Thu Mar 27 23:12:47 EDT 2008

WFMU Podcasts for my iPod Shuffle

So I have an iPod Shuffle, and I love it dearly. Compact, easy to use, holds a quantity of music I find useful, etc. Another thing I love a lot is WFMU, makers of the finest in online ecclectic radio. And, lo and behold, they have a fine selection of their shows archived—in mp3 format, no less! Perfect for sticking on my little iShuffle.

Well, almost perfect. The shows are quite long—3 hours in many cases. Often, I want to stop listening to a WFMU show in the middle and come back to it later, at the point where I left off. Now, famously, the iPod Shuffle has no GUI, and athough I usually don't care, this is one case where that's kind of annoying—shuttling around all these big 3-hour sound files is kinda inconvenient.

Fortunately, iTunes has this neat feature where, if you can convince it that a given file is a "podcast", it (and the iPod Shuffle) will remember where you were in the file the last time you listened to it. So I've written a little webapp that takes the WFMU RSS feeds (which aren't in the particular format that iTunes wants podcasts in) and translates them into something iTunes can handle.

Here's how it works: you go and look at the WFMU playlist page, and choose the show for which you want a podcast. They all have 2-letter abbreviations; for example, "This is the Modern World" (my current favourite on any radio station anywhere, yaaay DJ Trouble, you kick ass) is "LM". Her playlists are at; the RSS feed is at You take that magic "LM" and plug it into my script URL, which is, like so:

Now try "subscribe to podcast" using that last URL under the Advanced menu in iTunes—you should get a new entry in your "Podcasts" list with Trouble's latest musical delights. Download and transfer to your iPod at your convenience! And the best part is, it's totally reusable for other shows; for Diana's Kamikaze fun machine, just use; for Coffee Break for Heroes & Villains, use, and so on.

Here's the code; it's done in Mason, and requires XML::Simple and LWP::Simple:


I'm always proud when I write some code that does something that's actually useful to me. I hope someone else finds this as useful as I do.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: tech, music

Tue Mar 25 20:22:31 EDT 2008

Photos: Birthday drinks @ the Duke of York, March 22, 2008

Had birthday drinks! It was a truly wonderful time. The next morning was not so wonderful, as it involved both a very nasty hangover and my nephew's bris, but hey, you take the good with the bad. Thanks to everyone who came to toast my 34ness, and especially thanks to M for making it all happen.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: life

Sun Mar 16 22:18:43 EDT 2008

Sugar bush!

I have this huge backlog of photos from all the events I haven't been posting about (oops)—I'm going to try and start posting them one batch at a time, in reverse chronological order, starting with today: we went to the Bradley Museum in Clarkson (Missisauga) for their sugar bush. It was wondrous.

This also finally gets me off my arse and onto flickr! Enjoy.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: life

Wed Jan 23 17:52:33 EST 2008

Upgrade time!

So much has happened since I last posted, aieee. I have no idea how to tell you about Florida, Ottawa, preparations beginning for my shodan test... So for now I'll stay mum on all of the above, except to say: they all went/are going fine, my family and friends are delicious and wonderful, and I love them all. Hopefully more sooner or later.

Meanwhile! The topic at hand: I saw vee a few months ago and it wasn't quite usable; now that it's looking more so, I was seriously tempted to just chuck this crazy nb/Mason/SQLite monstrosity and start again from scratch. Cooler heads prevailed, however, when I considered the unreasonably daunting task of reimplementing all the custom stuff that I actually like about this blog. Which left the important question: why was I so eager to get off this platform?

See, I think part of my blog silence over the last little while has been due to an unwillingness to sit through the full nb generation process. Yeah, that's probably silly of me, but it's at least been part of the situation (insane busy-ness, travel, sleep deprivation and friends have all played their parts, too, of course). So vee presented the possibility of something that would be dead simple to set up, and when I started playing around with it, it was so smooth and quick to render that I had to seriously consider: what, exactly, about my current process might be holding me back from writing?

