Kansas City Greetings – Podcasting makes road-trips fly

Greetings from Kansas City! My buddy Matt and I have journeyed out here for the Dave Matthews Band Bonner Springs show, the second show of the tour. We figured since Denver is going to be on the tour’s last stops, we’d get our DMB fix early in the season.

This morning we embarked for the 10 hour drive (plus another hour for time-zones) from Fort Collins to Kansas City. The drive was relatively painless – just a straight shot on I-70 the whole way. We made excellent time getting out here, and we weren’t too tired after a day of driving. So far this has been a good, relaxing trip.

One of the reasons our drive went by so quickly was because we spent the entire trip listening to Podcasts. These on-demand, downloadable radio/talk shows gave us some very interesting and relevant content. We simply abstained from listening to our regular Podcasts throughout the weekend and loaded up our iPods right before the trip.

We ended up spending all 10 hours listening to 17 Podcasts. We took turns choosing which Podcasts we’d hear. Without further ado, here is the list, in order they were heard:

Slashdot Review – 5/26
Cnet’s MP3 Insider – 5/11
Slashdot Review – 5/29
Mathgrad – 5/30
Geek News Central – #176
Cnet Buzz Out Loud – 5/26
Daily Breakfast – #121
Cranky Geeks #11
NFL Rants & Raves – #57
Practical Web Design Podcast – #55
Ebert & Roeper – 5/27 & 5/28
Cnet’s MP3 Insider – 5/6
Cnet’s MP3 Insider – 4/27
Cnet’s MP3 Insider – 4/20
Diggnation #47
Geek News Central #175

The Memorial Day holiday resulted in less Podcasts to choose from, and I’ll admit that we did end up scraping the bottom of the barrel towards the end. However, Podcasts made a very entertaining and sensible alternative for roadtrips. The "talk" aspect is more engaging while driving, as I find myself more able to tune out music.

We’ll be looking forward to loading up our iPods for the trip home. However, we are going to try to listen to a majority (if not all) of new Podcasts for the trip home. It should make the drive interesting, to say the least.

More to come from Kansas City/Bonner Springs. We will be tailgating in the parking lot before the show – I’m hoping to share some pictures!

Beginning of “Vacation” Week – or Vacation month

Yesterday I walked out of the office, beginning my week-long absence from work.  I originally did not expect to take a week off, but it’s just the way things worked out.  I ended up putting in about 52 hours last week, so I definitely had some comp time coming (which I’m taking Friday).  Monday is the Memorial Day Holiday, then on Tuesday Matt and I take off to Kansas City (or Bonner Springs to be exact) to go see Dave Matthews Band on Wednesday night!  I’m excited for this trip!

What’s funny is the series of when I am working for the next few weeks: Next week I go in for one day.  The following week I put in a full week.  On the week of the 12th, I put in two days and leave on Wednesday for a family trip to Orlando, return on Wednesday and go in for two days that week.  While in actuality I am only taking 9 days off, it seems I’ve managed to spread it out as much as possible.

So here’s to June, the slacker month for me…

Ticketmaster to become the #1 scalper

I was going through my nightly review of tech news, when I stumbled across an amazing story that literally ended up on the backpages of the podcasts and web sites I read: Ticketmaster uses auctions to fight online scalpers

At first glance I simply could not believe it! As I continued to read on, my reaction changed from disbelief to fury. I am disgusted and appalled at Ticketmaster, and angry that there is little that  nothing consumers can do about it.

Ticketmaster has been on my unofficial list of "most despised companies" for quite some time. I loathe them for their monopolistic practices, and that they find every single way possible to screw consumers. I could break down every single step in the ticket-buying process and point out where Ticketmaster gauges you, or are grossly incompetent. Some that come to mind: their 50% markup in purchasing fees; the fact that they charge you for the ability to print tickets using your own printer and ink; they invest no resources into their web or phone infrastructure, resulting in their servers being over-taxed every big on-sale date; or the fact that their customer service cannot assist you in anything.

Just when I thought this company couldn’t get any more greedy, they go out and take the one aspect of ticket-selling they haven’t exploited – scalping. Now, with their new auction system they’re going to take all the best seats and literally give them to the highest bidder. While Ticketmaster claims that the money will be split between the artist and promoter, it’s obvious they’re taking a hearty cut of the profit.

Ticket-buying used to be a test of endurance, patience and strategy. I have vivid memories of arriving at an outlet extremely early, placing my friends in strategic positions for the lottery, along with working the phone, Internet and line all at the same time. In the end, ticket-buying came down to luck – now it’s just going to come down to a big account-balance.

Enough with this charade of trying to curtail ticket scalping Ticketmaster – you’re no more noble than those guys holding up giant "I NEED TICKETS" signs outside the venue. If Ticketmaster really wanted to curtail scalping, they would offer the auctions and donate ALL proceeds to charity. The worst part about it is that there’s nothing consumers can do about this. Ticketmaster dominates the market, managing US ticket sales to virtually every big-time concert or sporting event. I go out of my way to try to avoid Ticketmaster (i.e. the DMB Warehouse), but I rarely am successful. It looks like we’ll have little choice but to grin it bear it.

Thank you Ticketmaster, may I have another?

digg story

A big Black Eye for the ‘Peas

I love concerts. I love every opportunity to go see live music. I’ve lost count as to how many concerts I’ve been to, but I think it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 or 50 shows. However, in all of the concerts I’ve been to, none was worst than last night’s Black Eyed Peas show at the City Lights Pavilion.

