I’ve said it here before, but I’ll say it again. AmaroK is awesome.

While the rest of the world apparently uses iTunes to manage their thousands of MP3 songs, I find the iTunes interface to be absolute garbage. (Thom agrees, but since he’s using a Mac he doesn’t have a lot of options.) When I mention some feature that AmaroK has, iTunes people wish they could do the same. Go figure.

Over the past few months I’ve gradually been rating all the songs in my collection. It’s a slow process, because I only do it occasionally. But over time I’m building up a good list of what I like. So today as I’m slamming out some code I decided to make a custom playlist of only the very best– the five-star stuff.

Nice! Now it’s nothing but the good stuff as I write PHP.

With Vonage we have a feature called “visual voicemail” which takes incoming messages and transcribes them to text, then sends the text via email. Most of the time the transcription is actually quite good. And sometimes it’s just funny.

Hey guys, it’s Ron. Just want to say that. We are home. This is for Hans Stoner. We’re home. Okay bye.

I don’t know who Ron is. And Hans Stoner? What an awesome name.

“I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.”

— anonymous English professor

Today was a bit chilly (mid-30’s) but we played ultimate anyway. I’d been shopping for some wide-receiver gloves, which have special sticky grip surfaces (better to catch a speeding disc), but they’re thirty to forty dollars a pair and I worry that– unlike football– you actually do need to throw the disc after catching it. So I figured I’d grab my old biking gloves, which have a leather palm and cut-off fingers, and see if they worked. As it turns out, they were great. Fifteen years old, well worn and more than a little sweat-stained, but great in the cold weather.

Tomorrow I’m heading up to Seattle to visit Thom, and I figured I’d check the forecast to see what kind of clothes to bring.

I guess there’s one thing to say: October weather in Seattle is predictable.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, in preparation for our lunchtime ultimate game, someone in the group sends out a Yahoo poll to see who’s going to play. It isn’t all that important in the summer, when we regularly get 15-20 people every time, but as the weather gets colder it’s more useful to see if we have enough before heading out to the field only to discover there are only half a dozen hardy souls.

So I ran the poll today.

That last option is mine. Bummer. I’d laugh if it didn’t hurt so much to laugh with a separated rib.

On Friday our new TV was scheduled to be delivered, and the kids were really excited because we’d be able to use it for our weekly Pizza and Movie Night. It arrived during the day, so Laralee and I set it up so the kids could see it when they got home from school.

Of course this is in fact an old 19″ LCD monitor I had in the basement, but when the kids came home Laralee sung its praises. She told them how it’s really cool because it’s a plasma screen, and movies would look really sharp and colorful.

Zack was extremely put out. He was very upset that his video games wouldn’t be on the big screen. La told him that if he wanted, he could move the TV on to the coffee table we have in front of the couch– so he would be sitting about two feet away– and then it would seem bigger. He thought maybe that would be okay, but still kind of a pain.

Alex whined because he said he had been expecting something a lot more impressive. Despite La’s insistence that the plasma display would be really spiffy, he thought it was all kind of lame and that he really preferred our old setup.

Kyra was the only one who looked at it a bit and after a bit of thought noted that it sure looked a lot like the computer monitor La had been using on her desk. The ruse was up.

Ahh, the fun of playing practical jokes on your kids. We set up the real thing and it’s a little more impressive now.

(Yes, we had to swap out the speakers with the ones in my office because the old ones were too high for the TV to fit above them.)

Ahh, Facebook– the meeting place for the world. I got a spammy message saying there are three people who have “pending messages” for me (whatever that means). So I logged in out of bored curiosity and I’m presented with some people I might know.

Okay, I know one of these people. Sort of. From years ago.

But I think I’m going to hook up with Ijrijrjrthjgthjgt Hyhhy because quite honestly I’m intrigued. Is that a Turkish name? Afghani? Maybe Mongolian.

At our weekly State of the Zing meeting today, Rob threw down the gauntlet. He suggested that we have a weekly programming challenge. It’ll help sharpen our skills, hone our wits, prune our… uhh… well, it’ll be fun in a geeky sort of way.

So on a whim I suggested the first challenge.

Write a program (in a language of your choice) that lists all prime numbers between 1 and 1,000.

We don’t want anything that will take hours– a quick five- or ten-minute hack should be par for the course. And the winner will receive a much-coveted trophy of some kind that I have yet to buy. Let the games begin.

After the tragic and unexpected death of our TV, I thought it would be fun to rip it open and tear out the guts. In addition to being a great activity for the boys, I figured it would also make it a little easier to dispose of the 300-pound beast.

So we started by dismantling the screen and the huge three-by-four foot mirror inside, then going to work on the circuitry. The frame of the TV was made of sturdy (heavy!) half-inch particle board, but it turned out to be mostly empty space.

After unscrewing about a hundred screws and clipping some pretty heavy-duty wires, the boys managed to yank out the projection guns:

There were three of them– red, green, and blue– and each looked like either a futuristic weapon or a 1950’s-era vacuum tube or piece of ENIAC.

After tearing off the back panel we were able to get at the exciting variety of electronic components inside. I was a little worried about some high-amp capacitor in the works somewhere (like old cathode-ray televisions have) but nothing electrocuted us.

In the end we had a living room covered with electronics, and then Laralee and I wheeled the now-empty frame out to the driveway where we smashed it with hammers so we could load all of the pieces into the van for disposal in a dumpster at my office.

That was a good TV, lasting us ten solid years. Rest in peace.

Laralee was shopping with Kyra yesterday, hitting thrift shops around the area in search of a princess costume for Halloween. As it turns out, Kyra fell in love with an outfit I can only describe as “pirate wench”. It looks really cool, and I’ll have to take some pictures on the big day.

But anyway, along the way she found a pogo stick, of all things. Who knew they even made pogo sticks any more? For two bucks it seemed like a good deal, so she bought it. Zack absolutely loves it.

He spent an hour bouncing around the driveway today, and managed to do 112 bounces in a row. What a stud.

Food for thought from Seth Godin:

If you ask people for the next task on their list, if you allow them to define the thing they are buying from you, you have abdicated responsibility. Your work product becomes dependent on the insight and guts of the person giving you an assignment. This is especially dangerous for consultants and freelancers, because the answer might be, “nothing.” Or it might be a paying gig that’s profitable in the short run but a career deadener over time.

It’s far better to reach a level of confidence and skill where you can describe solutions rather than ask for tasks.

Just spent two days in Mountain View CA visiting Google. The “official” reason for the trip was a launch party for a project I didn’t really even work on, so I was thrilled just to be a part of the boondoggle. Good times, good folks, and a thorough demonstration of how Google treats their employees the right way. If I ever stopped running my own company to join the rat race again, the Goog is the first place I’d apply.