One Graham's View

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Winter is here!

BRRR…it sure got cold fast today.

This morning, I put Austin on the bus at 7:50 and it was a nice and balmy 71 degrees. It actually felt a little humid. He was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, which was normal. I knew the cold front, an actual Blue Norther, was coming in this morning, which is why he wasn’t wearing shorts to school. That’s also why his heavy jacket was stuffed in his backpack.

At 9:10, just an hour and twenty minutes after I had experienced the warmth of the last day of hurricane season, It was down to 45 degrees and a cold rain was falling.

What a drastically wicked change of weather. It will last for a few days, then get warmer again. That's winter in Houston, but then again, that's what I love about it. It gets rid of the heat and humidity for a little while, but it doesn't last long enough to make us really suffer.

It is supposed to get down to 33 overnight, which is pretty chilly for the Bayou City. I really shouldn’t complain, though. In Central Texas, where my folks live, it is supposed to be in the 20s and the local street departments have their sanding crews on standby in case there is any freezing precipitation. Additionally, Dallas is calling for up to three inches of snow and ice overnight. Further north, Tulsa is expecting up to a foot of snow. So, I guess we don’t have it too bad down here.

Still, it’s a great evening to make a pot of homemade chili. Heck, even store bought chili wouldn’t be bad. Its one of those evenings where you want to grab your loved one and cuddle up on the sofa. Sounds like a great idea.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Internet Archive offers tons of free downloadable music

Good afternoon,

I’m back with another music post. This one isn’t like Napster that lets you stream files for free or sells you the downloadable music. This one is a free site that is a virtual warehouse of live music by hundreds of artists, some of whom I recognize and many that I’ve never heard of before. If nothing else, look over the list of artists whose files are offered for the sheer entertainment of the creative names some of these bands have created.

The site is called the
Internet Archive,
Whose goal is to offer a dynamic archive of the internet. They must have boatloads of money to shell out for storage, because just the music files listed will take up tons of memory on a hard disc. Added to these files are the other internet files the project is ambitiously attempting to archive.

(Note: If you tried the link above and it opened on a page that did not contain the list of more than 500 bands, then do a right mouse click on the link above and select “copy shortcut”. This will copy the URL to your computer clipboard. Then go to your web browser and select “Open” then paste the URL into the field. One trick here is to make sure to delete the last “/” from the field. This should take you there. I don’t know why the other one is not working properly.)

The music files are all concert clips. You can get an entire concert in a single zip file, or from the artists I’ve looked at, just individual song clips. There are some nationally recognized bands that have huge fan bases, like the Greatful Dead, Little Feat, and Blues Traveler. There are some artists I know from Texas, like the Asylum Street Spankers, Bad Livers, and Charlie Sexton, all from Austin as well as Houston’s own Hays Carl and Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys. There seems to be a heavy dose of bluegrass bands represented, most notably Big Smith.

Take some time --because that’s what it will take-- to just read over the list of artists on the site. If you see somebody you like, see what’s available and download it.

The site purports to be a legal, free repository. Maybe the legality of the files have to do with the fact that these are live recordings at public venues. I don’t know, but see what you think.


Napster: it isn't what it used to be, but it ain't bad

Good afternoon,

If you know me, you know that I love listening to music and have an extensive mp3 collection. I first got into gathering mp3s using the original Napster file sharing program. However, I also have ripped my entire CD collection, numbering several hundred CDs, onto my hard drive. So, the most consuming portion of my hard drive is my music folder.

After Napster lost its legal challenges and settled, I didn’t really think it would really be able to do anything worthhwhile. However, just because you can’t download songs for free doesn’t mean the site has no value.

Have you tried the
site lately?
You can search the site’s vast database of music and spoken word files for your favorites by artist, album, or individual track name. Don’t let the term “spoken word” make you run screaming from the room, thinking you will be facing hours of drudgery as people recite poems you don’t understand. Think about your favorite comedian. Yes, stand up comedy is spoken word. I’ve seen many comedians in my time and most of them can’t carry a tune in a wheelbarrow, so spoken word is the best way to describe what they are offering. One of my favorite comedians, Eddie Murphy, is represented very well on Napster.

