Free Music! Legal & Beyond the RIAA’s Reach

A great list of resources to find new and free music. Sure there’s going to be a lot of unknown artists in the mix, but there are a lot of amazing musicians you’ve never heard of. Definitely worth a look and a bookmark.

In the interest of helping our readers stay out of jail and avoid massive fines, here are a bunch of places you can get tunes without fear of finding a summons in your mailbox. There’s plenty of good, free, and legal music on the net for you to download.

[From 35 Places To Download Free, Legal MP3s – Sorry, RIAA! – Download Squad]

Where’s the Mad Cow Disease Beef?

Had Milk!

So, say you raise beef and you want to assure your customers that your product is safe and mad cow disease free. And let’s just say you want to spend your own money to test all of your cattle.

You can’t.

Beef exporters are banned from testing their cattle for mad cow disease without approval from the government, which has exclusive control on test kits, a divided federal appeals court panel said today.

[From The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times : Court: Beef Exporters Can’t Test for Mad Cow Disease]

Makes as much sense Palin for Vice President.
(Was that a cheap shot? Yes, yes it was.)

(Via Slashdot)

The Gambler’s Credo

You’ve got to know
When to hold ‘em,
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done.

I have spent the last two days with a stomach ache as I attempt to deal with a growing sense of uncertainty about my decision to move to this area. Yes, there are some interesting opportunities coming in the next couple of years because of the Spaceport. Yes, property values are significantly lower out here than on the east coast and I feel strongly that I need to buy property in the next five to ten years as a financial investment. In the meantime, rents are generally lower here than back east as well. Yes, there is lots more quiet and space out here than there was in NYC. Yes, parts of this state are amazing and beautiful and the people are friendly.

If I had money to invest, to buy a house or land or if I had some source of income that didn’t depend on my geographical location I would be feeling a whole lot better about being here. I, however, don’t have either of those things and, if not for a loan of money from my parents two weeks ago, I would be living off of credit cards until I got a job and then, when I do get a job, we are looking at between $7.50 – $10 as the likely hourly income. I don’t see that as being able to help me deal with my debt and work toward owning property. The money I owe to credit cards and student loans doesn’t decrease because I live in an area where pay is low.

But hey, you say, you wanted to start making a living off your own skills and as an independent contractor/consultant/tutor right? Sure, but success in that depends on being part of–or at least having access to–people making making upper-middle class wages. Three years ago, the estimated median household income was just over $29,000 (which was, of course, down almost a $1000 dollars from figures gathered in 2000). Additionally, on the trip out here I came up with a really strong and and potentially highly rewarding idea for my own consulting business that revolves around theatre and management training; it is an idea that would use a variety of my skills and that would,in five or ten years, provide me the means to get out from under my debt and buy property. I have no doubts about this idea – it might be hard at first, because every new business struggles, and I am aware that nothing is guaranteed in life, but I completely believe in my ability to make this business work and that it could generate money, good money. However, to do so, I would need the proper infrastructure: one that provides access to corporate/business culture, a pool of theatre practitioners and a concentration of people with disposable incomes, as well as my own network of contacts and friends. There is really only one place that meets those criteria: Providence, RI.

My interest in the T or C/Las Cruces area is not misplaced. I do wonder if my acting on this interest is . . . mis-timed. Was I so desperate to get out of NYC, out of the noise and away from the crowds that I simply did not take realistic stock of my resources? I’m so sick of being poor, of just getting by, of having no security of my own beyond a generous and loving family.

When it comes right down to it, I need to answer a couple of basic questions about how I want to live, about who I am and what I most want to accomplish. Saying that you are running off to the desert to be a writer sounds romantic and adventurous. You know what, it is romantic and adventurous if you are 20 or have money.

Or am I just being negative because this is all new and strange and I’m feeling alone and worried and a bit scared? Am I simply reacting to the fact that I’ve moved to a new place and should I be more positive because I have an interview tomorrow with the local food coop for a job. Hey, you say, that’s good, right? Technically, yes. It’s very good because I need income. Emotionally? Well, I’m looking at taking a job as a cashier in a store while staring 40 years old in the face.

I’m not ok with that.

