Sopranos beginning-to-end

SopranosShortly after I found out that James Gandolfini had passed away, which was at the beginning of July, I started watching the entire series from episode 1 to episode 86. Unfortunately I somehow missed this tragic event in the news when it actually happened on June 19th, 2013, but as I discussed TV shows with a co-worker in early July, Tony Soprano came up and he enlightened me. I was totally shocked.

I had already had every episode of every season on my Plex server, and had watched a few episodes in the past–including a few at Hans’ house in Mequon, “back in the day,” so I was all set to dig in and commit. I watched two or three episodes a day, sometimes, and had a great time. There were a few “issues” along the way–like trying to keep Kevin out of the living room whenever a “Bada Bing” scene came on (which never failed to show full frontal nudity) or when the language got extremely “French”… or should I say “Italian?”

But I made it through them all, and came away with a few things. For one, this recipe for Lincoln Log Sandwiches.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I will, very soon.

Another thing I learned is that the episode titles seem to always be just a random phrase or a few words mentioned in that episode, but that seems to work nicely. I can pretty much remember what was in many episodes just by reading those titles. Like “Irregular Around The Margins”– this was when Tony found out he had skin cancer on his head–he explained to Adriana that the spot on his head looked irregular around the margins. And more observations: A “gumar” is Italian for “mistress”, “Gobagoo” is Italian-American for “copacola”, which is a type of ham cold-cut used for sandwiches, “Va fungool!” means “go f*** yourself”, and “gavone” means “idiot”.  Lastly, Tony’s boat was called “The Stugots”, which means “this dick” in Italian.  After that sank, he got another one and named it “Stugots II”.  And see the gun in The Sopranos logo?  HBO put that in there so viewers wouldn’t think it was a show about musicians.

So I learned a lot. Including the fact that some people can become WAY too obsessed with analyzing each and every detail of every single episode of a TV series! I don’t think I did, but I’m referring to the likes of the people on these sites:

Master of Sopranos – Definitive Explanation of “The End”
Eureka!  Solving the Sopranos

The explanation of “The End” gets into just the last scene of the last episode way deeper than I could ever even imagine going! But, after reading that and the “Eureka” article from the Washington Post–which each explain completely different aspects of the exact same episode–I’m fascinated enough to want to go back and watch the entire six seasons again, at a later date… which is one reason I’m posting it here… I’m sure, with my “CRS”, I’ll forget most of the show soon enough, so this post will help me quickly remember what I need to, in order to prepare me for another marathon.

So that’s it. All in all, I enjoyed the series immensely, but I must admit I was pretty disappointed (and a bit confused at first–as it seems most of the rest of the viewers were as well) with the final ending, but after further research (primarily in the links posted above) I now understand what it means and why it was done the way it was done, and it was done perfectly.

So sad to lose such a great actor though.

Tonight is also the series finale of Breaking Bad, another awesome series that I really hate to see go. But, as they say, “All good things…”

Oh, and if you look at the photo more closely (click on it) and you might notice a pinball logo.  I will find this machine and I will play it.

Haylie’s 4th Birthday

HaylieI just finished posting the photos (and a video) from Haylie’s 4th Birthday Party.  I was a little disappointed that I somehow missed the “grand finale” of the pinata smashing on the video though.  I thought I captured that, which I thought was the best part, but I think my camera was still paused when I thought it was recording.  Bummer!  Enjoy what’s there though.  I still have a couple of “auto-awesomes” from the bouncy house that I’m working on, so I’ll add those later on. Enjoy!

Google Music Unlimited vs Amazon Cloud Player Premium

cloud-music-showdownI recently tried Google Music Unlimited as my primary source for music. Subsonic is still up and running though, and still contains my entire music library, ready to stream via web or smartphone client (or Roku) whenever needed. I figured Google’s unlimited music service might just end up being the ultimate music service, based on their size and power, so when they offered a special low subscription rate for early subscribers, I decided to jump on-board and see how it goes.

There’s a “Google Music Manager” application available for the PC that I used for awhile. What it does is scan your personal music library, match it with Google’s library, and upload anything unmatched to their site. So basically, when it’s done, your entire existing collection, as well as Google’s entire library is available to you in one place. It is currently limited to 20,000 songs you can upload, so I was anxious to see what it would do with my massive existing collection. It figured it SHOULD match most of my albums, since most aren’t very rare and are on most music services, but it sure didn’t match many. SubSonic says I currently have just over 59,000 songs in my collection, and well over 20,000 (the Google Music limit) just in my “Rock” folder alone (my largest category). So I pointed Music Manager to the Rock folder and let it go. Over 8,100 songs failed to upload after I hit my limit, and I can’t find where it shows how many it actually matched. So far, I don’t think it matched any, which is a real shock. If I can get it to somehow match much of my collection, or at least allow users to increase the 20,000 uploaded songs limit by paying a monthly fee, I’d love to use it permanently. But so far it’s not looking good.

I tried the service for several weeks, and I’m pretty disappointed overall. It refuses to match any of my albums (hundreds of which were purchased from Amazon MP3) and 20,000 songs isn’t even HALF of my collection. I filled it in a few days, and most of what I want to listen to isn’t there, even though a lot of that is probably in Google’s vast unlimited collection, I’m still having a hard time with it. I keep trying, time after time, to use the “Radio” feature. This is supposed to take any song and create a “Radio Station” based on the song’s properties–the type of song, artist, title, etc., and then play music you’d most likely enjoy similar to that song. But almost every time I try to start it from a song, it fails with “Cannot create radio station at this time”. It gets pretty frustrating. And I’ve verified that connectivity isn’t the issue. It does the same thing whether I’m on my home wifi on a solid connection or out somewhere on my cellular connection. Sure, it works sometimes, but it fails enough of the time to make it unusable for me.

