Business Idea #49240924

I’m a big fan of things that don’t suck horribly. Sometimes I like to look up song lyrics on the Internet. And there are no sites that I’m a fan of, if you catch my drift…

There are a handful of lyrics sites that always rank highly on Google. But I’d say that 98% of the time, the lyrics contain egregious errors. They completely mishear a line (often in ways that just common sense can show is wrong), or have glaring misspellings, or just typos. And terrible formatting. Always.

I don’t get how a whole industry can be crappy, but that’s beside the point.

There’s a site called WikiLyrics. At one time the founder commented on a blog from years ago when I called for such a service. But the site is pretty hard to navigate, and looks too much like a wiki.

SongMeanings is the site I like most. The lyrics are usually spot-on. And, best of all, you can post comments on the ‘meaning’ of a song. But they have odd uptime problems, where the site will be down for days at a time. I haven’t been able to get to it for several days now.

If I had a lot of money, I’d buy out the handful of companies that always rank highly on Google for song lyric searches, along with Song Meanings, and develop one site to rule them all. Registered users could edit the lyrics, with some oversight. (My intuition says that music-related stuff is much more prone to vandalism.)

Rather than a bajillion obnoxious ads, we’d have a couple tasteful ads. Ideally, it would be more specific links: buy the song from a vendor who pays me a cut of every sale, and buy band merchandise with a similar arrangement. You could also try to work out something with concert tickets.

Work on setting up 30-second samples of the song. It is my understanding that 30 seconds counts as fair use.

Let people leave comments, but have Digg-style ‘voting.’ (Plus active moderators.) People can leave comments. The stupid ones get moderated down, the really stupid ones get deleted, but the good, insightful ones show up on top. The ones that say, “This song is about…”

And, most importantly, you need a nice clean, easy-to-use UI. Every single lyrics site gets this wrong. I don’t want to go through categories. I don’t want to have to specify whether it’s a song or an artist. I want to type in something and get it. I don’t want the lyrics to be in a 300-pixel wide frame that’s flanked by ads and other useless crap.

You can develop this on your own, but buying some other lyrics sites gives you steady traffic, high link rankings, and an established set of lyrics, however pathetic they may be. And, by buying them out, you ensure that the Internet has one less terrible website.

You are free to steal and use this idea. In fact, you are encouraged to steal and use this idea. 

Knowledge from the Bible

It just occurred to me how freaking weird the phrase “know, in the biblical sense” is.

You know we have a problem when a slang term for sex comes from the inerrant* word of God*.

* Except that we can’t possibly know? (And I don’t mean know in the biblical sense…)
* Except that we have no way of knowing if it’s really the word of God, either.


I basically have no credit history. Applying for a credit card has been on my to-do list for a long time, but it’s one of those tasks that’s very easily displaced by almost anything.

The more I think about it, though, the more I don’t want to. I need to do something to build up my credit, but I see it as giving in to them. And what scares me most is that I’m not sure who they are. Who determines my credit score? What variables do they use? They won’t say! They made up their own game with their own rules, didn’t tell anyone the rules, and expect everyone to play the game.

If I go to apply for a loan, I don’t like the idea of the bank telling anyone. I don’t like the idea of the bank asking someone about me. And I certainly don’t like them asking someone I’ve never even heard of about me. Especially when that someone is only obliged to tell me what they have on file about me once every three years. (Sort of.)

And so far I’ve only described my issues with credit ratings. That’s the least of my worries.

What scares me most is all the horror stories. Some of them aren’t that big of a deal to me. I’m very averse to the idea of spending money I don’t have, so I don’t see myself ending up in credit card debt, and would expect to pay off my balance immediately. So in that way, the interest rate isn’t a big deal.

But that’s just one of their shady tactics. One company apparently tried just adding a nominal fee to what you owed, so that if you owed nothing, you’d end up accruing charges. Others make it all but impossible to cancel your card.

The overall impression I get from the credit industry, in a word, is deception.

