Monday, January 23, 2006

More to the 'Save Farris' Story

Michelle Malkin has a roundup of further background on Farris Hassan, the peripatetic high school journalism student that supposedly went to Iraq for a school assignment. As is typical, there is more to this story than AP originally reported.

1. His high school has no journalism course.
2. His dad was arrested in 1985 for forging Iraqi passports and military IDs during the Iran-Iraq war, the most logical use of these is for Iranian agents to have infiltrated the Iraqi army.
3. While in Beirut, he met with the local leader of Hezbollah.
4. His father was not only aware of his activities, he had authorized the absence from school and was in Iraq himself during these events.

In Michelle's words, "Hmmm." This doesn't sound like an Honors project gone way off track, this sounds a lot more like CIA agent training. I think Langley should look into a scholarship and job offer for this kid, if he's reliable.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Texas 41 USC 38, or Texas Won, USC Two.

Man, what a great football game.

Using the magic of TiVo I went to church, helped put the kids to bed and still managed to catch up to the game by halftime with judicious use of fast forward during the commercials and halftime shows, as well as the innumerable pauses and replays that constitute the majority of televised football.

The male crowd was thin at church tonight. My father, who never misses church, must have had the catarrh or something. I explained to my wife as I stomped slump-shouldered to the car that this was just the Best Football Game Of The Entire Season In Any League, but I went anyway. Turns out I didn't end up missing anything but the commercials and the game just ended and I can finally breathe. God does provide, including the occasional show-stopper finish, and this is one game I am glad I sat through.


- Whoever did conditioning for the Longhorn defense should be taken out and flogged. What's all this about "cramping"? In California, in the winter? The Texas D did very well in the first half and only decided to show up for the last two minutes of the second half. Yes they won but it was more stress than I needed.

- Reggie Bush is exceptional and he'll be a marquee player in the pros. Matt Leinart will need a great offensive line to do so well, Bush could run behind a junior high school O-line and still get a thousand yards a season. The other RB for USC, White, was superb as well. If he's not a senior USC should have a decent running game next year.

- Vince Young is a complete master of the college game. I have read about things "slowing down" for high-performing athletes, but Young was so calm in the pocket that he almost looked asleep, if sleeping people can run for 200 yards and pass for over 250. He'll do exceptionally well in the pros, his passing was great and he runs like a deer. If he comes back next year (and he says he will, though I'm sure his asking price in the NFL is probably second only to Reggie Bush's), Texas has a shot at going back-to-back, particularly with their young RB corps.

- Michael Griffin from the Texas defense should be second for MVP, he was always on or around the ball and that pick in the end zone in the first half changed the game.

- The Texas offensive line is fantastic. I hope they can replace the three graduating seniors, 'cause if they do Texas will be #1 again FOR SURE (if Young stays).

I may be an Aggie (by grad school, I'll always be a Wildcat at heart) but I'll doff the maroon hat to Texas for their spectacular performance tonight. Way to go fellas, you just got Mack Brown's contract renewed for life.


Marci finally coughed up something she wanted that she didn't have, about 7pm on December 22, and of all things she picked an iPod.

I've been ripping MP3s (of CDs I own -- without having to learn from the example of Durwood Pickle, who was in a small group Bible class with my in-laws at Waterview C of C for years) since 1999 or so, and have ripped almost our entire collection, so there's plenty of content for her to take advantage of. My personal MP3 player, a Creative Nomad Zen that began life as a 30GB model and has seen two additional hard-drive upgrades due to drive failure (everything bounces once, with the general exception of hard drives) to 40GB, currently has something like 33GB full of songs. You want it, I got it.

The hard part was getting the iPod before Christmas. Having had hard drive issues with my own player, we were going to go with a flash drive (no moving parts = nothing to fail). The BestBuy price for the 2GB iPod Nano was $199, but for $50 more you could double the RAM to 4GB. I wanted the 4GB one, but as it turns out so did everyone else, making the 4GB model in essence, vaporware. I was as surprised as anyone to find a 2GB iPod Nano on December 23, and so home it came. Success! As it turns out, 2GB is enough to hold about 50 hours or so of music depending on compression. Seeing as the battery in the Nano will last for about 12-14 hours, 2GB seems practically excessive, score a point for the practicality of the wife.

This past Sunday I finally sat down to open the box and load the player. Turns out there was a copy of most of our MP3s and WMAs on Marci's computer, so I figured we load iTunes, and away we go.

*Buzzzz* Thanks for playing.

Apparently Apple thinks that if you're buying an iPod you're new to the digital music world. When iTunes (the software you load on your computer) starts up, it ought to ask you if it can look on your hard drive and find any MP3s or other music files -- but it doesn't. At least Windows Media Player will auto-search your hard drive by hitting F3 and catalog your music files, but if iTunes will do this it's pretty demure about telling you about this capability.

What iTunes will do is let you 'Add a Folder' to the list of music it knows about. This would work well if your music was all in a disorganized blob in a single folder. In essence, iTunes can only deal with one 'container' of music at a time, so if you're tidy and fastidious with your ripping and have each album in a separate folder, you're in for some drudgery.

The other kicker is that Apple doesn't 'do' a file format called WMA, or Windows Media Audio. If you drop a CD into a Windows computer and tell Windows Media Player to rip your music, you're most likely going to get a WMA file, which isn't all bad. MP3 is a good way to take an audio file and make it small enough to carry around, but it's a relatively old compression algorithm, and there are newer ones that can make files of equal audio quality with less size. Apple's AAC is one, and WMA is another. For a given file size, WMAs will sound better than MP3s, which is one of the reasons I went to WMA when I switched from Windows98 to Windows2000 and WinXP. About half of my collection is WMA, the other half is MP3.

Steve Jobs owns about 70% of the MP3 player market with the iPod line, and his position is that he doesn't have to play WMA files on his device, in part because if you buy music from iTunes you buy AACs and if you buy songs from other online vendors you may get MP3s or WMAs. Why make it easier for the competition to sell songs? At least with iTunes and Windows Media Player 9 (or 10) you can convert your existing, unprotected WMA files to AAC files -- which is what I spent literally four hours doing early into Monday morning this week. Thus, iTedium. At least I managed to read the latest Wired and National Review issues cover-to-cover.

Marci likes the iPod but hates the earbuds. I'm going to have to get her some Shure E2c earbuds to match mine (mainly so I can get mine back from her), but she apparently has the world's tiniest ear canals.