June 28, 2008

Umbrella, ella, ella, ella

Not being fond of getting wet, I always take an umbrella with me whenever the Washington Post says there will be thunderstorms or a high probability of rain. I don't consult the Baltimore Sun, but perhaps I should since I live between DC and Balto. Friday was spent in Arlington, a long haul by car and Metro. On the return just before we pulled into the Greenbelt station at the end of the Green line, it started raining. By the time we exited the Metro, it was pouring very hard. Of course, this was a rare occasion when I did not bring an umbrella or even a jacket. At least a hundred commuters were massed together inside the station not wanting to brave the elements. Well, I was pretty anxious to get home and with no hint that the rain would ease up soon, I decided to hoof it to my car, a 5-minute walk. Probably not the brightest idea I've ever had. Running wasn't an option due to my heavy laptop and other factors. Within 1 minute, I was soaked. By the time I reached my car, every article of clothing was drenched and my glasses were completely fogged up. Fortunately, I had a towel that I could drape over the car seat, but I was totally soaked to the bone. After defogging my windows and cleaning my glasses, I hit the road. Traffic was slow and there were the usual idiots. You know, the guys who switch lanes without signaling to get 2 cars lengths ahead. No close calls but it was slow going and all I could think about was getting out of these wet clothes and drying off. So much for the happy hour I had planned on going to!

Anyway, the head scratcher here is who was the designated umbrella carrier for the day to guarantee that it wouldn't rain on my parade, huh? And it's true -- when it rains, it pours.

June 24, 2008

iPod Shuffle Algorithm

In my office, I listen to an iPod in shuffle mode most of the time. With nearly 8,000 songs on the 30GB model, you would imagine that the odds of hearing the same song twice in two days would be low, wouldn't you? And you'd expect that if you had different versions of the same song, they would not be played in sequence, right? Wrong! Yesterday I heard the song I Won't Stand in Your Way by the Stray Cats and immediately afterwards I heard the same song from a Brian Setzer Orchestra album! I thought I must be imagining things, so I hit the Previous Song button. Sure enough, I was in touch with reality -- well, at least as far as my hearing goes. But I thought what are the odds of that happening? Then a few hours later, I heard Beethoven's Fifth (yeah, I know, my tastes are pretty eclectic) and right after that, I heard it again this classical piece as a cut from a movie soundtrack! Curiouser and curiouser, I thought. I listen to the iPod with shuffle all of the time and although I do tend to hear some songs repeated on different days, this was the first time I'd experienced back-to-back plays of 2 versions of the same song -- and twice in one day!

So I emailed my friends Ted and Jeannie who are eagerly awaiting their first baby. Jeannie has a PhD is statistics, so I figured she might be able to calculate the probability of this double double-play. And maybe it would keep her mind off waiting for Little Richard to arrive. Tune in for the result in a later post.

Meanwhile, I googled iPod's pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) and found these 2 insightful hits: Is-an-ipod-on-shuffle-truly-random and a MacInTouch Reader Report from 2005 which offered this advice:

"iTunes still seems to have a tendency to pick some songs more frequently than others, and some songs never seem to get picked. My solution to this problem has been to create a "not recently played" smart Playlist which only picks songs which haven't been played in the past few months, and also have a low playcount. Then I use this smart Playlist to feed Party Shuffle."

Beyond Our Ken(s)

Hi, I'm back with a slightly different blog name than a few years ago. This new blog is mainly devoted to rambling, rumbling and grumbling about things that make this Ken scratch his head in wonder. Not "why is the sky blue?" but more like "why do people have loud, extended cellphone conversations in the supermarket?". You know, earth shattering stuff like that.

It's unlikely that I'll blog very often, but I do scratch my head often. I just have to be careful since my hair is thinning that I don't scratch too hard ;-)