Soon, maybe next week, maybe next month but soon, I need to decide what to do with the hand I’ve dealt myself. Whatever I choose, I then have to accept fully as my choice, committing both to the moment and the repercussions of that moment. I keep telling myself that there is no shame in holding, folding, walking away or even running as long as you do it for the right reasons.

Right?

Writing When Stuck

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As part of my 500 words for 50 days, I need to make sure I meet my goal even when I’m stuck on whatever the main project is at the moment. Currently I’m rewriting a horror story about NYC subways and just couldn’t get my mind and fingers around what needed to happen next. Rather than sit for hours and beat my head against the metaphorical wall, I decided to just write something, anything. Got out a pad of paper and began. So, for the curious or curiously bored, I’m posting tonight’s writing exercise. I plan to continue with this character on those days when I get stuck on other projects and so it will be aimless, idiosyncratic, possibly funny, most certainly nonsensical and, maybe in small doses, mildly amusing to you:

I am in a room. I walk along one wall in 12 paces. Another in 16. A third in 9. The forth in, again, 16. If asked, I will swear that the lengths stay the same but sometimes it is the 1 wall that is nine, another is sixteen, a 3rd is sixteen as well and the 4th is twelve. Or visa versa. On the shortest wall, regardless of which one it is, there is a door that is barely distinguishable from the wall. Both door and wall are a pale and off-white with the merest hint of yellow. Like stained teeth, that color is. In the door is another small door that can open or close. That door is the width of both my hands outstretched, from pinky to pinky and the same height. Through that opening (when it is, indeed, opened), slides a plate of food and, following a moment thereafter, a jug of water each and every afternoon. I say afternoon because the food (as you will see) is not breakfast food.

The plate of food varies some, though not by very much. I can usually count on some sort of protein that is most often a meatloaf, though sometimes I may receive a piece of chicken and, even less often, white and flaky fish seasoned with butter and lemon and pepper. The meatloaf is often too dry and is always bland. Like it is pretending to be a meatloaf and failing.

“You, Mr. Meatloaf, are like a bad comedian on stage that nobody laughs at,” I sometimes say to it as I spear a piece with my fork, bring it (tines facing down like I saw rich people in a movie once) up to my eye level and, winking at it, I then bring it to mouth level and pop it in: chewing and, if it is a dry day, swallowing hard to get it down. Of course I only say that on days when I feel exceedingly silly. Which is to say: not very often.

The chicken is usually better. I guess because they have less chance to make it poorly. I must admit, however, when the chicken is made poorly it is even worse tan the worst meatloaf. The poorly made chicken is usually rubbery and undercooked. I don’t believe that they are deliberately trying to give me trichinosis, just that the person(s) making my food that day are not very competent. I don’t ever say anything to the chicken.

The fish is always perfect: flaky but moist, prepared simply but the butter, lemon and pepper are all balanced perfectly well. I greatly enjoy my meal when it is fish and will, once in a very long while say, “Thank you Mr. Fish for being so very good.” Only, and I must stress this point, once in a very long while.

In addition to the meatloaf/chicken/fish, there is almost always—and by “almost always” I mean 999 out of one thousand meals—a starchy food like rice or potatoes or yams. The rice is always white and sticky, the potatoes always mashed and with plenty of butter and salt and pepper, the yams always cubed. Funny story: when I was a child and when asked what my favorite food was, I would say, defiently even, “mashed potatoes.” Now? Well, I would just have to say it is a toss-up between the mashed potatoes and the fish. The fish really is very good. Cod I think, but it could be haddock. Even though I lived in New England, I can’t say I was a connoisseur of fish. I never really distinguished between the different kinds of ocean white fish. Don’t, please, misunderstand, I can tell salmon from tuna from swordfish of course. That is easy. But cod from haddock? Well. I suggest you try and get back to me with your results.

. . .

. . .

. . .

I apologize. There was no call for me to get “huffy” as my Mother would have said. “No need to get all huffy she would say to my Father. Though why she insisted on saying that when it always, from my perspective—my admittedly limited perspective as a child—made my Father more “huffy,” I don’t quite, to this day, understand. Be that as it may, and letting us let sleeping dogs lie, I again reiterated that there was neither call nor cause for me to get huffy.

As well, I had thought myself finished with the fish which is why I moved on to the potatoes. I will attempt to be more linear in my presentation of my life.

