Bootcamp Day 100 — XM Live

Today is the last day of XM Bootcamp II. I don’t know what I’m going to do without clear direction on what channel to listen to each day — I guess I’ll cope somehow.

Anyway, today’s channel is XM Live, which bills itself as “The Artists’ Playground”. The gimmick is very simple: play live concerts. Well, previously-recorded live concerts. Many come from the BBC; some come from XM. The concerts are generally one hour long. And the schedule is published well in advance.

So it’s pretty easy to listen to what you like on this channel, and avoid what you don’t like — if the schedule shows an hour of Black Eyed Peas, as it did at 11am Pacific today, that’s an hour to avoid. In contrast, an hour of Santana is going to be Good Listening (not to be confused with Good Eats).

I’ll be back, but only for certain hours.

Bootcamp Day 99 — XMU

XMU is XM’s answer to college radio stations, and in many ways, the music I heard today wouldn’t have been out of place when I was at WRPI/91.5, back in the ’70s. Of course, we didn’t have hip-hop when I was in college, and I could have done without the hip-hop I heard today, but it wasn’t offensive, and it was part of a pretty good variety of music.

I didn’t get to listen to any of the “special” programs (like Chill), so I also didn’t hear any DJs at work; just uninterrupted music.

This isn’t a channel I expect to put into heavy rotation in my XM listening after bootcamp, but I could easily come back for occasional visits.

Bootcamp Day 98 — Luna

There are only three days left in XM Bootcamp II; today’s channel, Luna, is definitely worth having gone through Bootcamp to discover.

Luna plays Latin jazz. The music, at least so far today, has been upbeat and very listenable — good music to think by, to dream by (not on company time, of course), or even to have telephone calls by…but it’s even better with the volume turned up.

I’m a member of the local jazz station, KCSM/91.1, which plays Latin jazz from time to time, and they even have a program devoted to it on Sundays, but I’ve never gotten around to listening seriously. Perhaps I will try it some upcoming Sunday, so I can get a little background on the music and the artists; Luna has no DJ, so there’s nothing but the music.

This channel is definitely worth many return visits!

Bootcamp Day 97 — Suite 62

My radio spent most of the morning on today’s channel, Suite 62, and I’ve returned to it after my catchup excursions. It’d be more fun to listen to this channel as part of an evening’s entertainment, but it’s not bad for the office, either. Definitely a pleasant surprise, and worth a return engagement.

Bootcamp Day 75 (Delayed) — XM Comedy

Music makes a much better accompaniment for work than comedy does (sometimes, tragedy would be even more appropriate!). So trying to listen to XM Comedy in the office was probably a mistake.

The bits I did hear didn’t impress me much, though; I prefer clean comedy to routines laced with gratuitous profanity.

This might be a channel to listen to in the car, when I’m by myself. But otherwise, it’s not going to be one of my regular stops.

Bootcamp Day 74 (Delayed) — Raw

Raw warns you that it “may include frequent explicit language”. I guess that’s fair — while I was listening, there were occasional periods of as much as five or six seconds with not one word of “explicit language”, but then they made up for it.

The good news about listening to Raw in my office was that I could turn it off, unlike hearing it coming from the car three lanes over on the highway.

Bootcamp Day 72 (Delayed) — Extreme XM

Extreme XM calls itself “Gonzo Radio at Its Most Warped”. I tuned in during the news, which was just fine; then they continued with last Friday’s broadcast of the Phil Hendrie Show. I lasted through the first few minutes, while they were setting up an elaborate gag to protest the FCC’s recent indecency fines, but it wasn’t worth sitting through the commercials for male enhancement products to get to the payoff (if I wanted to know more about male enhancement products, all I’d have to do is read my spam!). Besides, the show’s website gave away the punchline anyway.

Stupid radio comedy, delayed by a day. Just what I want to listen to. NOT.

Bootcamp Day 73 (Delayed) — Ethel

I was travelling during the Bootcamp’s “Hell Week”, so I’ll be making up for those channels during this week, before Bootcamp officially ends on Friday.

The first channel I visited was Ethel, which plays harder (and uncensored) alternative rock than Fred does. Ethel’s page says:

On Ethel, expect to hear deep tracks from many HUGE artists…songs that were never played on the radio, but you know ’em cuz you bought the CD.

Well, I didn’t buy the CDs played on Ethel, and what I’ve heard doesn’t make me want to go buy them (or even download them). I much preferred what I heard during my visit to Fred — I don’t know if that’s because I visited Fred in the evening, while I’m listening to Ethel mid-day, or whether there are deeper reasons, but I think it’ll be a long time before I come back to Ethel.

Bootcamp Day 79 (Delayed) — Boneyard

I probably had the volume way too low when I listend to Boneyard, so I didn’t get the full stadium rock experience. And let’s face it, stadium rock isn’t intended for background listening, so I missed out twice over.

I might stop by Boneyard again for a dose of energy, but only if I can crank the volume up a bit and only if I can pay attention.