Everything turned out to be a colossal disappointment, from the venue to the opening acts, to the Black Eyed Peas themselves. My level of anticipation and excitement before the show only added to the disappointment when Bethany and I walked out early. Many different factors contributed to this culmination of crappiness:

The Venue – The Denver City Lights Pavilion – which is essentially a big circus tent in the Pepsi Center parking lot. During the summer they pitch the tent, bring in a few rolling street vending carts and you have an instant concert "venue" – this circus is anything but. With nice asphalt floors (again parking lot), the sound does nothing but bounce off the floor onto the tents, back down to the floor, making the acoustics intolerable. Secondly it may have been isolated to this show, but they sold waaaay too many tickets! They had about 10-15 rows of seats, then the rest was standing general admission. We were packed worse than sardines. I’ve been to many GA shows before, but this was the worst show in terms of crowding. Lastly, the Pavilion is just one big flat surface, with no curvature. The 4-5 feet high stage essentially took away the crowd’s ability to see the performers, relegating us to watch the big screen.

The Opening Acts – Two words: horrible and degrading. The first act, Flipsyde was a complete group of posers. Their instrumentation makes up of a guy playing turn-tables, a lead rapper, an electric guitar player, and a guy who pretends to play acoustic guitar (he wears it more he plays it). They treated the crowd like crap (throwing their water bottles at them), and turned out to be major posers. The guitar player kept angling his guitar in weird directions (especially the favorite guitar-neck-pointing at the crowd move). They just looked like losers.

Next up came the Pussycat Dolls (PCD), a group which I didn’t realize was playing until right before the show. If I realized they were going to take the stage, we would have intentionally come late. For those lucky enough not to know PCD, they’re basically like the 2000’s version of the Spice Girls. They’re a group of no-talent hacks that dress up as skanks and flaunt around on stage, while the one girl with 98% of the group’s talent sings. Their moves were so raunchy, I half expected to see brass poles up on stage (they did have little chairs for one of their routines). Their presence on the stage was so degrading, especially to women. I understand that the hip-hop scene employs sex to sell their product (as many other industries do), but this is far over the top. I felt gross watching it.

Finally the Black Eyed Peas. My disappointment regarding this show stems from two majors problems: their egos and their politicizing at a commercially-exploited event.

Their egos: The four members are extremely talented, I’ll give them that. I understand that they want to celebrate their talent, and I also appreciate the concept of being featured in a song, or taking a solo. However, the Peas went far beyond this by each taking a song where they each individually did a solo (many times just improv’ing a random song). They spent so much time doing this that they actually only played 6 songs in the original set (we left before the encore). While the original intention may have been to demonstrate that each can hold their own musically, I took it as pure egotism. Look, if you think you’re that good solo, then go on your own during an off-time and go perform by yourself. I would definitely be open to them taking part of a song to do a solo, but doing your own song is out of line. To make matters worse, the rest of the group disappeared from the stage during the solo!

Politicizing commercial exploitation: Something that caught me off-guard when I showed up was that the show was called the "Honda Civic Tour" and "presented by Verizon Wireless" was plastered on the screen between the sets. You don’t typically see this much commercialism integrated with the actual show. Ultimately I accepted it, but it took getting used to. Then as soon as the Peas took the stage, they started going on political rants, specifically about illegal immigration and border security, then plastered the Mexican flag on the big screen. Then during one of the songs they put a picture of the monkey (from their latest album cover) on the screen, then swapped it with images of George Bush, Dick Cheney, as well as others.

I already have problems with blatantly politicizing their shows. If the Black Eyed Peas want to express their opinions that’s fine: put the message on your web site, show up and demonstrate at a rally (even play at a rally) – but I didn’t pay $35 so I can come hear your political views. Also, when you resort to personal attacks you’ve demonstrated that you cannot participate in an intellectual dialog – and putting pictures of Bush with monkeys doesn’t do anything.

Secondly, when you have so much commercialism at the concert, you’ve essentially sold your rights to express a radical political opinion. Does Honda and Verizon want to be associated with Mexican flag-waving and equating the president to a monkey? Great image for their companies.

At the end of this day, this concert struck me in so many negative ways that we left early, and I think at this point it’s safe to say that this is the worst show that I’ve ever been to. Bad shows like this help you appreciate the great shows, and it’s never a waste if you learned something from it. I’ve learned that I need to think twice when I think about going to a mainstream hip-hop show, and definitely will never go see the Black Eyed Peas again.

“Annoyances” update

Well the package came in today around 2:00pm, so it wasn’t too bad.  The phone number port actually went faster than I thought – my phone was barely out of service.  It took a little bit work, but I’ve pretty much managed to duplicate all of the functionality of my phone & PDA combined, as well as accessing the Internet 🙂  Gotta love that!

I’ll talk more about the Treo later this weekend, but I was told something earlier this afternoon that made me feel lame.  When the FedEx guy came to the door (mind you I’ve seen him three times this week), he said something to the effect of "You’re keeping me in business".  I felt so dumb, that my only response was "Well, it’s dads & grads season…".  Something tells me that if the FedEx guy knows who you are, that is a good sign you’re buying too much crap off the Internet.

That said, my Treo docking cradle, Bluetooth headset and drumming book are all on their way…