Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Remembering Kirsty MacColl and the Fairytale of New York

photograph of Kirsty_MacColl

Fairytale of New York is a song I usually play frequently this time of year. Kirsty MacColl sings the Christmas song along with Shane MacGowan and his band The Pogues. She has such a lovely voice, I wonder what else she has sung. Then I remember - she's no longer with us.

It may be an unlikely Christmas song as it starts with Shane singing of being in the drunk tank on Christmas Eve. The two then exchange insults: "You´re a bum you´re a punk , You´re an old slut on junk." However the last verse ends with Shane resigned to his love for her and concluding "Can´t make it out alone, I've built my dreams around you."

The song ends with the slightly upbeat chorus, the band playing some traditional Irish instruments. The couple sing:

And the boys of the NYPD choir's still singing Galway Bay
And the bells are ringing out
For christmas day

Kirsty MacColl's death was tragic and happened just one week before Christmas in 2000. She was diving with family and friends in Mexico and a motor boat was where it wasn't supposed to be. Kirsty pushed a son out of the way but lost her life in doing so. (I got this from her Wikipedia entry.)

So the Fairytale of New York is bittersweet for me. A sweet song sung by a beautiful voice but the songstress will never perform again.


photograph of memorial plaque from a park bench


You can stream and download the Fairytale of New York at the Internet Archive. Here's a link to the song's lyrics. Finally you can watch the YouTube video right here:



Kristy MacColl photograph credit: By K8 fan at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Memorial plaque photograph from her Wikipedia page.



Friday, December 21, 2012

Turbulence in the Music Clouds, Google and Amazon Both Far from Perfect

screen cap of Amazon Music Importer

This week I tried both Google Music Manager and Amazon Music Importer again. Google was unusable and Amazon needed some work to get it functioning. Even when working properly, Amazon Music Importer will not work with the Chrome web browser.

Google Music Manager would not work properly. I would try to bring up the application from the task bar and it would close itself before I could click on anything! I uninstalled and re-installed it with no improvement so I just removed it from my PC.

I had better luck with Amazon Music Importer. I uninstalled it, updated Adobe Air, re-installed Music Importer and then it worked with Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.

Amazon claims some problem with Flash and the Chrome web browser so you cannot use it to upload music. However you can play music with Chrome, so I guess from time to time I will just use IE 9 to upload my music.

Finally Amazon's music matching service seemed to work well, it will even match ogg vorbis and flac music files. It matches them with high bit-rate mp3s though. I prefer Amazon's look and it seems to match graphics better to albums than Google does. Neither is great but Amazon is the better of the two fairly bad cloud services.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snail Mail Scam Letter

A few days ago I got this scam letter in the mail, good old-fashioned snail mail.

scan of scam letter

It was one of those folded over single sheet of paper letters with the sides that you have to tear off in order to open it up. It had "Personal and Confidential" printed on the front.

As soon as I opened it up I knew it was a scam. Here were the clues that tipped me off:

  • No logo at the top.
  • "December 11th, 2012" & "December 31st, 2012" - most people don't write the "th" & "st" part.
  • "the Continental U.S." - continental isn't usually capitalized.
  • Too good to be true. $1400 free, for me?
  • Tried contacting me? And never once left a message?
  • Pressure for immediate action (without thinking?)

If those clues were not enough, a simple search online confirmed it's a scam. I just searched for the phone number and the name of 'vice president.' 'Scam US Airways letter' also did the trick.

So if you see something like this in the snail mail then please do not fall for it. I'm sure if you call the phone number they will try to get a credit card number or bank details from you "in order for you to get your free plane tickets."

I think the scammers may have gotten my address from my domain registration, so be especially careful if you have registered a web address.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Four Gun Control Ideas from Gov. Ed Rendell

photo of Ed Rendell

Yesterday morning former Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell talked about gun control on WIP radio in Philadelphia. Though he's no longer in elected office, he's a long time politician and probably knows a thing or two about what's currently going on in politics. (He was also formerly the mayor of Philadelphia and head of the Democratic National Committee.)

Here are the gun control ideas Ed Rendell proposed:

  1. Clip Limit of 10 rounds (bullets)
  2. Assault weapon ban
  3. Background checks for every gun purchase
  4. Mental illness reporting for background checks

Some of these may pass into law, but even if all of these are enacted they won't prevent future massacres. The first two were law from 1994 to 2004 and had little effect, gun manufacturers found ways around how the law defined an 'assault weapon.'

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 19941, in addition to banning 'assault weapons', also set a limit of 10 rounds for new clips sold, however it did nothing about all of the larger capacity clips already in the U.S.

The Governor mentioned that a high percentage of gun purchases do not go through a background check due to the so-called 'gun show loop hole.' Closing this sounds like a good idea but remember that the Sandy Hook shooter got the guns he used from his mother.

Finally having mental health professionals report patients to the gun background check system sounds reasonable too but again the Sandy Hook killer got his guns from his mother.

In summary, 1 and 2 have been tried before with limited success. Though sounding reasonable 3 and 4 if made law probably wouldn't have stopped the massacre in Newtown. I'm not saying we don't need better gun control laws but we need to be realistic about what can be done.


1 at Wikipedia.
Photograph of Ed Rendell, Credit: By MavsFan28 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.



Monday, December 17, 2012

HBO DVDs Subtitled in Several Languages - Including Thai

Boardwalk Empire screen cap

I'm currently watching season 2 of Boardwalk Empire. One of the nice things about HBO DVDs is that they frequently have a lot of languages subtitled, including Thai. Game of Thrones also had them.