somebody just called my home phone, claiming to be from Experian, and asking if this was the location of some business name that i couldn’t understand. i said that there was no business here by that name, and so the person asked to speak to someone in the household that could verify information about our phone number (since that business perhaps used to have this number). well, how do i know that they’re Experian? i could call up anybody in the phonebook and say that i’m a credit bureau, please give me your info! i explained that though i know what Experian is, i have no way of verifying that this phone call is actually originating from Experian, and i won’t be furnishing any information. the person on the other end then proceeds to explain to me what Experian is in an effort to assure me that this is legit. it probably is for all i know. but for all i know it isn’t and they’re going to take some info about me and use it for some fraudulent purpose. i have no idea what questions they were going to ask, but i’m certainly not taking that chance.
after i explained that i wasn’t going to answer her questions, i expected another petition to please answer her questions. instead, i was answered w/ dead silence. ‘hello?’ i guess she hung up. goodbye Experian!
under the terms of this buyout, the largest leveraged buyout ever according to this NY Times article, TXU – basically the largest energy supplier in TX – will abandon plans to build 8 of its 11 coal plants that are currently being fast-tracked by Gov. Perry, and look to more sustainable forms of energy production to make up for the deficit. it will also seek to cap its CO2 emmissions at 1990 levels by 2020. that’s pretty ambitious, but incredibly welcome. i was at the rally 2 wks ago on the capitol steps here in austin, protesting this fast-tracking, which would have pushed construction of these plants forward w/o much discussion despite incredible widespread opposition. this deal was pretty much lining the pockets of TXU, while shitting on residents of TX in the form of increased pollution and potential health problems – these plants would not even need to install modern pollution scrubbing equipment.
a public service announcement brought to you by fenslerfilm:
a new study from Harvard shows quite a definitive link between naps and lowered death rate. they’re not sure the link yet, but they believe it’s through the lowering of stress that their study group had death rates 2/3 lower than those of a control group (those that don’t take naps). current recommendations are that if you can take a midday nap, do so, w/ their guidelines describing at least 3x weekly naps of 30 min or so.
right on! i completely agree – i’ve been taking midday naps w/ a relative consistency since this past September, and i love it. i feel refreshed mentally and physically, w/ more energy for getting back to work than what a cup of coffee does for me (though i’m not against both…). it seems to be fairly common knowledge, or sense, that naps make you feel better and think and act better, but for some reason it’s unacceptable in western capitalist society (even the AP article describes would-be nappers as “office slackers”). mediterranean society has the right idea w/ siestas. i don’t know how, but i’m going to try to somehow maintain a 20 minute daily midday nap when i start working, several times a week at the least.
i started napping successfully when i got hold of this software called pzizz. they sell hardware (basically a portable media player) that only produces their ‘nap’ songs, but you can also download it as i’ve done. pzizz isn’t just nature or ambient sounds – it combines soothing suggestive therapy as well. all of that is well and good, but the great thing about pzizz is that it generates the nap each time you listen to it, so that you can’t get used to a certain audio pattern. w/ a static song, it would be very easy to get used to the sounds and it wouldn’t be long before it would become ineffective as a sleeping aid. pzizz makes a different song every time, all ambient and soothing. i generally take a nap 2-3 times a week and very, very rarely have any trouble falling asleep, resting, and waking in the 20 min time frame. you can also specify the time of your nap, the volume of the voice, and the volume of the music. there is also a separate ‘sleep’ setting if you don’t want a nap. you can also export the naps as mp4s for audio playback on a portable media player, such as ipod – which is what i normally do.
the only issue that i have when taking a nap is blocking out noise. i normally nap in the library or my home office, where noise is kept to a minimum, but it really helps to have good headphones that will focus your attention on what you’re listening to. i feel this way about any time of music i’m listening to, but it obviously is more important if you’re trying to rest. i use shure headphones, which use ‘noise cancellation technology’ – basically the speakers/ear buds have built in ear plugs. they’re great in that regard – i actually keep my volume setting as low as it can go on my ipod when using these headphones. the sound quality is also very good (i’m using the lowest quality of shure headphones – quality is apparently incredible when you move into the $500 range).
so, if you want to nap, i highly recommend pzizz. if you don’t want to shell out money for it (i grabbed a free copy through a promotion), grab a pair of headphones or ear plugs, and take a nap anyway – it’ll make you feel better and you’ll live forever.
i’ve been a part of the last.fm community for 2.5 yrs already, but only recently installed the last.fm software. w/ the exception of a minor bug, it rocks. what the software does is stream music to your computer, based on the type of music you listen to. it creates your profile by installing a plugin to your media player of choice (it has plugins for loads of players) and silently tracks what you listen to. it sounds a little big-brother-ish, but it’s only your music, and its really pretty cool to see your musical profile. you may think you fit a certain musical profile, but when you see the hard stats, it’s hard to deny that you like listening to ABBA.
since my profile extends back 2 years and roughly 12,000 tracks, it has put together a fairly good profile on my tastes. i installed the streaming software (separate from the itunes plugin that tracks my listening habits when i listen to my own music), logged into my profile as it asked me to, and started listening to music. so far today, i’ve discovered music by Stars of the Lid and Chico Buarque, one being ambient and the other Brazilian pop. it’s even streaming Fennesz to me right now, something that i listen to a lot when working and would consider relatively obscure (the music is very layered, fairly complex, and not easy to listen to for a lot of people). when you listen to the streaming audio, you can stop or play the music (but not pause it – licensing issues), love it or ban it (all or nothing, no 5 star system here), and you can also tag it. apparently tagging and the social aspect is last.fm’s real strong suit, but i haven’t tagged anything yet. that’s a bit too much involvment for me – if it can track and suggest music, that’s enough for me. i don’t care to have music streamed to me based on my and the global community’s tags. that’s probably fine for kids in school, or some real die-hards.
being able to see my musical profile is really cool. i’ve had a chart on the right side of my blog for years that shows my weekly listening stats. clicking that chart would take you to my profile page where you can see all sorts of my listening stats, from most played artists, most played songs, albums, etc. you can sort and arrange stats in many ways, and always click further on for stats on the artist – how often the artist played, the most popular song by that artist in the last.fm community, groups that talk about that artist or music type, etc. it’s music information overload. you can also, of course, click on to buy the artist’s album, which i’m sure is where they do or hope to make more money.
last.fm has quite a large community, having been one of, if not, the first music tracking community. there are many others communities, and techcrunch has a good post on a lot of them. the only other one that i belong to is ilike, b/c it has nice user interface that attaches to itunes directly and the ability to ‘like’ artists is intuitive and visually pleasing. it also suggests new music based on what you are listening to, but it does so right w/in itunes so that you don’t need to navigate to a website.
the bug that i mentioned at the beginning is the fact that right now, i can’t see any of the artist info in my last.fm software. i hear the music, but it says that it is constantly fetching artist and station info. the only way i have of knowing what i’m listening to is either already knowing the music or navigating to my profile page and seeing what i just listened to (it updates your profile that quickly). i’m sure this is just a glitch, since this isn’t new software. so if you enjoy finding new and obscure music (you can actually set the obscurity level of the new music they stream to you) or don’t always have your music library w/ you (i.e. i’m working in windows on my macbook and don’t have access to my itunes library or are at work) , give last.fm a try.