Once Upon a Time in Russia Not a Bad Read

I finished up Ben Mezrich’s Once Upon a time in Russia. Overall pretty entertaining. I think he gets pretty aggressive with his fact turned into fiction. For true people in history, it’s a little annoying when he writes what they were thinking as they were dying. “Source???” He’s done that on a few previous books, particularly Bringing Down the House, where he took some pretty big liberties from what “insiders” tell me.

One of the most interesting chapters was on the sinking of Russian Submarine Kursk (K-131). I also enjoyed the entrepreneurial spirit in a land engulfed in communism. The illustration of Putin through the years was also pretty interesting.

Overall good, but not great. Good Audiobook if you’re standing around in an airport a lot. I grabbed it impulsively based on a magazine review.

Selecting A Music Program for Your Family

I felt it was time to synchronize my house with one music app so I did some research on what made the most sense for us. My objective was to find solid music app I could listen to regularly, as well as use with the kids. Seems easy enough. I decided to sample the big three options for a week at a time, and here’s my observations:watch full film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011 online

Apple Music:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Some radio stations.
  • Saving locally seemed inconsistent.
  • Works nicely with iTunes, but not everyone in my family has that.
  • Interface was a little difficult.
  • Supposedly lower audio quality (256kbps), but I couldn’t tell the difference between the higher 320 KBPS.

Spotify

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Definitely the best interface. Clean and intuitive.
  • Great job of making playlists I thought were pretty awesome.
  • Improved sound quality of 320KBPS.
  • It had a weekly 30 recommended songs that was always a success.
  • Never had any playing problems. Google and Apple would occasionally stall (but not frequently).
  • It’s the only option for Linux, not that you care.

Google Play:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month. A BIG limitation on the family plan is that the signup account must be a DROID phone user. It didn’t work for me when I tried a Nexus.
  • 50 million songs.  Don’t be deceived by this figure as a lot of the songs are performed by unknown artists “inspired by” the real artists. An example was Memories By David Guetta that is performed by someone else. This essentially just clogs up my search trying to find the real song.
  • Easy to save locally to your Google Play app, but can’t copy like a regular Mp3.
  • Reasonably good interface and easy to make playlists, but not as good as Spotify.
  • They do allow you to upload 50,000 of your own MP3 songs which will probably be mixes you’ve stolen off of youtube (up to 90 minutes in length). However Google is one step ahead of you because they have intelligently brought YouTube into the equation, see next point.
  • YouTube Red is included (not to be confused with RedTube…). This gives a user:
    • Ad-Free Youtube. Let me tell you that this may not seem like much, but once you have it, it’s painful to return to the land of waiting five seconds, then click “skip” every time you want to watch a video.
    • Ability to listen to youtube on your phone, with the Youtube App minimized. Again, this may not seem like much, but once you get used to it, it’s tough to forget.
    • Download videos locally to your phone. This is quite useful for me as a traveler, if I want to scramble to find 4 hours worth of content to watch on a flight, it’s easy to catch up on my “watch later” playlist..
    • Original YouTube content that’s trying to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. I haven’t seen any of these, but they look professional.

Between the big three, the Google Family Plan proved the most optimal choice and I had to beg my Droid-using brother to sign us all up under his account. Spotify was the clear victor based exclusively on Music, but the Youtube element was too enticing.

I really would have preferred to go with Apple this year as they stood up the US government on Privacy contrasted to Google’s Eric Schmidt infamous dismissal of privacy . But I can’t say I’ve regretted my choice.  I don’t get cable, as my kids fulfill all their “TV viewing” on YouTube, so the removal of adds, sometimes ones that were not okay for kids to see, is a big win.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon, Netflix or Hulu purchased Spotify just to form a package that can compete. As it now stands, it seems like a pretty obvious choice for Google Play and I would predict others reach the same conclusion as me.

While doing research, I did consider a couple less well known music options. My comments on them:

Rdio.com:

Tidal:

  • $20 for Lossless compression (wave files). I doubt that makes a difference, but again some people who live and breathe music may think so.
  • 35 million songs.

Pandora:

  • $5 a month or free with ads. Actually most of the above ad-supported free versions. I couldn’t stand them though.
  • Can’t pick your own songs, only rate them, so it’s effectively like the radio.
  • Low quality sound of 192 KBPS.
  • Amazingly only 2 million songs… ouch.

MacBeth My First Job Escaping Death Every Night!

Little known fact about me is that I actually started paying taxes at the age of 10. I worked for about $4/hour or whatever minimum wage was in 1989. I was an employee of the La Jolla Playhouse performing in a professional production of William Shakespeare’s “Scottish” play also known as MacBeth! This was actually a pretty big deal at the time and ranks as one of my most memorable experiences. For about 5 months I was pulled out of school and worked day and night rehearsing and performing.

For those that didn’t pay attention in high school English Literature, this play is about a young boy named Fleance (me!) who has two speaking lines, and is seen several times during the first half of the show before he masterfully escapes a sinister attempt on his life. Our young hero is assumed to be the future king and doesn’t reappear again until the curtain call, however there’s a bunch of yelling and killing among the adult characters to burn some time for the rest of the show. (High school readers may not want to use this exact interpretation of the play when writing a report on it…).

It was great!

Directed by Des McAnuff, most known for doing The Who’s Tommy, and Jersey Boys. It consisted of severalprofessional actors who would continued on with more prominent roles. By my best calculation, this makes me 3 degrees from Kevin Bacon. A few in particular include:

Anyway. I have heard MacBeth over 100 times, and thus I thought I would throw it up as a book review. Great play. As a kid, a lot of its deeper meanings were lost on me, but as a grownup, the play resonates more with me as an example of the cost behaving unethically. Granted murdering kings and children tend to wear on one’s conscious heavier than doing something devious in today’s world like being a troll on the internet. Yet the overall complexity of inner self worth remains true. Lady Macbeth in particular shows the sharp decline as she cannot reconcile her inner turmoil despite achieving the power she fiercely desired. If one can’t tolerate oneself, one’s external riches are meaningless.