Critters Media

Tinhat time

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I spent the morning taking my cat into the vet. Poor baby has a thyroid gone awack and will either need pills, radioactive iodine, or surgery. At the vet’s she tried to burrow into my arms, hiding her head inside my coat and shaking. Right now she knows I feel guilty, so she’s asking for yet another treat.

This afternoon, since my internet connection was funky, and the day was nice, I decided to visit the Butterfly House. I’ll write on this later, with photos, but will say now that the trip was enchanting, and I hope my camera’s delicate electronics have survived the humidity.

Catching up on reading tonight, Scott Reynen mentions a flooflah about iTunes and a new mini-store feature. I was reminded to check for software updates, and there it was, in among updates for Quicktime, the OS, and so on. I immediately downloaded the update so I could see for myself Apple’s dastardly doings.

Once updated, since I’m still on a Jelly Roll, urh, roll, I double clicked one of his songs. In the bottom of the song list page, another frame displayed other albums by Morton, a listing of music others bought in addition to Morton, and links to a Morton biography. I’m not surprised at the list of albums I can buy–iTunes is first and foremost a music store. I am pleasantly surprised, though, by the link to the Morton biography.

Okay, so I’ve seen the feature. Now, what’s the uproar?

The Ziff-Davis boys compare the MiniStore to Microsoft’s Passport. (I would have made a comment on this at the site, but you have to register first, and I was too tired, and to uninterested to fill in all those fields.)

Rob Griffiths at MacWorld wrote the following about data being transmitted when a song is double-clicked:

In order to do this, the music store must obviously know what you’re listening to. It learns this information via a packet of information sent each time you play a song via a double-click. This data is sent without your explicit permission, and as far as I can tell, there are no Apple privacy policies that cover that transfer of information. It’s also unclear exactly what data is being sent. (Is it just song and title? Or does it include your Apple music store ID, which would tie the song info directly to your personal data?) And although Apple now assures us that the data is not collected, that information is not made clear to users when they begin using iTunes.

However, this isn’t about the MiniStore itself. It’s about Apple’s attitude in rolling this change out to the millions of iTunes users, without as much as a peep about what’s going on behind the scenes.

Oh my Aunt Matilda’s bunions. Consider with me, if you please, a scenario:

You open iTunes. You double click a song. While the song is playing, additional information about the song, singer, other albums you can buy, and so on is displayed. You bring your hands to your cheeks in astonishment.

“Oh my gawd!”, you cry out. “How could iTunes know what I was going to be playing next?!”

You then call out to your significant other, who is currently fetching toast out of the plugged-in toaster with a fork, “Jimmy Joe! Jimmy Joe! You’re never gonna believe this one, sugah! This here iTunes read my mind, honey bug!”

At that point, having been saved from certain death, Jimmy Joe enters into your room, looks at the screen, scratches his belly in puzzlement and replies, “Sweet lips, I do believe you’re rauuught about that there iToones. It read your durn mind.”

A sudden thought dawns on Jimmy Joe, causing him to exclaim (as well as fart), “You know, the same thing happened to me the other day! I was out getting my email at gmail when I realized, golly, the ads looked familiar. I was writing about chain saws, and lo and behold, the ads were about chain saws.”

“No!”, you exclaim.

“I wouldn’t lie to you sweet cheeks. And come to think on it, when I wrote about the new Dukes of Hazard movie, the ads were about the Dukes of Hazard.”

You look at each other in wonder. You then wrap your arms around Jimmy Joe, exclaiming, “Honey bunch, you know what this all means?” Jimmy Joe shakes his head no. “We’re psychic!”

I wasn’t going to write on all this sort of stuff this this year, but the temptation was too strong. There was a little pulse that kept beating, “do it do it do it”. But you already knew I wouldn’t be able to stay away from the lists didn’t you? Yes you did. And you know what that means, don’t you…

Why honey bunch, you must be psychic!


Music to my ears

Thanks to a recommendation in my Debate on DRM post, I signed up for a free trial at Unlike iTunes, eMusic allows you to download music into a standard format, mp3.

