The Social Services respond

I recently a rant about not being able to buy an album for a band I'd stumbled upon.. Lucy from the band has evidently been vanity googling, as she found my post and dropped me a note.

Just did a random google and found that you like our tunes. That's nice to know! Understand your frustration at not being able to purchase said tunage... but have patience, our debut album is being released on Stereo Test Kit Records later this year and then you can buy it as many times as you like!

So that's nice to hear, though August seems a long way away. The annoying part, though, is that the album they released last year isn't going to be made more widely available.

We recorded 'six feet above the ground' early last year and it was more of a demo really, we just sold it at a few gigs and stuff. Anyway. A real album is on its way. And we promise there will be a million easy ways to buy it online. All you have to do is wait till August...

This I find annoying. If it's only demo quality, stick it online and label it a demo. Charge money if you like, whatever, but it'll only help. But hey, it's their musical output! I'll just have to wait until August.

Regardless, I'd recommend checking out The Social Services and the tracks they have released. I've really been enjoying it.

BTW, I've recently subscribed to Metacritic's music feed and it's brilliant. The idea is quite simple: they aggregate the best snippets of reviews from all over the place, and score them, so you can see what the rough consensus is. The best part is that they always pull out the snarkiest quotes from the reviews.

The only annoying part about it is their insistence on using American college language when describing album. Nobody puts out a second album, it's always their "sophomore" album. WTF?

Wowsers for hire

It used to be the best guarantee of bestseller status for a publisher was to be listed on the Catholic Church's Index Liborum Prohibitorum. These days, it seems you can engage an assortment of wowsers to get the publicity you want. Scorcese's Last Temptation of Christ was helped enormously due to the protests against its release.

She's dead, get over it

Goat Boy are the latest to mine this rich seam, prompting the usual outcries from the usual suspects. Yes, they're tasteless. But they're pretty bloody funny too.

What I wanna know is this: is there a talent agency for all these self-proclaimed guardians of moral uprightness? Can one hire them to ensure the appropriate publicity? If not, they're missing a trick!

Goat Boy's comment about thinking of a papal t-shirt for the World Youth Day boondoggle gave me some ideas. I'm thinking Palpatine myself, given the uncanny likeness. Then again, I'm also thinking about handing out free condoms at the event.

Music taxonomy

Back when I used to listen to music on pieces of etched plastic, I had a simple classification system. Music was slotted into one of "Chilled", "Techno", "Hip hop", "Rock/Pop", "Classical", "Jazz", "Other". There could easily be overlap there, but because I was doing the classifying, it made sense to me.

When I started listening to mp3s, I carried over this basic system, with Rock and Pop split to separate categories and a couple of new ones added: "Reggae", "Radio" (for podcasts), "Country" (for Johnny Cash). My musical tastes got broader too, where in the 1990s I listened almost exclusively to electronic music, I started getting back into Rock, and some of the new musical forms like Post Rock (a ghastly term, worse than "Progressive <anything>".

The cracks started to show in my taxonomy. Godspeed! You Black Emperor ended up in "Chilled", yet Tortoise and M83 ended up in "Rock", by virtue of using guitars. Goldfrapp is in "Chilled", despite mostly being stomping electro, but something you could go to sleep to. I dunno, it doesn't make much sense now.

My new toy has prompted me to revisit this issue. I've long avoided music library software, preferring to browse by my own folder structure, and I despise shuffle in most circumstances, either choosing individual tracks or listening to whole albums. The Squeezebox allows me to browse by my directory structure, but it also has a bunch of other useful and cool ways to slice and dice my music, so the time has come to get my music tagged properly.

It's going to be a long process, tagging all my music. I've generally gone for <artist> - <album>/<trackno>.<trackname> but with so many, for example, Bowie albums, that's getting unmanageable too. So I might end up with artist/album/ after all, though I will never do the brain damaged thing iTunes does and move stuff from compilations into individual artist directories -- that's just dumb.

So I'll shortly be starting the Great Retagging. Any suggestions on tools and approaches?

Prohibiting the sale of ineffective drugs "an insult to parents"

The chemists' lobby group says banning the sale of cough medicine for children under two is "an insult to many parents". No, what's insulting is selling something that doesn't work, even in adults. Worse, unlike a placebo, these medicines contain drugs that can actually be quite dangerous.

Parents finding that their kids need something foul-tasting to resolve a persistent cough would be advised to find something vile but harmless. I wouldn't expect such advice from your local chemist though.