Bootcamp Day 96 — MTV Radio

I expected MTV Radio to suffer from three fundamental problems:

  • TV on the radio is not a great idea
  • I don’t watch MTV
  • I’m not thrilled with the current music that MTV deals with

I was right. One visit was plenty.

Bootcamp Day 84 (Delayed) — Spirit

When I was in Japan a few weeks ago, I really enjoyed my visits to various shrines in Kamakura and Nikko (and some day, I’ll get my Nikko pictures back up on the Web). Similarly, I always enjoy seeing Winchester Cathedral on my trips to Hursley. I can honor the sincerity of the believers who created these works, even if I don’t have those same beliefs, and I can enjoy the beauty of what they created.

I have a similar reaction to the Gospel music on Spirit. I don’t have to buy into the message to enjoy the music, which is beautiful and moving. This won’t be a frequent stop on the XM dial for me, but it’s definitely an “up” spot.

Shabbat Shalom!

Bootcamp Day 94 — Vox!

If you like opera, you’ll like Vox!. There are some operas I enjoy (or at least there are some excerpts from some operas which I enjoy), but I have to admit that my favorite operatic performance of all time is What’s Opera, Doc?, and so I think it’s safe to say that I fall outside of Vox’s prime audience.

So tuning in today was interesting, especially interweaving listening with work. I heard two acts of “Hamlet”, and part of “Anna Bolena”, but I don’t know either work well enough to know what’s going on, and I couldn’t really concentrate on listening.

If I knew there was going to be something on which I’d like, and which I had enough time to listen to in its entirety, I’d be willing to come back — but this isn’t a channel for casual, short-burst listening. At least not for me.

Bootcamp Day 85 (Delayed) — Ngoma

When I turned on Ngoma this morning, the song being played seemed vaguely familiar — after thinking about it for a while, I recognized that it reminded me a lot of Talking Heads’ Once in a Lifetime (which is not surprising, since David Byrne used a lot of world music in the band’s work).

But that was about the only familiar song I heard during my listening; I enjoyed the beat, but found the music to be more distracting than I wanted today. I might come back occasionally out of curiosity, but it’ll be a rare visit.

Bootcamp Day 88 (Delayed) — Nashville

I liked Nashville the least of any of the country channels on XM. In many ways, the music there seemed very much like the country music I heard when I was a kid than the other channels — which is odd, since it plays music from the 80s and later — and I really didn’t like country music when I was a kid.

So maybe it was my mood, or maybe the programming really is different, but this is not likely to be a channel I’ll come back to very often.

Bootcamp Day 93 — World Zone

World Zone is a more diverse Folk Village, playing music in many styles from all over the world. And most of the music has been great — this is a channel I probably wouldn’t ever have gotten around to visiting without Bootcamp, but now it’s likely to become one of my favorites.

Site problems

I’m not sure what happened, but the server hosting Defenestration Corner was down for about a day, so I wasn’t able to post my thoughts about the channels I visited yesterday until it came back to life, just after lunch West Coast time. So they’re on today’s page, but were actually written yesterday.

Bootcamp Day 86 (Delayed) — On The Rocks

When I first got XM, On The Rocks had been temporarily changed to “Holly”, playing all Christmas music all the time — a format of no interest at all to me. And I never bothered to listen after it returned to its normal format, because I already had established my favorite XM channels. And then I missed the proper day during Bootcamp.

But I finally got around to listening today, and this channel is a gas! The music is familiar and mostly upbeat, which makes it good for work — even if it makes me consider beverages which are usually off-limits at work.

Definitely worth another round!

Bootcamp Day 92 — U-Pop

U-Pop describes itself as the “pop heard ’round the world”. It was no more foreign to me than the music on the most of the other Hits channels (I’m not sure why Cinemax and On Broadway are included in “Hits”) — I just don’t listen to much contemporary pop music. And I had the volume way down, so I couldn’t really tell whether the music was in English or another language.

There wasn’t anything offensive on the channel, but there wasn’t anything which would draw me back, either.

Bootcamp Day 91 — BPM

BPM is almost the polar opposite of yesterday’s channel, Audio Visions. BPM plays high-energy dance music, with strong beats and frequent vocals; Audio Visions is laid back in the extreme.

Neither of them is likely to be a preset in my office, but I could see myself tuning to BPM occasionally to wake up after an all-day early-morning conference call (which describes my current situation). Definitely something of a pleasant surprise.

How we spent our weekend

Some people decide to make a Major Production out of turning 50. And that’s ok, as long as we get invited to the party. Which we were.

So we spent a beautiful weekend on the Monterey Peninsula, enjoying wonderful weather, good food, good scenery, and good company. Highly recommended.

We even got a bit of geocaching accomplished, though we were frustrated in our attempt to bag a mobile cache, because it had migrated before we got to the location.

The whale-watching was probably the highlight of the weekend — unfortunately, I didn’t do very well at photographing the whales (my camera is too slow), but I tried:

2327 whale and boat: Dinner at Passionfish was a highlight, too — I would happily go back any time.