No Excuses for this kind of Politics

*Sigh*

A few months later, Biden signed a letter that urged the Justice Department “to prosecute individuals who intentionally allow mass copying from their computer over peer-to-peer networks.” Critics of this approach said that the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, and not taxpayers, should pay for their own lawsuits.

Last year, Biden sponsored an RIAA-backed bill called the Perform Act aimed at restricting Americans’ ability to record and play back individual songs from satellite and Internet radio services. (The RIAA sued XM Satellite Radio over precisely this point.)

[From Joe Biden’s pro-RIAA, pro-FBI tech voting record | Politics and Law – CNET News.com]

And, even worse:

. . . months before the Oklahoma City bombing took place, Biden introduced another bill called the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995. It previewed the 2001 Patriot Act by allowing secret evidence to be used in prosecutions, expanding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and wiretap laws, creating a new federal crime of “terrorism” that could be invoked based on political beliefs, permitting the U.S. military to be used in civilian law enforcement, and allowing permanent detection of non-U.S. citizens without judicial review. The Center for National Security Studies said the bill would erode “constitutional and statutory due process protections” and would “authorize the Justice Department to pick and choose crimes to investigate and prosecute based on political beliefs and associations.”

[From Joe Biden’s pro-RIAA, pro-FBI tech voting record | Politics and Law – CNET News.com]

Yes Obama still gets my vote. But with every passing day it’s feeling more like the lesser of two evils rather than something truly good. Yes, I know, “the art of compromise, blah blah.” How long do we live with that excuse while our constitutional rights get trashed and the environment chokes on our waste?

Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but I just don’t think, after learning more about Biden’s record, that he bodes well for “Change” or “Hope.”

On the Trail to Dripping Springs

If you take E. University Avenue east, it turns into Dripping Springs Road. If you follow that, eventually it turns to a dirt road, then, after a while, a paved one once more and you enter into the Dripping Springs Natural area. There are a number of hiking trails from the visitor center and these are some of the pictures I took today:

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(Las Cruces from a distance)


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(There’s a reason it’s called “dripping” and not gushing or rushing or some other more powerful adjective.)


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These last two are probably my favorites of the day:

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Land of the Free?

200808222144.jpgThis is beyond ridiculous-ville and heading into scary totalitarian-land:

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed its ruling on USA v Arnold this past Friday that Customs and Border Protection agents are free to seize your laptop at the border without probable cause. On July 10 the 9th Circuit denied the petition for en banc review of their April 21 decision. So, as it stands today, Customs can randomly grab anyone at the border; seize their laptop, and demand passwords and encryption keys as a pre-condition to entering the country. And who knows when you will get your computer back? The dissonance between this policy and my understanding of our basic values of personal privacy and protection from unwarranted searches strikes me as very loud.

[From Alan Rosenblatt: Keep Your Hands Off My Laptop]

If you are traveling out of the country you might want to think twice about bringing your laptop – which of course sucks for millions of businesspeople. Beyond general suckage though, just the idea that your property can summarily be taken from you by Customs for no reason seems, to this layperson at least, a huge hit against the 4th Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Now, I’m not Constitutional lawyer and I’m no Circuit Judge, but how in the blazing hell is randomly seizing laptops even remotely constitutional?

This whole “freedom” and “democracy” experiment was good while it lasted, but I gotta say, it doesn’t look like it is going to last much longer. The erosion of our liberties may slow down if Obama gets the Presidency, but I’m not convinced that he will reverse much of the damage done and until we really and truly make some radical shifts in how our political system is run, I don’t think the erosion of liberties will cease completely.

If you want to take a small step toward doing something about this issue, check out the Hands Off My Laptop Campaign. And write or call your Representatives and Senators urging them, on this issue as well as many others, to stand up for our constitutionally guaranteed rights (or at the very least stop promising to uphold them when they take office).

500 Words for 50 Days

When I was in MD a couple of weeks ago, I spent some time with Jo Cose and at one point I was urging him to just sit down and write the book he’s been wanting to write for a number of years. I said, “500 words, just make time for 500 words a day. It’s not much, it might still be hard some days to get 500 words, at most it’s about an hour of time. If you want to do more, do more, but 500 words is very, very doable.”

