More than 140 Characters Can Say

It has been almost 2 years since I posted on this blog. It was always a pretty sporadic thing. Part of the trouble was trying to balance all the things I wanted to write about, but filtering for things that would be interesting publicly and writing in a way fit for the public. That was back when lots of my friends were using using LiveJournal and microblogging hadn't taken over. The last 2 years, this has been replaced by two things: Twitter and OhLife. I, like most of my friends, have moved public updating to Twitter/Facebook/Google+. It's a lot easier and in-the-moment than writing out a whole blog post.

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Well, I realize that the time has come to shift the balance back towards public. There are just some ideas that are too interesting to keep private and too long for 140 characters. My new goal is for some of my OhLife rants and idea to make it here when I think they are worth sharing. I'll be starting that with a few I have queued up shortly.
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Jetting Gets It Done

I'm back in Denver again, and after the travel disaster I had last week, I have to rave about the experience I had tonight. I'd always heard very good things about jetBlue, but I never had a chance to fly them until recently. My first jetBlue experience was back in April. It was as good as expected. Having DirectTV is really nice. On the way back, we were a little late and they couldn't get the TVs to work so they mailed everyone a $20 voucher for the inconvenience. (a make-good from an airline without me having to do anything for a problem with a service most airlines don't even have? amazing) Well tonight absolutely put me over the moon.

I have a lot of people counting on me for some work tomorrow morning at 7am. I booked a very late direct flight, 9:35pm to 11:54pm. I was very worried when at 9:05, when we should have been boarding, they announced that all westbound flights from Boston had been temporarily grounded due to weather over the midwest and they wouldn't even get another update for at least a half hour. So what does jetBlue do? Immediate change the flight plan to have us fly south (around the weather) and have us boarding less than 10 minutes late. The new route would have taken quite a bit longer by taking us well out of the way, but just like they planned, when the hold was released at 11pm we were able to turn sooner and not go as far south, while any other airline would still be sitting on the ground in Boston. We arrived only 25 minutes late. This is the most amazing above and beyond effort to get me to my destination I've ever seen from an airline. Wow.

P.S. Third cab I've taken in the last week and all of them have had their check engine light on, what gives?
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Rhapsody 3.0

I've been a big proponent of Rhapsody for a while. It's been two years since I subscribed and not much has changed with the service. It was starting to bother me but then yesterday they released Rhapsody 3.0. It is a huge improvement. In fact the new feature list reads almost like my feature request list, and it was a long list. I actually sent my whole huge list to them a while ago, so it would be pretty cool if I had any role in steering the product, but I probably didn't.

Here's the new stuff I'm excited about, that I asked for and was finally delivered to me. New playlist/library tools. Searching in the list like Winamp j-key. Managing and playing of CDs and MP3s. Lots more columns of info abou track and ability to sort by them. Editing playlists seperate from the now playing list. Rating Songs. Better collaborative filtering and recomendations. The beginning of a community where you can share playlists. Integration of a music store for buying songs. New support for portable devices. A portable device rental service like Napster-to-go. One really cool feature that I suggested but was surprised to see them implement is the ability to take some of your music offline as long as you are still subscribed.

So it you haven't tried it yet, Try Rhapsody.
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It's Electric

It's been a busy week. I finished my other project (it went well), I had my wisdom teeth out, and now I'm packing to leave. I've talked about ZipCar before so I won't explain the way it works again. I signed up because it cost me basically nothing (aside from driving costs) but I haven't used it much because Carly has had a car here at MIT that I could use. Now that car is at home and I needed to car to get all the crap out of my office back to my apartment to pack. When I was looking at ZipCar I noticed they now have a RAV4-EV. That's a fully electric car, no gas at all. I decided to take that one and see what it was like. I rode in one before because Illah has one he took us in when we worked on that robotics project, but this time I got to drive it.

There are a lot of questions people ask about this car. It can only really go about 70 miles to the charge. Although I don't think that is what's bad about it. I think the problem is that it takes 6-8 hours to charge and the only place you can charge one of these cars right now is in its own parking spot. It is totally quiet when you start it and it is amazing that it actually moves when you try to pull out of the parking spot. The rumor that it is all battery is not true. It's an SUV and it's got plenty of people and cargo space.

They don't make it anymore because there are problems with it and it didn't sell. Even when they did it was only for Californians because of that state's strict emmisions laws. Illah actually had to lie and say he lived there, have them install the charger there, and then uninstall it and move it and reinstall it himself.