If you find your favorite artist or band, you can find albums and listen to the entire album on the site as a streaming file. You can also choose to listen to individual tracks. You must first set up a user profile. Then you can listen to a track three times for free before you will not be able to play it any longer. However, if you like it that much, you can buy it and download it. That’s the Napster model—three for free, but then you pay to play.

It isn’t a bad site. ON the contrary; it is a very good site. I like it as it is very comprehensive. I’ve listened to a Molly Hatchet album that I have most of the tracks for, but had a few missing pieces, a Great White album and several Eddie Murphy tracks. I searched for several more mainstream artists and liked the selection. There are so many of my favorites that I could probably play tracks from most of them and still never run beyond the three play limit.

There is one downside. If you are like me and have a family member working overseas, the files most likely won’t play for them. The user must be using an IP address in the US. I suppose that has something to do with copyrights, contracts, or some other legality.

Anyhow, if you want to listen to music on your computer (and are in the US,) give Napster a try. It isn’t the peer-to-peer file sharing system that it once pioneered, but the model it has evolved into is a pretty good way to listen to music.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Criminal Justice: more than just a phrase

Good morning,

Even though it has been nearly 16 years since I read it, I still recall one particular comment about the phrase “criminal justice” in one of my CJ textbooks.
The only ones who get justice are the criminals.”
It was accompanied by an editorial cartoon that showed a District Attorney and the accused’s attorney cutting a deal in the hallways outside the courtroom. The cartoon was captioned, “The real halls of justice.”

To correctly comprehend the phrase and the cartoon, one must understand the context in which they were used. The chapter was discussing criminal courts and prosecution of criminals. The passage was discussing plea agreements and how they serve both the prosecution and the accused, but the deals struck in the hallways outside of the courtroom often give the public impression that a prosecutor let somebody off light.

I’m a pretty strong advocate for strict sentencing and punishment and often cringe at some of the plea agreements that prosecutors strike. I understand that these usually indicate a case that is weak or that is on-going, but one where the jury’s sentiments are seeming to be slipping away from the state’s case.

All that being said, I really like a couple of recent incidents where justice has been served. One was handed down by the court and the other was dished out by a vengeful family member.

First, in a Delaware case,
a flasher convicted of twice exposing himself
to a 10-year old girl at his workplace was ordered to wear a t-shirt with the words, “I’m A Registered Sex Offender” in bold letters. He will have to wear the t-shirt for 22 months after he serves the 60 days he was also sentenced to serve in the county jail

The 69-year old pervert owns a gardening business and there is a strong potential that other, unsuspecting children may fall prey to his flashing. The prosecutor wanted the t-shirt as a punishment to help warn others to his sick past. If his past is any indication—he has 10 convictions in the past 30 years for the same charge of indecent exposure—there is a strong likelihood that he will do this again. At least, with the t-shirt on, parents will have a head’s up. Maybe the publicity from the story will cause community advocates to cause social pressure on him as well.

The punishment is similar to those often handed down by former Texas judge Ted Poe. When he was on the bench, Poe often would bring the public scrutiny and shame factor into the punishment by having those convicted of crimes in his court to perform some public duty with a sign declaring their guilt. An example might be someone who was convicted of stealing from a store would have to spend a week walking in front of that store with a sign declaring, “I stole from this store.” (I’m glad to say, Ted Poe is now my congressman and I did vote to re-elect him yesterday.)

Then, there is the
Katie’s Revenge case,
Where the killer of a 10-year old Indiana girl named Katie, had the words “Katies Revenge” forcibly tattooed on his forehead. Of course, this was not a court ordered punishment, but the act of another prisoner, who, lo and behold, just happened to be Katie’s cousin.

I’m not advocating vigilante justice, but in a world where all too often there is not a punishment severe enough to atone for the most heinous crimes, it did bring a smile to my face when I heard about the cousin avenging the death of a little girl who couldn’t do so for herself.

So, these are my thoughts on criminal justice. I like to see justice served and commend the judges and juries who do their duty. I like creative sentencing like the t-shirt to bring shame and attention to where it needs to be. If somebody breaks the law, let them face the music. If somebody is convicted of a shameful act, bring them out of the shadows and make the public aware. And, last but not least, if somebody hurts a child, look out! You never know where their kinfolks are!