So right now I’ve given up on this one. I canceled by subscription, even though it was permanently at a discounted price of $7.99 a month because I started subscribing during it’s initial release. Instead, I am now trying Amazon’s Premium Cloud Player service. In comparison, Google’s service allowed 20,000 songs to be imported at $7.99/month, and Amazon’s Cloud Player Premium service allows 250,000 songs to be imported. This is over 10x the capacity, and probably way more than I’ll need for quite some time! Amazon’s premium service is also only $24.99/year. That’s a little over $2/month. Granted, Amazon doesn’t give you access to their vast music collection for free–and that might be a big factor for many users–but it’s not something I find extremely valuable myself. Usually, when I find new music, I want to purchase the actual album anyway, and add it to my personal collection, and I will usually purchase these through Amazon MP3, as I have for years, so it works out for me. And music I purchase this way doesn’t even apply toward my 250,000-song import limit, so I sincerely doubt I will EVER hit the limit. As for discovering new music, I know it’s pretty handy to have a wide-open huge selection you can sample all you want like Google’s service offers, but I find plenty just by listening to the radio, browsing Amazon’s site, and getting my fill of music exposure from the various TV and music shows I watch.

Based on all of that, I think Amazon Cloud Player Premium might just be the solution for me. There is one catch with a music collection as large as mine, however: Getting over 50,000 songs uploaded and synchronized with Amazon is no small task. It took me a total of about 5 weeks, using a “server” PC that I leave on 24/7, in order to get my entire collection uploaded and sync’ed (August 2nd, 2013 – September 10th , 2013. It did have it’s issues, and even crashed a couple times, completely freezing the “Amazon Music Importer”, but every time I restarted the app it never failed to resume. I reached a point, somewhere at around 4,200 remaining songs left to import, where it never got any further after restarting. I’m not sure what caused this–whether it got stuck on a particular song or whether it kept looping through all of them, but it just continued to flip through song titles scanning for matches in Amazon’s collection compared to mine, and didn’t get any further, so after two days of noting this, even after restarts of the app and restarts of the PC, I used a different approach: Instead of mass-adding my entire “MUSIC” folder, I instead chose one subfolder (which I have broken out into music types, like “country”, “rock”, “new age”, etc.) and started importing them separately, one category at a time. This seemed to resolve the issue, and after that every subfolder completed and imported without issue until I was done.

During this 5-week process, I also noted that on a few occasions the “AmazonMusicImporter” process in Windows would keep running and the memory usage would continue to increase even long after I closed the utility and stopped importing! This only seemed to happen when I was importing folders containing several thousand songs though. It never seemed to happen on smaller folders. Whenever this occurred, I noticed that the PC kept running very sluggishly until I ended the process using task manager. So all in all it was quite a chore, but I should never have to do it again, and I can rest assured that my entire collection is in the cloud, securely backed up and available for streaming, any time, anywhere.

The Android app itself is a little clunky, but it does have all of the functionality that I need, offering the ability to view “Cloud” and “Device” music separately, download entire albums or just songs to the device as needed, etc., etc, There’s also a web-based “Amazon Cloud Player” you can use for managing your playlists, albums and songs, and it offers many more features that I really like. It’s very quick and easy to make my playlists this way. They also have an installable app for the PC, also called “Amazon Clound Player”, but I don’t recommend it at all, at this point. For some reason, a lot of my music–and even some of my playlists–just don’t show up in this app, but they show up in the web-based app and on my phone, so I know they’re there. What the deal is, I have no idea. I can log out of the app, back in, tell it to re-check my cloud for new music, and I still have literally THOUSANDS of songs missing in that app. So for now I’ll still to web-based and Android versions, which work smoothly and “see” my entire music collection.

Kenosha Parvo Outbreak

Neighborhood walk

There’s been a Parvovirus outbreak in Kenosha recently – most notably in the Lincoln Park area – so I’ve been keeping the dog home most days.  Lincoln Park WAS one of the parks I liked to walk occasionally, so that sucks.  Just another reason to avoid Ingress park portals and stay home.  So today, after denying Socks a good walk for some time, I decided to just walk the neighborhood with him.  I tried to squeeze in a full mile, but my bluetooth headset kept slipped off my head because it got pretty wet and slippery.  It didn’t rain, it’s just really humid today (Accuweather says 80% humidity).  Reminds me of David Letterman’s classic line: “It’s not the HEAT, it’s the STUPIDITY!”

Now I’m going to back to continue my Sopranos marathon… I’m just starting season 3–Meadow’s in college, Little Tony just starting getting his dad’s panic attacks, Big Tony is still trying to hide his money safely (now out in the shed and in each of his wild bird feed bags), and Uncle Junior doesn’t have the money for both his cancer treatment and his legal fight against the feds.

Scary Halloween Treat Bowl

Halloween Candy BowlSince Kevin is going to pass out candy this Halloween instead of trick-or-treating himself, we couldn’t resist getting a nice treat bowl for him to use–the one Jeff Dunham used in his “Minding The Monsters” Halloween Special last year!  It works great, so we had to give it a shot like Jeff did, with Socks.  It didn’t have quite the impact we expected.  Click on the thumbnail to take a look.