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In the trend of plugging great new services I've discovered (like Rhapsody) I'd like to mention the latest. Zipcar is sort of a rental car service, but it feels more like sharing a car with a bunch of people. This company has many cars that live in designated spaces all over Boston. These spaces could be in anyones lot like the one down the street from me at the Star Market. Members of this service can go online or call and automated number to reserve a car for blocks of an hour or day at a time. Each member has a proximity card that will lock and unlock the car for you when you have a reservation. Just go pick it up, no human interaction is neccessary; any time of day or night! The cost is $8.50/hour (or $75/day) up to 125 miles and $0.18/mile after that. Gas is included, all you have to do is make sure to return it with more than a quarter tank. If you need to add gas they provide a card to pay for it! In addition to the driving cost, there is a $30 startup fee (for the driving record background check), $300 security deposite (you get it back when you are through with the service), and $30/month or $75/year minimum. What this means is that if you are on the monthly plan you must pay $30/month but this counts as a credit towards driving (which you lose if you don't use). But if you drive at least $30 in a month, then it is really just driving costs. However, MIT has a deal with them that as an MIT grad student, MIT pays the initial $30, MIT pays the $300 security fee, and the yearly cost to me is only $20/year. This is great because while it doesn't make sense for me to own a car while living in the city, I will at least have access to one when I need.
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Extra, Extra, read all about me!

I recently spoke to a reporter doing a story about how the RIAA's attempts to monitor and prosecute file sharing has affected the attitudes and actions of college students regarding downloading music. A coworker of his at the Philidelphia Inquirer has his daughter post to a message board I read asking if anyone wanted to add their input, and I did. My position was essentially that I felt the RIAA was only after serious offenders which I didn't think I was, I was alway very cautious because of my school's rules rather than the RIAA, and I generally don't like downloading since I do believe there is something to be said for the fact that it is illegal, regardless of whether I believe that is right or not, so no, my attitudes haven't changed. I'm still as cautious as ever. However, I wanted to voice my opinion as one of very few (likely one of the only that he spoke to) kids who actually have ethics and respect the law. I wanted to explain my justifications for defying the law despite my morals. Mostly I wanted to provide a plug for Rhapsody (which I mentioned on 6/16) which is a service that I strongly support as an alternative to stealing music. I want it to succeed. Anyways, the article was published and fully a quarter of it was about me. There are a few mistakes. First of all, when I was talking about invitation only sharing with strong encrytion, I never mentioned IRC, I was refering to (though didn't actually tell him) WASTE. I just discovered, while trying to find a link to WASTE for this entry, that WASTE, written by Nullsoft, was removed by AOL.

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Preamble )
I took a walk today, sort of by accident. I was talking to Jim in the stairwell. I hadn't done much today up to that point, and I wasn't wearing shoes yet. A couple people were going to go for a walk and they were waiting for Jim. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go along, because I had some things here I wanted to do. I decided to walk a little ways to finish what I was saying and then turn back. I didn't think a block on the sidewalks without shoes would be a problem. Well, we got across campus, and I was going to turn back but we headed into the park, and a grassy hill is great to be barefoot. After that we started off on an unpaved dirt road through the part. I should have turned back but it was far and it looked like nice scenery for a walk. When we finally came out (and I was very happy to be back on paved road), we ended up in Squirrel Hill. We went a pizza place, I snuck to the table before anyone noticed my feet, and had dinner (someone else went up to get it). Then we went to Rita's Ices, since you don't have to go inside. The girl there noticed and aparently she thought it was pretty cool. "That's awesome" is what I think she said. When she asked if this was together or seperate, I replied, "together, he's paying. I didn't bring a wallet either." For that I got a high five. She wanted me to stick around for her amusement. I felt bad because I wanted to entertain her, or at least talk to her. That's exactly the type of situation I should take advantage of but I'm very shy about my lack of footwear, especially when someone makes a big deal of it. I even feel uncomfortable the first day I wear sandals to class in the spring. Maybe I'll have to go back with shoes and be more sociable. It was quite an experience. After that we walked home, because I didn't have my ID for the bus. Someone had remarked that prehistoric man had to be able to catch game for food while barefoot. My feet definately aren't that tough. Somewhere in the evolution of computer programmers we've seem to have lost that ability. Evolution, some progress, I'd say.
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