Signing up for a credit card to build my credit history, to me, is basically saying, “Let them abuse you now so that they don’t abuse you later.” I’m sure 90% of people don’t have issues with their credit card companies. (Actually, I’m not sure at all. I’m sure that more than 10% don’t have issues, but I’m not comfortable putting the number at 90%.) But the fact that the majority of people don’t get scammed/abused/raped doesn’t mean that I want to sign up. (The majority of Iraq soldiers come home alive and well, but I’m not going to enlist.)

I have a check card from my bank. I can use it as a credit card, or a debit card, or an ATM card. It’s all I need. The things I can’t do with it are things that I don’t want to be able to do: I can’t buy a car and charge it to my credit card, for example. But it would be financial suicide to do that anyway.

I intensely dislike the idea of playing by their rules. I’m not sure I have a choice, but I’m not jumping up to do it, either.


You know how they say that people who live on ships come onto land and sway back and forth?

I bought an XBox 360 for the school. (I’m being reimbursed, of course.) While I was there, I couldn’t help but pick up the VGA adapter for XBox, since I have a spare 17″ LCD monitor and a spare XBox here with me. I can now play at 1280×1024 (nice!) Still no match to the 1920-ish that we’ve got on the ridiculous LCD TV that Kyle bought, but still…  It sure beats trying to play on, say, a 17″ CRT TV.

So I spent the past half hour or so playing a demo of Blazing Angels. It’s kind of fun, but it takes a long time to get used to. When you keep the camera focused on your target, you can easily lose perspective of whether you’re flying up or down or what. So I died one too many times and got sick of it, so I moved over to the computer.

As I moved the mouse, I was rocking back and forth, and even more disoriented when the whole world didn’t sway with my mouse movements. It’s way more disorienting than I’d expect. Remind me to never become a sailor.


I was thinking about this last night…

In my earlier years in school (e.g., first grade), I thought of learning as facts. George Washington was the first POTUS. (And, a more handy acronym, the SCOTUS is the nation’s highest court.)

Of course, it’s not even true to say that all I was learning was facts, but it’s how I thought learning should be measured. Around that time I was also finishing up mastering the skill of reading, and learning arithmetic.

Nowadays, though, I learn very few facts. (In Forensics we learned that a person who has been poisoned usually has purple fringing (but not chromatic abberations…) on their extremities, especially fingertips.) But mostly, I’m learning concepts and strategies. Last night we talked about the Blue Ocean Strategy, for example. The “facts” might be what a “blue ocean” is, versus a “red ocean.” But I’m not here to learn colors. The real learning was the concepts and the strategy.

The problem is that I haven’t quite gotten over that mindset that learning is measured in facts, and I’m not learning a lot of them. It also makes the “So, what have you learned?” question harder. “Well, a person who’s been poisoned may have a purple tint in their extremities,” but that’s not really going to impress people with my business knowledge. (I’ll be sure to bring it up an interview. I hear some businesses these days are looking for cutthroat people.)

Words I Still Can’t Spell

Here’s a list of words I screw up almost every time I try to spell them:

  • Ubiquitous
  • Silhouette
  • Schizophrenia
  • Curiosity

(Ironically, I got every one right on my first try here.) Curiosity is the surprising one, because it’s a simple word. But why the heck isn’t it curiousity? I guess the key is that you drop the “u” sound when going from “curious” to “curiosity,” but it still messes with me. Ubiquitous just has way too many vowels. Silhouette is French, and I always screw up French words. There’s no reason for there to be an h in it, nor a u, really. And the problem with schizophrenia is that it’s prounounced “skit-za-phrenia,” so you expect a t in there, and you don’t expect it to start sch. But it does.

The JQ

Introducing a new measurement: an e-mail junk quotient (JQ), defined as e-mails deleted on sight divided by non-spam e-mails received over a given period of time. N.B. that JQ doesn’t factor in spam. It’s actual e-mails sent to you.