With the free trial, I received 50 song downloads. If I continue with the subscription, 9.99 US dollars a month buys me 40 song downloads. This makes the service very inexpensive–about .25 a song.

I looked to see if the service had the music I’ve recently downloaded from iTunes, but it didn’t. eMusic does not have as good a selection of music as iTunes does. However, moving away from looking for specific songs and focusing on genres, instead, the selection is good enough. In addition, the royalties are paid for the music, and the downloads are legal–both of which are important to me.

I found and downloaded the 1922 release of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings with Jelly Roll Morton. This is classic oldtime jazz and ragtime music–important for being released before the infamous flood of 1927, which had a major impact on jazz and blues music.

This album was one of the first mixed race jazz albums released–significant because most white jazz bands ‘pretended’ that the black influence on jazz didn’t exist. The downloaded songs feature the scratches and pops of the old vinyl, but you’ll never hear this type of music again. I listened to it last night during my walk, and it was pure joy.

There is also a compilation of Jelly Roll’s piano solos, released in 1923, which I plan on downloading later today. In the meantime, I also downloaded Shirelles album, which will accompany my walk today.

Once I downloaded the music, it was simple to add the songs to my iTunes library, which were then picked up by my iPod the next time I synched. I even copied the album art into the iTunes music.

I told my roommate about Jelly Roll’s music and he was curious, so I burned him a CD to listen to in the car. I liked the ease with which I could import and export the music, in and out of iTunes. Also thanks to the DRM debate thread, I found there are additional utilities I can get that will make this process even easier. Unlike that silly Google Video, with its operating system restrictions and foolish purchase policies, with eMusic and iTunes there’s no lock-in.

Inexpensive….selection of music…artists paid…legal…simplicity…no lock-in… These are what matter to me when downloading music. Everything else, is just tech.


The Joke is

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

It is only through the supreme power of weblogging that we discover the absolute best blonde joke. Ever.

Critters Photography


I visited the Butterfly House at Faust Park yesterday for the first time. I wasn’t expecting much when I arrived; I’ve been to other butterfly houses, and the number of visitors seemed to be disproportionately larger than the number of butterflies. However, when I entered the Butterfly House’s glass dome, within a few seconds a Dead Leaf butterfly landed on the shoulder of the man in front of me—a occurrence that would happen frequently to most visitors as you wonder the paths amid the seemingly thousands of delicate, flying creatures.

(I would have taken a photo but the hot and humid room had fogged all my lenses. It would take close to half an hour for the lenses to defog; just about the time when I was getting red faced and drenched in sweat, having foolishly dressed for winter. )


Even with the sunlight the conservatory was too dark to really get photos of the butterflies so I had to use my flash. This flattened many of the photos, washing out some of the color and detail. Still, the butterflies seemed to like the flash, and each time it went off, a few would fly toward me, and dance about my camera–too fast to photograph, barely slow enough for my limited senses.

I started wondering aimlessly around, being careful where to walk because the butterflies were on the ground as well as the camera bag, the trees, the flowers, the feeding dishes, the sides of the conservatory, and other people. It wasn’t crowded, which made photography easier. Two women had brought their two young children, and had some difficulty keeping them under control. The kids weren’t being destructive–just young and absolutely fascinated by the butterflies. The mothers apologized to me for the noise, and I said I didn’t mind at all. How can one get upset at the sound of such joy?


Still, when they left, and everyone else had left, I had the place to myself except for one of the workers pruning some of the bushes. I went through the place once more, and this time, perhaps because I was the only one there, I was surrounded by butterflies every where I went. Not just butterflies: exquisite moths, too. I had to use flash, and harshly, to be able to get photos of the Cobra Moths, but I didn’t care–I had to show you these creatures. The moths are larger than my hand, and beautifully colored, as well as camouflaged with the cobra ‘heads’ at each wing tip.



