Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Ultimate Mail-Rental Service

How many times has this happened to you: you've watched all your Netflix movies, played all your GameFly games, and now you're sitting around the house bored out of your arse. "Movies and games are great," you think, "but I could go for a book right now. Yeah, something to knead the old noggin would be great." But you've read all the books you own. What to do?

Well, wonder no more. Now there's a Netflix for books! Yessir, now you'll never get bored as you rent books through the mail with Booksfree.com! Can you believe nobody's thought of this until now? What an epoch we live in! But wait, How much does booksfree.com cost you wonder? Well, fear not for thy financial portfolio; plans start at just $9.99 for unlimited book rentals. That includes paperbacks! The literature of the ages is all yours for less than ten bucks a month at booksfree.com!

As cool as this sounds, I gotta admit, sometimes I wish there was a low-tech solution to burdensome post-modern problems like where to get my book fix. You know? Gosh, it'd be nice if there was a brick-and-mortar place like booksfree.com where one could rent books. Call me a dreamer.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

25,000,000 Songs - Free

From the London Times:

"After a decade fighting to stop illegal file-sharing, the music industry will give fans today what they have always wanted: an unlimited supply of free and legal songs.

With CD sales in free fall and legal downloads yet to fill the gap, the music industry has reluctantly embraced the file-sharing technology that threatened to destroy it. Qtrax, a digital service announced today, promises a catalogue of more than 25 million songs that users can download to keep, free and with no limit on the number of tracks.

The service has been endorsed by the very same record companies - including EMI, Universal Music and Warner Music – that have chased file-sharers through the courts in a doomed attempt to prevent piracy. The gamble is that fans will put up with a limited amount of advertising around the Qtrax website’s jukebox in return for authorised use of almost every song available.

The service will use the 'peer-to-peer' network, which contains not just hit songs but rarities and live tracks from the world’s leading artists."

Get it here starting at 11pm tonight: Qtrax.com

Sadly, no Mac version until March, and no iPod compatibility until April.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Logging on as a Longhorn, Part II

I've been in Austin for a few days now, and although I'm exhausted, I'm excited. Finding an apartment in this town is a pretty rigorous task, and registering for classes today was absolutely draining. But dang it, Austin is cool. Austin makes you feel like YOU are cool.

My housing budget doesn't buy much. Everything I can afford is either...

(1) in an area with 2-6 times the crime of the average neighborhood, (check out the handy Austin census map with corresponding crime statistics sheet; Tract 23.11 is where all the student "resort" apartments are located),

(2) an apartment complex that has changed ownership several times in the last few years and gets no better than 38% recommendation on apartmentratings.com (I saw the phrase "My own death would be better than living in this hell of hells" at least once),

(3) many, many miles away from campus in a city with an acute traffic problem and no rail system,

(4) a place where there is dirty dancing every Thursday night and "skankin' is mandatory" or

(5) some combination of the above.

However, I have a friend or two asking around on my behalf, and there may be options with trusted individuals.

Several elements of the UT registration experience made it one of the best (read: worst) registration experiences of my life. All the classes I need to take are only offered MWF 9am or TR 9:30am. Seriously. One cannot take a full load that way. Also, very, very few classes meet at the same time in the same room every class period. Most go something like this: MW 9am room X, R 9:30am room Y. Of course, I am only speaking of the approximately .01% of classes that are not closed or waitlisted. This is the easy part. But I like a challenge, so I neglected to have Wheaton send my transcript to UT, and the two courses I took at Wheaton that are absolutely critical to my major(s) at UT are in limbo. Maybe they'll transfer, maybe they won't. So I get to plan two schedules: one for if the Wheaton classes transfer, another for if they don't. Hooray!

But the UT campus is great. It actually has a (mostly) unified architectural theme! The library is among the biggest in the nation! There's a Chick-fil-A on campus! The girls are gorgeous! The quality of the faculty is pretty impressive (the late Robert Solomon taught here). It's pretty easy to avoid taking classes from grad students. The UT advising staff is top-notch. The lone philosophy adviser is especially cool and laid-back.

Laid-back is a way of life in Austin. That phrase appears more often in Austin housing classifieds than "grace" does in the Pauline epistles. I've met some pretty interesting people in the past week, among them an ambitious director from Monterrey and a writer attempting to create a "secular urban monastery" near downtown. It always feels like there's something fun or interesting just around the corner, whether it's a coffee shop that buys its beans from the Dominican Republic and actively supports education there or a Patricia Vonne concert at the Continental Club. I've found myself listening to KUT, the NPR-affiliated station where at midnight you will hear the seasoned voice of Larry Monroe say, "I'm Larry Monroe, and I'm here to play some records for you." I've never really been able to get into NPR until now. It just seems appropriate, a fitting soundtrack to the Austin experience. Austin makes you feel cool.