The past two days, my JQ has been at about 95%. It’s typically below 50%. It’s actually pretty remarkable how bad it is: I’ll check my e-mail, have four new messages, and just seeing the subject and the sender, I delete them. I don’t care about a marketing internship, because I’m not a marketing major. I don’t care about a study-abroad trip in London, especially when it’s the third e-mail I’ve had about it.

Am I alone here? So much of the e-mail I receive is just utter junk!


PBase has a cool feature where you can search by lens. I searched for a few I was interested in, and came across some amazing photos taken with Canon’s 24mm Tilt-shift lens. Tilt-shifts are weird, and descriptions of them are either very basic (first sentence on the Wikipedia article), or very complex (involving the Scheimpflug principle).

I came across one particularly neat gallery. Tilt-shifts are known for two things. One is that you can use them to correct the ‘distortion’ where lines seem to converge. Check out this photo as an example, and another. Notice how nice and vertical the lines are? Compare it to this one, which is still a neat photo, but notice how all the building seem to ‘slant.’ (And an extreme example: it becomes more pronounced at wider angles.)

The other thing it’s good for, though, is playing ‘tricks’ with depth of field. An example. And here’s one with it tilted to the right.
So I think I want to try a 24mm TS lens some time.

As an aside, since all my photos were to this one neat gallery, I’ll point out some that have nothing to do with tilt-shift, but are just cool. This one is one of the more brilliant uses of unusual angles. (It’s the same concept as some other photos I saw once, which was done on ice/snow for an even cooler effect.) It’s really pretty remarkable. This one is cool, too. (And another.) Here’s a great one of Boston Harbor. And here’s one showing how cool a 12mm lens is. I think it saw some post-processing, but this one is really cool, too. Ibid.

But my favorite, by far, is this set of Logan. Last time I flew into Logan, all I could think was, “Wow, this would be a great spot for photos.”

Renting a Lens

I think I mentioned my newfound interest in camera lens rentals. In particular, the prices are lower than I’d have expected. I have a few different things in mind…

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I’m going to an event with all the major presidential candidates. I’ve found that 200mm isn’t long enough to get good close-ups, and that f/5.6 is far too slow for indoor shooting. (Especially as I don’t like shooting above ISO800.) So I need something longer and faster.

  • The ubiquitous choice is Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. f/2.8 is extraordinarily fast, and, as an added bonus, it has Image Stabilization, which apparently eliminates motion blur from hand-holding. 200mm isn’t long enough, but with a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter, it’s long and yet still fast.
  • If I didn’t need the image stabilization, Sigma has a 120-300mm f/2.8 lens, which is just as fast but has f/2.8 at 300mm.
  • Sigma makes another interesting one, an 80-400mm lens. It’s slower at f/4.5-5.6, but it has their OS (Optical Stabilization), basically the same as Canon’s IS. And 400mm is nice and long!
  • I’m a fan of zooms, because I like getting things framed exactly, but Canon makes a 200mm f/2.8 prime, which is highly-regarded and small.

There are some other lenses that I’m interested in, maybe for Thanksgiving or just for general shooting, that I’d like to try:

  • Canon’s 85mm f/1.2 lens is ridiculously fast. It gets the shots that nothing else can. (Well, except for its little brother, the 50mm f/1.2)
  • I’m interested in the wide end of things. Sigma has a 12-24mm lens, which is ridiculously wide-angle. There’s some (pretty much unavoidable) distortion at the wide end, although it can be cleaned up in software. It’s seemingly a popular choice with people taking interior shots.
  • Sigma makes all the interesting ones… They’ve got a 20mm f/1.8, which is both really wide and really fast. And it’s quite cheap.
  • Sigma also makes a 30mm f/1.4 lens, sometimes compared to the 50mm f/1.4 series for full-frame sensors. It’s also much cheaper than Canon’s 35mm f/1.4 lens.

There’s also something unavoidable about going for moon shots, something that requires a nice long lens. (And either a steady hand or a tripod.) It looks like the Thanksgiving time-frame will coincide with a full-ish moon.