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The Mess that is Digital Music

It used to be so simple... you had a pile of CDs, you carried a small collection around in a case of 10, swapped them in and out of your portable player or your car stereo. Then MP3 happened, then iPods, then iPhones and now the Cloud. It all used to make sense, but now it's all a mess. As new services have appeared, our family and number of mobile devices has grown, we've adopted them one by one. As of this writing, this is what we're using:
iTunes with a library of 30+ Gigs of music, mostly from ripped CDs, iTunes purchases and MP3 from Amazon's MP3 store.Amazon Cloud Player, containing all the MP3s purchased at Amazon.Pandora. We're paying for the monthly subscription.Spotify. We're also paying for this one. Our two teenage daughters can listen to whatever they happen to be into this week without having to purchase a bunch of albums that quickly go out of their rotation. Unfortunately only one person can use it at a time. When I want to play a particular song…
Recent posts

Should I move to Redwood City and send my kids to its Public Schools?

A coworker recently asked me the following question:
I have a 2 year old daughter and we're considering buying a house. Redwood City is more affordable than other communities, but I'm worried about the public schools. So, should I consider moving to Redwood City?
The short answer is a resounding "yes!". I have two daughters, ages 13 and 11 who have experienced the Redwood City Public School system first hand and all the way through. For elementary school, both went to Orion, a wonderful, very small school based on parent participation. The school is cozy and beautiful, the teachers are great, and the community is incredible. A fantastic experience.

Orion, ends in 5th grade and before High School you have to pick a Middle School. The default choice is Kennedy Middle School, the largest middle school in Redwood City. Both my daughters are now at Kennedy, one in 6th grade, the other one in 8th. Kennedy is a completely different experience. It's large and diverse, admit…

Public Education: no longer "free"

There was a time when you could count on your tax dollars to finance a world class, equitable public education system. But no longer. Consider the graph below:

Focus on the far left and the far right. On the far left we have the Woodside School District, serving a small population of children in an area with very expensive houses. On the far right we see our very own Redwood City School District, serving a very large population of kids in an area that's mixed, containing some expensive houses but mostly middle class ones. The result? Due to the intricacies of school funding, our district receives the minimum funding guarantee from the State while the Woodside district exceeds that lower bound with its own property taxes and receives a much larger chunk (the blue section of the bars). In addition to that, the Woodside district raises much more money per child, a result of having fewer children and a more affluent parent community. The red section of the bar shows a combination of d…

High Def, Low Def and Now Ultra Low Def TV

High Definition TV is great, amazing, a must have for sports. How did we ever manage to watch soccer games without it? Unfortunately, I'm forced to remember the horror every weekend, where I move from Barcelona's glorious HDTV courtesy of GolTV HD to Boca's horrific, ultra low def, courtesy of TyC Sports.

I claim that the video quality we get from TyC for these Argentinean soccer games is lower than Low Definition. Games look, really, really bad, much worse than low definition games you see on ESPN or even Univision. I don't know why, but here's the evidence.

What follows is snapshots of my LCD TV, with signal from DirecTV, comparing High Definition to whatever this other thing is. I used my digital camera, taking pictures at max resolution.

First, a snapshot of this weekend's Barcelona Vs. Osasuna game.

Very pretty. Now here's the capture of today's glorious Boca Juniors victory over Huracán.

To highlight the differences even further, I took a picture …

Thoughts on "Waiting for Superman"

I missed "Waiting for Superman" when it was in theaters and recently got a chance to see it during a long flight, yes, on one of those tiny LCD screens. The film was rather controversial in educational circles when it came out and I was expecting a large reaction to its point of view, or approach to the subject or its choice of culprits for the current state of things. Not so. I thought the movie was quite sensible, that it made a number of valid points and that it was pretty fair.

One thing I did not enjoy was the focus of the ending on the lotteries that would decide whether the kids we had been following would get into their respective Charter schools, schools that would be the difference between success and failure. Dramatically the scenes work and we're on the edge of our seats waiting to see if they make it in (most do not!), but the emotional kick from these scenes undoes a very important point the movie makes about Charter schools: just like normal schools, some …

Fun with iMovie 11 trailers

iLife 11 came out recently and while there are a number of improvements everywhere, the Trailer templates in iMovie steal the show. The idea is simple: provide project templates that allow anybody to create professional looking trailers. So professional they look that Apple won't allow you to enter the name of a real studio for fear people will think they're watching an actual movie trailer!

But words are cheap. Here's an example trailer, done entirely by Mijal, my 12 year old daughter, from video she took herself on a point and shoot digital camera:

What's amazing about this is not only how easy it is to make trailers, but also that any video, no matter how inane or unexciting results in a trailer that promises lots of action, thrills, and fun.

Creating a trailer is amazingly easy. You get a template with placeholders for text and video clips. The transitions, music, and title sequences are canned and ensure the proper rhythm. You drop clips onto each slot and then op…

Letter from summer camp

This summer our two daughters, ages 10 and 12, went to summer camp somewhere in the East Coast. It's the second consecutive year that they go to this camp. The camp has a strict "no immediate contact" policy, to prevent kids from extreme homesickness and parents from freaking out and aborting the full, three week, camp experience.  So, no phone calls, no emails, no cell phones. The only mechanism of communication allowed is physical letters. The kids have off time during the day when they're encouraged to write home. Letters are mailed using normal postage and take about 5 days to get to us on the other side of the continent. As soon as the kids leave we start mailing letters from home, so that they start receiving them during the first week and we space them evenly to keep them in good spirits. They typically start writing after a couple of days which means it takes a while to start getting news from them. (The camp posts pictures on their website, which also take a…