Postcodes in electoral divisions

This is just to notify geeks out there that this data exists. I'm sure this will be of real interest to someone out there, perhaps someone building a mySociety for Australia.

The federal parliament's parliamentary library just published a paper called Postcodes in electoral divisions, and describes the postcodes in federal electoral divisions and the percentage of that postcode that is within a division. Very handy stuff, for a very narrow group of users.

The copyright statement at the end is probably boilerplate, because it certainly doesn't match up with the publication of such a useful dataset, paid for by the public.

PS: It's well worth signing up to library feeds as there's a wealth of useful stuff issued by this organisation. I've particularly appreciated the bills digests, which explain the purpose of bills before parliament in quite neutral language.

Fastway: such great couriers

Fastway forges my signature

I've ordered something online and been given a tracking number from the company supplying it. Here's what I just saw when I looked up the tracking number.

I can tell you three things: One, I haven't taken delivery of the device. Two, I wasn't at home at 09:09 this morning. Three, that's not my signature. So whose signature is it?

I can only hope they've delivered it to my neighbour or something, otherwise the courier has committed fraud. Moral of the story: don't use Fastway!

Weatherproofing

It's starting to get cold in Sydney, so we're starting to think about heating and improving the house a bit. The front door has enormous gaps all around, and there's space between much of the skirting boards. This weekend I'm gonna fix the front door with some kind of automatic weather strip, as well as the squishy stuff around the sides and top edges.

I'll also look at caulking some of the skirting boards to stop any draughts. I might also consider blocking up some of the air vents, which were only ever required for gas lighting ventilation. Holly won't be keen on the idea, but we might have to look at curtains with pelmets to stop heat loss out the windows. With the right curtains, it should also reduce noise from the planes.

Speaking of gas, we're gonna get our fireplace fitted with a fan-forced, flued gas heater. These things aren't cheap, but they're very efficient and I reckon one should be able to warm the whole house enough for our needs.

Action for Transport 2010: archive

Back in 1998 the NSW government announced with great fanfare a rather modest plan for transport improvement in NSW. Nearly ten years on, there's little to show for it except the road projects, which predictably have resulted in more cars, more congestion, more pollution.

If you search on the state government sites, you'd be hard pressed to find many mentions of this plan, beyond the odd mention in parliamentary hansard and the occasional forgotten page. It's almost like they don't want their current promises to be measured by their past (in)actions.

On this note, I've been dredging up artifacts of Action for Transport 2010 for archive purposes. The National Library of Australia's Pandora archiving project has helped here a lot, but I can't rely on a government agency to ensure the past isn't censored.

So, in the interests of ensuring these remnants of the Prolefeed don't end up down the Memory Hole, I bring you Action for Transport 2010: archive.

What brought this up is that Lee Rhiannon has been asking questions in parliament only to see the transport minister dodge them by talking about his arse, rather than the usual out of it.

ABC peering

I seem to have been misunderstood here. My post was rather rambling, for which I apologise, though that's the nature of blogs really. The ABC does, indeed, peer with ISPs through PIPE, and no doubt peers whenever approached to do so.

The problem is that they've started delivering their multimedia content (i.e., the chunky stuff) through the Akamai content distribution network. This makes it difficult for the ISPs to work out what is ABC content and what is from somewhere else, as Akamai have a lot of customers.

Now every ISP of anything more than puny size has an Akamai box somewhere in their network, so most of the content would indeed be coming locally, but the point of Akamai's network design is that if the local box is overloaded, doesn't have the latest content, is down, or any other reason, it falls back to the next nearest suitable node. So this content is normally local, but might not be.

What I'm suggesting is that the ABC work with Akamai and ISPs to work out a solution to this. It could be that ABC content almost always comes from the local node. Could it even be always except when the local node is down, in which case the content comes from the ABC network via peering? Dunno. Bigger brains than mine, who know the area well, should work on it.

My simplistic thoughts sees some kind of multicasting over their peering links to ISPs that sign up to the program, and something on the ISP network caches the content. That way the ISP can push the content as far out into their network as demand requires. Though I suppose that's pushing the cost onto the ISPs, so there's probably a better approach, and smarter minds than mine should be brought to bear on the problem.

Hell, for those of us with sweet, sweet megabit-in-the-teens ADSL2+ links could get really, really nice qualkity.