

(more Blue Devils 2009 drumline)

(Some Cavaliers 2009 drumline stuff)

(More 2009 Cavaliers drumline)

(Some Carolina Crown 2009 snare line)

(Holy Name Cadets 2009 on the move)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Podcasts I'm currently listening to

I've been meaning to write some notes about the podcasts I listen to these days, but I just haven't made it a priority.  But a friend of mine just asked me if I have any I'd recommend, so I'll list what I listen to and note my current favorites.


TED Talks (audio): The TED Conference has made available all of the talks for several years.  I love high-quality presentations, and I find the majority of these talks are excellent.  Not all, but many.  There's also a video version of the same podcast.  Talks are usually 18 minutes.

The Onion Radio News: If you don't already know The Onion (satirical newspaper, hilarious), check it out first to get a feel of how they write.  They have a daily podcast that does one news headline.  Each podcast lasts less than 60 seconds; always good for at least a chuckle.  I haven't been to the main website in a while, but it looks like their current schtick is having been bought by a major Chinese conglomerate.  Excellent.

The Official LOST Podcast: it helps if you follow the show, because the podcast is all about what's going on with the ABC TV series.  What I like about it is that the two hosts, co-producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, are both smart-alecks and informative.  They give you clues about what the show is going to do and what the current episodes mean, but they're also just funny guys.  They make gentle fun at the viewer email they get.  They generally only podcast during the season.  Each episode is about 20 minutes, and I always want it to last longer.  That's the mark of a great podcast.

NPR's Fresh Air: I'm gritting my teeth with this recommendation, because I generally can't stand Terry Gross but I enjoy the show despite her interview technique.  Lately, though, I feel she's gotten to be a better interviewer in the sense that she's managed to make her questions less about her agenda and more about the guest, and more open-ended so that we learn more about the guests.  I don't listen to every show; I scan for guests and topics that interest me.  Often, there are great guests.  45 minutes long, usually several subjects being covered per podcast.

NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: The weekly current events quiz show is always good for a laugh.  It's never bad, and sometimes it's brilliant.  Their sense of humor (especially the host's, ) is really sharp.  Personally, my favorite panelist is Paula Poundstone, but there's a nice variety of panelists from week to week.

Podcasts I Listen To But Not Sure They're For Everybody:

This next set of podcasts, I listen to but you gotta be either into the subject matter or pretty patient, or both.

Engadget: the website that talks about what's new in electronic gadgetry also has a podcast.  It rambles -- it's about 90 minutes each week and could easily be cut to half that length if they were a little more focused -- but the subject matter is good.  I use this to keep up with what's happening in the consumer tech world.  I used to get that info from TWiT (see below), but they ramble even more, the signal-to-noise ratio got too low, and they mostly talk about Twitter now.  Oh yeah, the Engadget podcasts begin with these brilliant 8-bit versions of pop and rock tunes; it always cracks me up.  Nice touch, guys.

This Week In Tech (TWiT): I stopped listening, probably too late.  Leo Laporte does a great job, although he interrupts his guests far too much: he'll ask them a question, and when they just start to answer, he'll jump in with his summary of what he thinks they were about to say.  The audience ends up missing out on some great info, and if you aren't as familiar with the news as Leo is, you miss out.  Plus, John C. Dvorak doesn't like anything, and he's simply an annoying presence on the show.  They ramble too much, more than they used to 2-3 years ago.  And the in-show ads are becoming more annoying all the time.  Signal to noise ratio has just fallen below my threshold of patience; I cut bait a couple of months back.

IT Conversations: the first podcast I listened to on a regular basis, and still do (thanks, Stergios!).  I pick and choose which topics to listen to from this podcast, which is an aggregation of talks and interviews from several conferences and online radio shows.  It's the podcast I use to keep up with enterprise computing, green technology, and some biotech stuff.  Podcasts last from about 15 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on where they come from.

Manager Tools: I'm torn about this one.  If you're interested in learning more about all aspects of management from how to create goals to preparing for a layoff (both laying somebody off and being laid off yourself) to running a meeting to introducing people to calendar management (plus other, more interesting topics), this is a fantastic podcast.  So what's the problem?  They take 30 minutes to say what they could get across in 10-15 minutes.  Really, I swear they should have somebody in their network go through each podcast and edit them down to create a "Manager Tools - Executive Summary" version that lasts 5-10 minutes.  These guys have nuggets of gold in each podcast but they just talk too much.  (mostly it's Horstman, and I'm guessing that would not surprise him to hear it)

They have more recently created a related podcast called Career Tools.  There's some overlap, but some stuff unique to this podcast.  Same comments as above.