I don’t know if he took my advice, but I decided to take it myself. So I’ve made a pledge to write at least 500 words a day, every day for the next 50 days. No breaks, no days off. If I want to write more, I do. But I have a minimum goal to reach. And writing for the blog doesn’t count. I’ve chosen to only count creative writing. I started on August 18 and am doing pretty well for three days. To help me keep on track, I’m using the “Seinfeld” calender technique–which was not invented by Seinfeld, but as a meme, it’s been mostly attributed to him:

One night I was in the club where Seinfeld was working, and before he went on stage, I saw my chance. I had to ask Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comic. What he told me was something that would benefit me a lifetime…

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don’t feel like it.

He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

[From Motivation: Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret]

I have had some good success with using this technique in the past and need to use it more often for certain things (like, ahem, working out) because it definitely seems to work on my psychology. Instead of printing out a calender, however, I decided to make my own using Numbers and filling in the sections instead of using and “X:”

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I’m also keeping track of how much I do actually write each day, but with the clear understanding that anything over 500 words is great but not necessary.

This ties in with another friend’s recent blog post:

“Fake it till you make it”
“Become the change you want to be”
“Just do it”
Dopamine production is kicked off by sex and drugs and rock & roll. Or any other exciting activity.
I am sure there are dozens of similar cliches, but what clicked in my head after reading that article is your lifestyle becomes reinforcing on a neurological, chemical level.
So, if you want to get in shape, force yourself to do it for a while. Your brain will become addicted to running/swimming/biking.
If you want to be a painter, keep painting, etc.

[From Pensives & Ruminations]

So yeah, if I want to be a writer, I write. Daily, habitually.

Although I’m not sure if I get the same kind of dopamine rush from writing 500 words that I might from sex, drugs, or rock & roll, I do think it has already begun to make me feel a bit better. More . . . well, more myself. Rewiring your brain isn’t easy, but it’s also not complex: you simply have to cut some new grooves by leading with your body and actions. The brain will, rather quickly, catch up and settle into new habits and new patterns. It’s getting the needle out of the first deep groove that’s the hardest part of the process.

SitRep on New Mexico

I’ve been on the quiet side lately as I try to get settled here in Las Cruces and figure out how to make this whole crazy thing work. I will write something a bit more detailed and emotionally richer in the next day or so, but wanted to just let folks know that I’m fine. I am renting a room in a house that has its own bathroom, is quite big, and has a pleasant view of a green backyard and blue sky.


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(There is a large closet just on the other side of the tall bookcase on the right of the above picture that runs almost the length of that wall – probably about 8′ or so wide and 2.5′ – 3′ deep and with lots of shelves.)


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Sure, the room isn’t decorated in what you would call, “LtL style,” but it’s nice and big and quite and the woman (K.S.) who owns the house seems pleasant enough and there are two cats living here as well. K.S. had rented out this house before she moved in herself, so neither of us quite understand the dried flowers in picture frames that are on the wall in my bathroom.

So, I have a place to live for $340/month with all utilities included, including cable internet. Yes, it’s not my own place, but for the nonce it will do just fine.

The job situation is . . . in progress. I’m not sure what I would be doing right now if my folks hadn’t been able to float me some money when I got down to Las Cruces, but they did and as long as I’m careful I have a least enough to get through 45 or so days. Hopefully I’ll be working before then – actually, let’s re-parse: I will be working before then. Currently I’ve signed up with Manpower and yesterday I did all the online application stuff for Kelly Services and will be going into their offices later this week. I’ve posted some public speaking coaching ads on Craigslist, both here and in El Paso and will just have to see how that goes. Meanwhile I continue to peruse help wanted ads and will also sign up with a couple other temp agencies later this week. In the meantime, I spend my mornings doing the job search, afternoons doing various errands or other tasks (like getting unemployment deferments for my student loans), and evenings I’m starting to get into the writing habit once more (look for a future post on my 500 Words for 50 Days pledge), and have been reading what many consider the first Gothic Novel, The Mystery of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe as research for a potential project with my friend Jen.

That’s the short of it. I’m going to do a bit of exploring outside of the city this weekend and will post some pics of anything I find interesting.

In the meantime, I will be trying to not let myself get overwhelmed by the mundane, practical problems that need solutions and, without neglecting them, focus on the new, the interesting and the peace and quiet that I have, quite literally, in my backyard.