Are you a geek? Here’s a simple test…

Is this cool?

I showed this video of a “singing Tesla coil” to Paula and she just kind of shrugged.  It’s a solid-state Tesla coil owned by an EE student at U of I which is able to create tones by sending out sparks in precise bursts.  Day-um.

I think this thing is wicked cool.  Then again… perhaps this just tests if you are a guy.

Mashuptown – more mash-up music than you can shake a stick at


A couple years ago I got hooked on music mash-ups when a coworker pointed me to the work of Party Ben, a DJ who, until recently, had a mash-up show on San Francisco’s alternative station Live 105.  Since then I’ve been hooked.

What’s a mash-up?
Music mash-ups are the result of a DJ taking two different songs and mixing them together into a hybrid of the two, sometimes with fantastic results.  It’s a little like sampling (taking a riff from one song and making a new song around it).  Some of the results are total crap… but sometimes one can find some real gems.

Why do I enjoy mash-ups so much? 
Well… I listen to music a lot and find I get sick of what’s on the radio and what I have in my own collection.  Mash-ups are a fun way to listen to music I already like and make it fresh again.

Where can you find mash-ups?
A quick search will net you all sorts of stuff but you can save yourself a lot of legwork by simply going to Mashuptown, a mash-up review blog which picks out great tracks almost daily. Mashuptown will point you to the sites of some great DJs where you can find more great tracks on your own.  Another good place to start is on the mixes page of Party Ben’s site.  Party Ben has a collection of tracks all crammed into a single file, as if you were listening to a long set at a club.

Xbox from UK, games from US – OK!

When our 360 went south Paula and I decided that the best course of action was to buy a replacement box instead of waiting for a really long, expensive repair (since it’s an American box it has to be shipped to the US for resurrection).  Since we use our Xbox to watch TV we also didn’t want to wait the couple months it would likely take.

The idea of a new box was all good and well… but I also have a library of games I like to play (including a copy of Lego Star Wars II we just bought but never got a chance to play).  Gears of War I can buy in the company store for €20… but Lego Star Wars and Ghost Recon were going to run me €60 each.  Crap.

After setting up the replace box I wondered: what happens if I stick the US (NTSC) game disc into my European (PAL) Xbox?

As luck would have it, I was pleasantly surprised.  Like DVDs, video games often have region encoding which prevents a game disc purchased in, for example,  Paris from working on a console purchased in Poughkeepsie.  In the case of the Xbox 360, however, the region lock-out isn’t a certainty.  Fortunately for me (and many other gamers) Microsoft adopted the policy of letting publishers decide if their game discs would be region-free.

Not all Xbox 360 titles will work in all regions… but luckily for me my two current faves, GOW and GRAW2, do.  No need to run out and buy replacement copies.  In my quest for an answer as to why my discs worked in my new console I came across a fairly detailed list of region compatibility on  It takes the guesswork out of any future purchases (especially cool since buying games in the US is much cheaper with the strength of the Euro).