The CNET News Daily Podcast: the title pretty much says it all.  It's generally a 10-minute podcast each weekday.  They do a good job.  Why don't I recommend it more highly?  Because the news just isn't all that exciting to me day to day; maybe once a week I find a story that's really interesting, but this podcast is short enough that I listen to it maybe half the time.

FLOSS Weekly: I'm just starting to get into this one, but am liking it a lot.  Hosted by Leo Laporte (the creator of This Week In Tech), it's an interview with somebody in the open source world.  The podcasts look to be about an hour per episode, but they're good interviews, if you want to learn more about open source.

American Public Media's Marketplace: daily business news radio show broadcast from the University of Southern California.  You may already listen to it via public radio; I catch an episode here and there to keep up on business goings on when I don't read the Wall Street Journal that day.  Great show, 30 minutes each weekday.

Guilty Pleasures:

Here are some other podcasts that I listen to but may not be for everybody.  I dunno; you be the judge.

Drum Corps International Field Pass: almost daily podcast during the summer marching season, keeps me up to date with the competition across the country.  Good production values, and surprisingly informative and entertaining...if you like drum and bugle corps.  Go Vanguard!

Mugglecast: I stopped listening once the 7th and final Harry Potter book came out, but until then this was a fantastic podcast, created and run by a group of precocious high school kids.  It's all aspects of Harry Potter, from talk about upcoming films and gossip to analysis of each and every book.  They had some imaginative ways of discussing the books, which I enjoyed (one example: The Dueling Club, a segment where they'd talk about who might win a duel between any two characters, like Professor Trelawney vs. Luna Lovegood).  Usually about an hour.  I'm going to listen again for a bit, since the 6th movie just came out and I'd like to hear what they have to say about it.

NPR Planet Money: hit or miss.  Sometimes they explain economics and money issues really well, other times it's just kinda boring.  The staff is cool, though.

The Vic Firth Marching Percussion VIDEO Podcast: again, the title pretty much says it all.  If you enjoy the sound of modern drum corps drumlines, this is a great way to get snippets on at least a weekly basis.  Each cast is 5 minutes or less.  Sweet.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

G-Snap! gaining in popularity, reach

G-Snap! is a cool, interesting web application that lets you set up flash crowds to follow an event together.  One great example is happening right now: the Drum Corps International Southeast competition in Atlanta, Georgia.  Thousands of fans will be in the stands watching young adults from across the United States compete, but hundreds of thousands of fans won't have the chance to see the event. 

I've been watching G-Snap! for a while now (the company was launched over a year and a half ago) and I notice that it's starting to gain popularity.  I've watched NFL games and college football bowl games, and I hear that NASCAR events are getting a pretty good fan base.

Drum corps is a natural: lots of people want to follow the progress of their favorite corps, and parents want to hear how their kids are doing on the summer-long nationwide tour that their corps is on.  This way, you can join a group of fans just like you, and unlike Twitter, you can easily communicate directly with the others on the snapcast.  Plus, you can see live video and photos of somebody uploads them to the snapcast.

The Blue Devils drum corps is promoting G-Snap! on its front page today; looks like they're interested in using the technology to enhance their fan network's experience following the corps.

It's also designed for mobile devices: if you're out and about but have a web browser on your mobile phone, snapcasts do great.

Click here to join the snapcast live (as of Saturday, July 25, from 4PM ET to 11PM ET).  It's free and you don't need to log in to follow it.

It's hard for me to describe how different the G-Snap! experience is from, say, Twitter.  I use both and like both, but snapcasting is a much richer, more inclusive group experience.  If you want true feedback and interaction, there's no comparison: snapcasting is much better than tweeting.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Drum Corps International is on twitter!

Yes folks, it is drum corps competition high season again.  I've already seen a couple of shows in California and loved them both; the corps left the state a couple of weeks ago to head to the center of the country for the national tour.  It all ends up in Indianapolis for finals week but in the mean time, there are a ton of great shows all across the nation.

You can get up-to-the-moment tweets from the DCI Tour twitter id:

And just for fun, I'll leave you with this link: Drumline's Greatest Moments, going back 28,000 years.  Excellent, fun timeline.

Go Vanguard!

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Interesting opinion about VLC media player

Hmm, I wonder how significant the VLC 1.0 software release is?  Here's an interesting, brief take on how the media player software could change the media world.

Looks like it's time to check out the latest version of the software.

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