Very happily, I took one last look at the nb site before bidding it adieu, and lo and behold, there were a few tips about exactly the sort of previewing I've wished I could do for a long time now. Also: enough new shininess to convince me to upgrade to the latest source. That's right folks, we're on the bleeding edge here (3.4 "rc1"—although really it's just svn head as of this morning). I'm thrilled to say that I'm satisfied with the performance improvements and improved workflow I can get out of this version. So: no big, painful migration is in store right now. Not only that, I managed to fix a long-standing deficiency in my own custom-hacked comments module: you can now actually see how many comments an entry has from the front page! Huzzah. People had complained about that one.

Other stuff coming Real Soon Now:

  • the ability to see the number of comments from the archive index pages, too - done!
  • the ability to supply an email address, so that you can get notified if your comments get replied to


Posted by dan | # (3 comments) | File under: meta, tech

Tue Dec 11 15:03:32 EST 2007


I think I needed a week to recover from NaBloPoMo. And x365, although I think it is a really cool idea, was sapping just enough of my expressive energy to render me mute on anything else; it was all I could muster to do one of those every day (notice how the blog posts petered off shortly after I started those?). I should leave that sort of thing to the real pros like Schmutzie and The Palinode. I'm going to give myself another week to see how I feel about it, but I may just have to throw in the x365 towel.

Meantime, nothing totally crazy to report. It's winter. I am cold. I'm having lots of fun between work and aikido at the moment—I'm feeling like I'm heading up to the top of the roller coaster, getting ready to whoosh down the other side in the new year in preparation for my shodan test next May. Whee!

Posted by dan | # (1 comment) | File under: life, meta

Wed Dec 5 11:21:44 EST 2007

33x365 number 7: Mikolaj P

Shortly after you moved back to Poland, I phoned you accidentally at 2 a.m. You already had trouble speaking English. When you came back for your one visit, you hated everything about Canada.

This is my seventh entry in x365.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: writing, x365

Tue Dec 4 21:49:17 EST 2007

33x365 number 6: Alon S

We tried to kill each other daily, as only 8-year-olds can do. Finally, our teacher sat us next to each other. Suddenly, we were best friends. I still don't understand how that worked.

This is my sixth entry in x365.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: writing, x365

Mon Dec 3 12:12:42 EST 2007

33x365 number 5: Naomi S

After I poked you in the eye at a sleepover, you spent hours in the hospital with a scratched cornea. I read your Peanuts collection while you were gone and laughed and laughed.

This is my fifth entry in x365.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: writing, x365

Sun Dec 2 22:52:32 EST 2007

Newly Acquired Library Goodness

So of course, I did go to the library with the kids this weekend, and gosh it was awesome (we really do have great libraries in Toronto). Now I have new stuff to devour; I seem to be moving in a slightly more "classic" short story direction:

  • Last Stories / Anton Chekhov (trans. David Helwig)
  • A bit on the side / William Trevor
  • Collected stories of John O'Hara
  • Trust me: short stories / John Updike
  • Selected short stories of William Faulkner
  • New Japanese voices: the best contemporary fiction from Japan
  • Teach us to outgrow our madness: four short novels / Kenzaubro Oe

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: reading

Sun Dec 2 11:06:46 EST 2007

33x365 number 4: Neil M

You were the father of my first female friend. You taught me chess, read me Roald Dahl and got frighteningly mad at me when I shoved her off the dock at your cottage.

This is my fourth entry in x365.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: writing, x365

Sat Dec 1 20:30:08 EST 2007

33x365 number 3: Matthew H

You couldn't speak yet, but got to play with cooler toys at daycare. When I learned that it was because you were toilet trained and I wasn't, I trained myself in 24 hours.

This is my third entry in x365.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: writing, x365

Fri Nov 30 15:42:43 EST 2007

No Mo' NaBloPoMo; also, on library addiction

Well, it's the last day of NaBloPoMo, and I seem to have made it. I've proven to myself that I can write a reasonable chunk of prose 6 days a week, and I've remembered how much I enjoy writing. The possibility of continued writing—both personal and fictional—intrigues and excites me. Plus, I've rediscovered my love for reading short fiction. All in all a highly successful endeavour, I'd say.