Thanks, Diane, for inviting us!

Bootcamp Day 90 — Audio Visions

I wasn’t able to tune into Audio Visions until late afternoon — I was having enough trouble hearing what was happening on my all-day conference call without adding background music at this end. And that’s what Audio Visions is — background music. It might be good to use in the office to mask conversations in adjacent offices when I don’t want to listen to something which might distract me.

Recommended, but in small doses only to avoid drowsiness (or in larger doses to promote drowsiness, as required).

Bootcamp Day 82 (Delayed) — Family Talk

Family Talk is badly misnamed. XM’s channel summary does better, calling this channel “Christian Talk”. I suppose that, if you like talk radio and you agree with the beliefs espoused on this channel, you’d enjoy listening. But I don’t. One visit was more than enough, thanks.

Bootcamp Day 80 (Delayed) — Watercolors

Watercolors is XM’s “smooth jazz” channel. I occasionally listen to KKSF/103.7 in the car, but rarely for long — the commercials are far too disruptive.

On XM, of course, there aren’t any commercials — which makes Watercolors a much more listenable channel. Smooth Jazz still isn’t my preferred musical genre, but it does a dandy job of masking conversations in the office next door without distracting me too much, so I’m sure I’ll be back.

Bootcamp Day 87 — Top Tracks

I’ve been away from Bootcamp for a while — a combination of travel and an office move which put me on the north side of the building, away from the satellite signal. But after some fiddling, I found a spot for my antenna where there’s just enough signal from a repeater to give reception with no dropouts, though I’m sure that I’m not getting the best signal that XM can deliver.

It’s going to be a challenge to get caught up before the official end of Bootcamp (especially since I’ve got all-day meetings Monday and Tuesday of next week), but I’m going to do it — though that means shorter reviews (and at least one member of my reading audience will approve of that change!).

Top Tracks is today’s Bootcamp choice. I expected to like it, and I do — it plays familiar Classic Rock tracks, though its playlist is clearly deeper than that of the local Clear Channel classic rock outlet, KUFX/98.5, and so I’ve heard songs I hadn’t heard in many years, a rare event when listening to FM.

It’d be nice if the channel had a bit more personality, but it’s still worthy of a preset.

Why I won't be buying a LiftMaster garage door opener

Our garage door opener is getting pretty unreliable — at times, I know it’s heard the signal because it turns on the light, but the door doesn’t move. So it’s time to replace it (it’s at least 19 years old, so I can’t complain), and I’ve been looking at what’s on the market today.

There are two obvious choices: Genie and LiftMaster. Both seem to make pretty good garage door openers, and both have competent local installers (I am hardware-impaired, so installing my own garage door opener is not high on my list of life experiences to learn from). So I checked out various web sites, and still didn’t really have much to go by. But then a Google search turned up this article: Replacing Your Garage Door Opener, from which I learned that Chamberlain, the parent company of LiftMaster, tried to use the DMCA to stop a competitor from marketing a replacement remote control. Their suit was dismissed, but I don’t want to do business with a company which tried to so blatantly misapply the DMCA (which is a lousy law, anyway) to block competition.

This isn’t quite how I expected to make my decision on which garage door opener to buy, but it makes the choice very easy.

April Fool's Day in Tokyo: They renamed the subway!

Once more, I’m not going to be able to write everything I want to write about today, at least not today, because it’s late and I’m tired. But I did want to make a couple of quick observations about today.

I had hoped to go to Tsukiji Fish Market this morning, but that didn’t happen (sleep was a higher priority). But I did have excellent sushi for lunch, at the princely sum of &165;100 per plate of two pieces (plus 5% consumption tax), at Otaru Zushi, near my hotel. If you can read Japanese, here are the details; otherwise, go to 1-8-9 Nihonbashi Hori in Chuo-ko, Tokyo (phone +81-03-3662-4071) and try it yourself.

We went to Ueno Park this afternoon to see the cherry blossoms and the crowds — my pictures don’t do it justice (but I’m hoping my colleagues did better), but here’s a taste.

2055 ueno park: We also went to Akihabara to look around — I was impressed by the variety of stuff on offer, but not impressed by the prices. A Sony DSC-T1 was offered at prices up to $800, and the lowest price I saw was about $600; the US list price is $549.95. I passed. On the other hand, one of my friends saw what he needed:

2048 akihabara: When we were ready to leave Akihabara, we had to walk a bit to get back to the subway. We were going to cross a busy street to get back to the station, but I noticed a bright blue “Tokyo Metro” sign on the same block as we were, so we went there and boarded our train.

tokyometro: Later, I realized that the bright blue “Toyko Metro” sign wasn’t at all familiar — in fact, I was pretty sure I’d never seen one before. But as we continued to travel around the city, I saw them at every station. Including the one right by my hotel, where I was sure there hadn’t been such a sign this morning when I went to work!

I wasn’t imagining things, though; Tokyo Metro is, in fact, brand new as of today. I’m impressed that they were able to change all the signage in one day.

Who knows what changes tomorrow will bring?