I missed posting these last week, because we were still on the road and our access to the internet was inconsistent (why can’t hotels figure out how to provide decent WiFi?). To make up for it, here’s a whole bunch of stuff, including quite a bit of new music.
Article: “Life of Pi: How Britain’s Biggest Hardware Hit for a Generation Came to Be” by Matt Cowan
Waiting for me in Chicago when I returned home was my very own Raspberry Pi, a single-board computer (SBC) about the size of a credit card that runs a version of Linux and uses a TV for a monitor. This piece is about the history and development of the Raspberry Pi, which has now been around for about a year and a half and whose popularity has exceeded everybody’s expectations. Created as a way to help kids in the UK learn about programming (in the hopes of reversing a downward trend in the number of people studying computer science in college there), the Pi has become the nucleus of a huge variety of projects, from media centers to car computers to who knows what.
Article: “Oregon Trail: How Three Minnesotans Forged its Path” by Jessica Lussenhop
To stay with the theme of computers and education for a bit: as with many people my age, Oregon Train was one of the first computer games I ever played; certainly it was the first one I ever played at school, that was supposed to have some kind of educational benefit. My elementary school had, as I remember it, two Apple IIe computers off in some extra room somewhere (it could not reasonably be called a “lab”), and for a few weeks we would go once or twice a week in small groups to collaborate on the game. Everybody wanted to be the one at the keyboard, especially for hunting, but with four or five kids playing your time at the helm was frustratingly limited. Our time with the game was over far too soon.
This article is the story of how the Oregon Trail came to be, and as with many such stories there’s a lot of coincidence and being in the right place at the right time, as well as a lot of sweat and creativity. The first version of the game involved kids communicating with a mainframe computer via teletype— an arrangement that makes my complaints about getting to be the one at the Apple IIe keyboard seem petty. It’s a good story.
Song: “Deficit” by Russian Circles
Russian Circles are an instrumental metal band. I will guess that that either immediately intrigues you or it sounds totally ridiculous. For my part, there are a lot of bevy metal bands and songs that would appeal to me, if it weren’t for the vocals; the minute i hear that ridiculous, angry cookie monster voice, I’m done. Just…no. This band does away with that problem, allowing you to focus on their musicianship and their control of texture, both of which are remarkable.
Song: “Copy of A” by Nine Inch Nails
Perhaps against my better judgement, I am getting excited about the forthcoming Nine Inch Nails album. The last couple have been disappointing (though Trent Reznor’s instrumental releases have been among my recent favorites). But he sounds reenergized on the tracks that I’ve heard so far, and the lyrics (never his strong suit) are doing a little less smacking the listener in the face.
You can also download this song for free on Amazon for a limited time
Album: “Nepenthe” by Julianna Barwick
It doesn’t seem like they are allowing me to embed this one, so you will have to click through, but it is worth it. Julianna Barwick makes music by building up layers and layers of (mostly) wordless vocals. On this album, she collaborated with elements of Sigur Ros in Iceland, and the album is richer for it. It’s a record you have to give some time to; it does not wear its virtues on its sleeve. But if you give it a chance it is totally enveloping and completely unique. )Since the album is now available to purchase, I have to assume this stream will not work for a whole lot longer, but the album is also available on Spotify.)
Also, here is an interview with Barwick about the making of the album.
Song: “Shape” by Glasser
I was a big fan of Glasser’s debut album a couple of years ago, and excited that she is releasing new stuff. There’s a bit less of an emphasis on the drums here than in her older songs, which I would generally see as a step in the wrong direction, but I like this anyway.