Friday, August 31, 2007

Statistical Music

OK, here's a ridiculous little project. When you listen to songs on your iPod, iTunes collects various pieces of information about your listening habits. One of these data points is a running tally of how many times you have listened to each song.

What I have just done is reset all of our play counts to zero...we are starting with fresh ears! So what is it that the Balla family listens to on a regular basis? We'll find out in the weeks and months ahead...

Here are a couple of my expectations.

New music will get more air time than old music. This is good news for the Boss, with his forthcoming album and all.

There are songs we really like that we will hardly ever listen to. Some songs are just really long (think "Supper's Ready"). Other songs are just really intense in their mood ("The Great Escape" comes to mind).

Then there's this...iTunes has an interesting way of counting whether a song has been listened to. The decision rule is that when the digital file reaches its end, a new listen is recorded. So what this means is that if there is a song with a long fade out or a live track with lots of clapping at the end, these songs will not get counted as listens if we move on to the next file before the countdown reaches zero.

The system can also be gamed the other way. Let's say you want to quickly bump up the play count of Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love." (Not that any of us would want to do this!) Simply scroll to near the end of the file, let the clock turn to zero, and repeat this little exercise as many times as you want. Voila! The Ballas appear to have lame-o musical tastes!

Well, maybe we do anyway! Stay "tuned"...


Monday, August 27, 2007

The C&O Canal Project

Many years ago, we started a fun little project. We somehow decided it would be neat to take a picture of us at each one of the locks along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

Now, this is no trivial undertaking. The C&O Canal (I believe a brainchild of none other than George Washington) runs for 184.5 miles, from Georgetown in Washington, DC all the way out to Cumberland in the western Maryland mountains. Along the way, the canal gains 605 feet in elevation, necessitating the construction of 74 lift locks. (You can, by the way, take a ride in a canal boat through Lock 4 in Georgetown, as well as ride in a brand new boat out at Great Falls, near Lock 20.)

From the beginning, we decided this would not be something we obsess over. Rather, whenever we are on one of our biking or hiking adventures somewhere on or near the canal, we would be sure to have our camera with us, to snap a picture if we came upon a lock. We keep the resulting collection in a photo album all its own.

So how are we doing? Right now, we stand at 38 locks captured. Desi takes most of the pictures, so she so far appears at only one lock, Lock 29. Duke appears in two pictures (Locks 19 and 20). This gives you an idea of how long we've been at this. Cameron has so far made it into one picture (Lock 8), while Blue has yet to find her way into the album. (We snapped a couple of pictures recently with Song Wei in them, but it turns out these were locks we had already cataloged many years ago, when the kids were little...sorry Song Wei!)

Here are the locks we have pictures of so far:

Locks 1-10
Locks 12-14 (No idea why we're missing Lock 11, but that's nearby, so easy to remedy.)
Locks 17-22
Locks 25-37 (Which takes us out to Harper's Ferry, WV.)
Locks 51-56 (These are in the Hancock area, one of our favorite local weekend getaways.)

A couple of things that come to light when looking at this assortment of images.

We are at the canal in all seasons. (There are pictures not only of summer, but also of leaves turning colors and snow on the ground.)

Julie and Z used to be barely taller than the lock signs! (Which aren't very tall, by the way.)

I used to have hair!