In other interestingness: apparently, I'm not the only one finishing NaBloPoMo who is a total library-o-holic. I'm not the only one who adores taking my kids to the library and taking out more books than we can possibly read or carry, then taking them out for a hot beverage (and perhaps a bagel). Here's to library addicts everywhere, including Finslippy. It's nice to be in good company.

On the topic of my library addiction, here are the books I have out right now:

  • 16 Categories of desire / Douglas Glover
  • 19 knives: stories / Mark Anthony Jarman
  • New Orleans is Sinking / Mark Anthony Jarman
  • Untitled, a novel / Ken Sparling
  • Dad Says He Saw You At the Mall: a novel / Ken Sparling
  • For those whom God has blessed with fingers / Ken Sparling
  • 85: Best Canadian Stories / David Helwig and Sandra Martin, eds.
  • Concrete Forest: the new fiction of Urban Canada / Hal Nedzviecki, ed.
  • Sweet Fancy Moses, vol. 2
  • Love and Hunger, an anthology of new fiction / Beverly Daurio, ed.
  • Open Windows: Canadian short short stories / Kent Thompson, ed.
  • Flash Fiction Forward: 80 very short stories / James Thomas and Robert Shapard, eds.
  • Sudden Fiction: American short-short stories / James Thomas and Robert Shapard, eds.
  • Sudden Fiction (continued): 60 new short-short stories / James Thomas and Robert Shapard, eds.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: reading, life, meta

Fri Nov 30 07:24:11 EST 2007

33x365 number 2: Jason R

You were passionately earnest about your religion and Circle Square TV. At seven years old, I didn't realize that arguing Judaic vs. Christian philosophy with your parents wasn't just a slightly tedious game.

This is my second entry in x365.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: writing, x365

Thu Nov 29 16:12:34 EST 2007

33x365 number 1: Aryeh S

Does the number of stories you know about someone, but aren't allowed to tell, indicate how well you know them? If so, it makes sense that we've been friends since we were two.

This is my first entry in x365.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: writing, x365

Thu Nov 29 15:27:24 EST 2007


x365 is a nifty idea by another guy named Dan. You write a little piece about someone you have known in your life every day for a year. The length of the pieces can be a set word count, like your age, so I'm going to try writing 33-word entries. And, like I said when I started NaBloPoMo, I probably can't do this every day, so maybe it'll take me more than a year. But if my NaBloPoMo experience has shown me anything, it's that little ongoing writing projects do wonders for my mental health. They may even be kickstarting some kind of writing habit.

Posted by dan | # (1 comment) | File under: meta, writing, x365

Thu Nov 29 11:55:49 EST 2007

Progress; also, lack thereof

So I've continued to free-write, as I described the other day. It's interesting to watch how my subconscious is responding; I've also started getting flashes of inspiration—single sentences, or even whole paragraphs of story-like stuff. Nothing worth sharing with anyone yet, I don't think, but interestingly more ripe than the totally raw stuff that comes out when I free-write.

Right now I'm just finding it a bit difficult to see how I go from where I am to the stories I like, or any story at all, really. I can churn out random sound-poetry and prose acrobatics quite handily for a long time without growing tired; but where do plot and character come from? The clichés about writing say "write what you know," and "use your own life as your source, it's a deep well." I guess I'm confused as to exactly how I go from there to a complete, bona fide story, and how the free-writing spew gets mixed in. I feel like I have no shortage of raw ingredients, but no clue how to cook; not that I think any art form has tried and true recipes that will always work (at least, not if you want to produce anything interesting). But in music there were really good exercises for getting some decently structured material "on the boil," as it were. I just don't know what those are in writing. Maybe I need to seek out a basic cookbook, to continue the metaphor; I wouldn't share peanut butter and jam or mac'n'cheese with the rest of the world as something of my own creating, but it would sure be nice to know how to make it, if only for my own consumption.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: writing

Thu Nov 29 00:04:15 EST 2007

Three Pavlovian Incidents

We like to think we're all individuals, in charge of our own actions, relatively autonomous and thoughtful. It's fascinating, then, to take note of the unthinking groups we participate in while going through our everyday activities. Here are three examples from today:

1. Meeting Time!

My office is a buzzing hive of early-morning activity. Everything is open-concept, so collaboration is easy. Some people scurry over to a colleague's desk, chatting enthusiastically about their current project, asking a question, helping one another out. Others are mired deep in private problem solving, the fluorescent glow of their computer screens mirroring back their glassy-eyed stares. Suddenly, the project manager barks "MEETING TIME!" and everyone drops what they're doing, instinctively falling into circular formation around the center of our cluster of desks: it's time for the daily kickoff session.