I forget at times that butterfly wing colors and patterns are a defense mechanism; orange and reds are the bright colors of poison; dots and swirls resemble owl eyes, or snakes; speckled greens and yellows allow the insects to blend into jungle greens, and meadow yellows.


One of my favorite of the butterflies was the Owl Butterfly. I discovered its name from another photographer I chatted with earlier, when I had first arrived. He was a younger man, big, with blond hair, face pink from the heat. He had been there since early morning (wisely, I noticed, dressed in a light t-shirt). He was kind enough to give me some lens tissue to clean my lenses and then spent about an hour showing me butterflies, which he photographed with a film camera using a macro lens and natural light. He mentioned that the Butterfly House is a second home to him–that and the Botanical Gardens.


At first I took him to be a simple person; then I realized that he was, instead, a man of simple pleasures–not unlike the Butterfly Man in Sebald’s book, The Emigrants. I don’t have this book in my limited library, but a search returned the following:

The air was coming in from outside and we were looking over the almost motionless trees towards a meadow that reminded me of the Altach marsh when a middle-aged man appeared, holding a white net on a pole in front of him and occasionally taking curious jumps. Uncle Adelwarth stared straight ahead, but he registered my bewilderment all the same, and said: It’s the butterfly man, you know. He comes round here quite often.


Further reading suggested that Sebald’s Butterfly Man is an allegorical reference to one of his favorite authors, Vladimir Nabokov, author of the acclaimed, albeit infamous, Lolita. Like Sebald, Nabokov was a man passionately in love with words. In a review of Lolita at Amazon, Simon Leake wrote:

Playfully perverse in form as well as content, riddled with puns and literary allusions, Nabokov’s 1955 novel is a hymn to the Russian-born author’s delight in his adopted language. Indeed, readers who want to probe all of its allusive nooks and crannies will need to consult the annotated edition. Lolita is undoubtedly, brazenly erotic, but the eroticism springs less from the “frail honey-hued shoulders … the silky supple bare back” of little Lo than it does from the wantonly gorgeous prose that Humbert uses to recount his forbidden passion.


Nabokov once said, My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting. It is this man, and this passion, which is threaded throughout Sebald’s Emigrants, as a review from a reader at Amazon describes:

Sebald is never without his playful, even absurd, side, and it is present in this book as well. Running through his narratives, and culminating in the memoir of Max Ferber’s mother, Luisa, are allusions to “the butterfly man.” In Ferber’s section, “the butterfly man” is a boy of about 10 who chases butterflies in the German resort town of Bad Kissingen. This man is clearly Vladimir Nabokov, for the scene described is exactly the same as one described in Nabokov’s own memoir, “Speak, Memory.” Whether muse or mentor, “the butterfly man” holds great significance for each of Sebald’s characters. And, who but Sebald would have had the imagination and creativity to braid, like a silken thread, the spirit of the most celebrated of all literary emigrees throughout this book?

As in all of Sebald’s books, photographs are an integral part of the work and, once again, rather than adding clarity, they seem to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction instead. What is real? What is not? With Sebald, we never really know.


Just before the exit at the Butterfly House is the Miracle of Metamorphosis display. Here, chrysalids from throughout the world are carefully hung and nurtured. No matter what time of day, there is always at least one butterfly being born in this display. When I was there, several owl butterflies were getting ready to take wing. One could see the entire life of a butterfly, from larva to chrysalis to butterfly if one wanted to visit over a week at the Butterfly House. But not the death, though. I imagine that workers scour the plants nightly for butterflies that have died, removing them for mounting, study, or disposal. It wouldn’t do, you see, to have the walks littered with the fragile wings of desiccated butterflies; or corpses of moths hanging from the trees.

Before I left, a Blue Morpho butterfly I had been trying to photograph with its wings open, trailed by three Paper Kites and several Red Lacewings suddenly flew around me in a spiral that started at my knees, circling round and round until above my head–vanishing joyfully into the dark depths of the bushes above and around me. I didn’t get a photo of their flight. I didn’t even try.