Monday, June 28, 2010

Petty Grievances

Saw Tom Petty at Summerfest in Milwaukee (link above) Saturday night.  Awesome performance, if a little short (about an hour and a half), and shallow.  Shallow?  Yeah, while Petty may put everything up there on stage, heart on his sleeve, really one of the great rock and roll journeymen... this show was pretty much just the greatest hits.  I hadn't realized how many Petty songs were so darn easy to sing along to.

And yet, much of the audience failed at at that.  (New Lyrics to "Drunk Girls" lcd soundsystem: "Drunk Girls -- don't care if they're in tune, Drunk girls -- just shout it louder").  Y'know, I paid over $100 for the two of us to hear a professional musician (on the lawn -- Pavilion seats were about three times that), not 10,000 fans.  Shut the hell up.

So it was nice to hear the few items that weren't on Top 40 radio: "King's Highway"  was about the only deep track we got.  A very nice cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" -- which did get the singalong treatment -- showed off Mike Campbell's awesome guitar chops (he should have been at the Crossroads Festival). That song seemed a perfect Heartbreakers tune... and I realized why: "I Should Have Known Better" off the new album "Mojo" is pretty much the same sort of short-lyric-then-screaming-guitar song.  They should have put them up against each other, instead of about 20 minutes apart.

(oh, before I forget: Petty's stage has awesome pillars of plasma screens which show graphics or the band at various times.  just terrific)

But really, I liked the peformance.  What I want to whine about today is the venue: sound is OK (a little echo-y out on the lawn), sight lines aren't bad... but two major issues: The Marcus Amphitheater is praised for its steep hillside allowing clear view.  That's fine except that (a) nobody sits, and standing at a 40-degree angle for several hours isn't much fun, and (b) if you do sit, you're going sledding on your blanket down the hill.  The capper to the annoyances though, is that Wisconsin isn't as much of a nanny state as Illinois: you can smoke there.  And people do. Constantly. I'm really just about ready to test if spitting on people is just as legal as the actions of those who pour their smoke over me.

My run of great opening acts ran short that night:  ZZ Top was pretty unexiting.  Just before the performance began, the PA was playing a live ZZ Top performance... I couldn't tell the difference in sound.  No spontenaity, no extended jams.  The songs were synched to clips from movies and their '80s videos, so there's no room for hanging loose.  Except for really bluesing up "Jesus Left Chicago", it was pretty dull.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Swype me one of those!

Wow, somebody got it right!  Swype, in beta for Android phones, is such a quantum leap beyond the Android keyboard -- physical or "soft" -- such a huge step over Blackberry keyboards, worlds better than my old Palm's learn-a-new-alphabet letter recognition.

Rather than typing out letters one at a time, swype has you trace a finger around the soft keyboard to spell out the word. It uses continuous dictionary lookup to figure out what word you're really typing.  Something the soft keyboard on Android should do -- and almost does, by showing possible words on the top, none of which are what I'm actually using.

Is it perfect?  No.  It occasionally comes up with the wrong word, or gives me a choice of eight words none of which are right, but it's accurate much more frequently than the standard soft keyboard, and much, much faster.  It may be sucking battery power more than my already-thirsty phone does (something likely to improve with the release version, I'd hope).  But I swyped several emails yesterday while waiting for my plane, things I'd only have done with the slider keyboard on my Moto Droid previously.

It looks like support for it within apps depends partly on the app: most of the Android apps integrate with it beautifully.  A couple times, I couldn't get it to appear in landscape mode, but I haven't put my finger on it yet.  The one app it doesn't seem to support at all is "Twisty" -- an interactive fiction interpreter for playing "Adventure" and the old Infocom-type text adventures.

But this is an app that's staying on my phone, and I'll probably pay for it if I have to when the beta is up.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

America Pulled In Its Welcome Mats

Welcome to Ohio - Really? So where's the welcome center?
Pennsylvania?  You too.
Maryland?  Nope.
Delaware? Sad, just sad.
West Virginia? Closed, Visitor Info "store" closed at 5PM, Interstate tunnel closed and alternate route down to one lane.
Indiana seems to be the only state between here and DC that's still got its welcome mat out on the turnpikes and interstates.  Everywhere else, it was a closed rest area and a sign saying it's 48 miles to the next one.

It's not just for the lack of a pee break, although that's annoying too.  A chance to stand and stretch, a little caffeine, and a coupon book for cheap motels is what I need.

And you all (except for the Hoosier state) let me down.