2. Sensei Claps the Randori Down

At the end of aikido class, S., who is preparing for his 2nd kyu test, is working on Randori: improvised multi-attacker drills. Now, in aikido you always, always assume your opponents are right-handed swordsmen. Passing leftward in front of a line of such foes means you're wide open to getting cut; instead, you should run to the rightmost attacker, while the rest waste vital milliseconds turning toward you. This is your best chance at achieving a situation from which you can run away (since actually prevailing against many is highly unlikely).

So: R. and I rush S. from across the room, and he zooms to the left—a grave strategic error. Sensei claps louder than I've ever heard her clap and yells "NO," and immediately, without thinking, we stop our attack, turn around and head back to our starting positions. It's as if a switch had been thrown and all the martial energy was dissipated instantaneously.

3. The Phantom Subway Car

It's late, and everyone's tired. We've been waiting longer than any of us want to for this train, so we're all pleasantly surprised when it pulls into the station with an empty front car. Everyone's thinking the same thing: "An empty car? On the Bloor line? That never happens! Well, screw it, I know which car I'm getting on." Except: the doors open on every car but the front one. Something's wrong with the doors! The passel of us who've all gathered at the doors of the frontmost car veer, en masse, toward the second car down the train, pushing and shoving to get on before the doors close. I'm sure the train operators are having a good laugh at this. But: we all make it on, and everyone's smiling and laughing as the train pulls out of the station, sharing the joke with this big smushed-up ball of strangers now jammed into one end of an otherwise uncrowded subway car. Gradually the pile decompresses amid giggles and repeated murmurs of "So that's why it was empty!"—but that feeling of a shared joke disperses, too, and we're all back to being tired, grumpy and full of postmodern urban anomie by the time we get to the next station. Happily, the exact same thing happens there, too, and it keeps happening, sending new waves of bemused riders rippling down the car at every stop thereafter.

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: life

Tue Nov 27 21:37:52 EST 2007

United Bakers stole my food!

Tuesdays are a fun day for me, because I work from home in the morning, and then I get to go pick up $sprog from one of the two schools he goes to (we liked them both, but they're each half-day only, so we signed him up for mornings at one and afternoons at the other), get or make him some lunch, and then drop him at the other one.

On the days when I don't make him lunch, one of our favourite places to go together is United Bakers. It's the suburban reincarnation of a downtown Jewish dairy bar that has a venerable tradition going back to 1912. $sprog likes the kids' eggs-n-fries or pizza bagel meal, while my personal fave is the whitefish "scoop" with a toasted pumpernickel bagel and a barley bean soup. Service is usually harried, but decent, the clientele is loud and obnoxious, and the food is a little slice of heaven.

Note that I said "usually."

Today, we ordered our usual, and $sprog was given a seasonally-themed black and white calendar (holy heck! Chanukah is next week!) and some crayons. It was a particularly busy day, so it took a long, whining-and-sliding-under-the-table-punctuated time for the food to arrive ($sprog had to keep reminding me to stay in my seat and that the food would get there soon). Eventually the food did show up, and as often happens, after a few bites $sprog had to use the little boys' room. No problem; I took him down to the end of the seating area where the little washroom is, he did his business, and we came back—to a completely empty table.

Now, you've got to understand: this place is jam-packed with grandparents, parents and their kids on any given day. It's in a very Jewish neighbourhood, it's relatively wholesome food, it tastes fantastic, and it's convenient to a bunch of nearby schools, so it's a perfect destination for a midday treat. Point being: you'd think they'd be used to kids and their sometimes unpredictable bathroom proclivities.

But no. Apparently they thought $sprog and I had eaten half our lunch and ditched without paying, or something. To her credit, our server (not the busboy who had shown such enthusiasm and initiative in clearing our table) was tremendously apologetic, and retrieved an exact carbon copy of our order, fresh and hot, from the kitchen in about 25 seconds once we managed to flag her down and explain what had happened (causing the woman with the two restless kids under 10 at the next table to raise an eyebrow, lean over to me and say "Just goes to show ya they can get you your food that fast if they want to!"). But, the owner, who'd already come by to say hi to the kid tables (as she often does), offered an awkward apology and then scurried away.

To the folks at UB, I say: Hello? You removed my food! While I was eating it! From my table! That's gotta be worth something for the inconvenience. At least comp my kid's food, since he was sitting there being loudly hungry for a good 10 minutes before you served him the first time, and then continued to bemoan his hunger while we waited for the server the second time. Yeah, ok, you run a busy restaurant. Cry me a river. Or, failing that, at least post a sign warning your customers not to leave their food unattended for longer than 20 seconds.

Posted by dan | # (2 comments) | File under: life

Mon Nov 26 23:33:54 EST 2007

Reading and listening and ow, my ankle

Welp, we're coming down the home stretch and I must admit that NaBloPoMo is seriously kicking my substantial white ass. Aikido was fun, except for the part where I got hit in the ankle by a jo staff and didn't even notice till afterward. Now I'm limping. Also, it's cold out there. I mean, it's not particularly cold; it's not even below zero. But it's damp and it's wet and the slushy snow fell heavily on my hat on the way home, and I was tired and limping and trying to keep my balance on the bus. It was not a fun time. It almost made me forget the lovely dinner I had with my aiki-friends. But now I am home! And warm! And oh so ready for bed. But first, lists and links.

Fun things I've read on the TTC today:

Music I listened to today at work:

Lots of jazz! Plus sparse japanese quiet noise improv.

  • Like Minds / Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, Roy Haynes

  • Question and Answer / Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, Roy Haynes

  • At the Deer Head Inn / Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian

  • All the Things You Are / Sonny Rollins, with all kinds of wacky bands including such personnel as Coleman Hawkins, Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall and Paul Bley

  • Sachiko M, Toshimaru Nakamura and Otomo Yoshihide / Good Morning, Good Night

Posted by dan | # (add comment) | File under: reading, life, music

Sun Nov 25 22:01:59 EST 2007

8 reasons I am so darned lucky

  • Because 21 of my favourite people in the whole world came over last night for turkey, fixin's and generous veggie alternatives, and totally packed my little house with warmth and love, and then stuck around to also pack my house full of clean dishes.

  • Because I have the best wife, who takes care of my kids at unreasonable times of morning on a Sunday, despite having just been through turkey hell, so that I can go roll around and generally have a delightful time.

  • Because I continue to have the best wife (she really is the best, you see) who also arranges the nap and outing schedule so that when I come home from rolling around and I crash, having stayed up way too late last night dealing with turkey drippings, I can take a nice long nap at the same time as $grrrl while everyone else leaves the house and lets us sleep.

  • Because I have the kind of friends like Colin and Jen who will bring Jerusalem takeout home so that when I get up from my nap I can just roll downstairs and dig in.

  • Because except first I go to get a beer out of the basement fridge, and drop the bottle because I have no hand-eye coordination when I first wake up from a nap, and instead of hitting the concrete floor and breaking into a gazillion highly annoying and inconveninet pieces of glass, the bottle bounces off the fridge door and lands, unharmed, on the rubber mats in the corner.

  • Because I have the most excellent sister in the world, who will come over and entertain my children so I can eat Jerusalem takeout in peace.

  • Because I also have the other kind of friends like Shannon and Di who will come over and bring me Pepperidge Farm Muskoka dark chocolate chip soft-baked cookies for eating while we watch the House ep we taped earlier this week.

  • Because I also have the other kind of friends like Andrew and Keltie who will come over and, after sharing tolerantly watching us stuff our faces with Jerusalem takeout, will snuggle on my sofa and make up goofy songs about "The Justified Ancients of Newfoundland."

Posted by dan | # (2 comments) | File under: life