Internet Radio Experiment, Part 3: Jango

The latest internet radio station I tried was Jango. The Jango experiment didn’t last a week like the other ones; it only lasted one day. Jango was just that terrible.

Seriously, that's a lot of ads. And so ugly!

Seriously, that's a lot of ads. And so ugly!

Their main page has quotes from sources like USA Today and Wired Magazine, which make it sound like a decent system. There seems to be an emphasis on the “social” aspects of their system — you’re supposed to add your friends, and let their musical tastes influence what you listen to. Hey Jango — have you heard some of the crap my friends listen to? No thanks.

Compared to the smooth black layout of Slacker and the bold red design of Last.fm, Jango looks like it was cobbled together by a Web design student. Or worse, software like Pagemaker. It has a weird layout, a weird color scheme, and more ads on the page than any other player I’ve tried so far.

As with every other internet radio player, I started with a solid base of Duran Duran and built my station from there. Jango gives you lists of “related” artists, and you have the option of clicking a plus-sign to add them to your station, or a trash can to ban them. I clicked a lot of trash cans, because the likes of Pantera and Def Leppard are hardly “related” to Duran Duran.

As songs play, you can click a frowny face, smiley face, or big grinning face to rate them. But if you click the frowny face, which means “never play this song again,” the song doesn’t stop playing. Every other system, they immediately move on to a new song when you ban the one playing. Jango makes you fast-forward yourself after banning. Nice. Then every couple of songs, a pop-up window stops all music playing and reminds you to check out their fabulous sponsors. Radio will be available again in 15 seconds. After that 15, you have to click a link to continue playing. It makes Slacker’s audio ads seem like an absolute dream.

On Jango, you have to add in artists as a whole; you can’t pick a single song or album to add to your list. And when songs play, you’re told the artist name and song name, but not the album name. Also, every few songs they’ll throw in a song from an “independent” or “emerging” artist, which you’ll almost always have to fast-foward through, because nothing in this new indie artist’s style has anything to do with the style of the music you’ve already selected.

Bottom line, Jango is at the bottom of the heap. The worst of the internet radio stations so far. I won’t be back, so I won’t be able to see their ads for: Zune, Wal*Mart, L’Oreal, Seventeern magazine, VoiceFive, Olive Garden, and Zune (again). And those were all on one page.

Internet Radio Experiment, Part 2: Slacker

This week, I’ve been trying out another web-based free internet radio system, Slacker.

Slacker, just like most other free services, also offers a paid system with more features. But I’m cheap, so I’m just trying out the free radio.

The banner and side ad are both animated, which is dizzying.

The banner and side ad are both animated, which is dizzying.

To start out, Slacker has you type in the name of an artist or group. As usual, I started my radio station with Duran Duran. You can then go through a list of “similar artists” and click a little heart icon next to the ones you’d like to hear. You can also select specific songs to mark with a heart, but they limit the number to something like 20.

Well, that’s not entirely true. You can mark additional songs with the heart, but only as they play on your radio station. The limit is on the number of songs you can specifically seek out to mark. Unlike the previous champion Last.fm, you can only mark favorite artists in general; not specific songs or albums from those artists.

A nice feature is that they show you not only what artist is going to play next, but they give you a little thumbnail of the album cover. So I know the next song up is not only Duran Duran, but it’s going to be a cut from Rio. The software also updates the title of the Web page reliably, so I can be surfing on another page, but see the Slacker tab displaying the title and artist. Handy.

Slacker doesn’t appear to have a limit on the number of times you fast-forward or “ban” unliked songs, which is great. Overall, I’d say it’s comparable to Last.fm except for one thing: actual radio commercials. Every few songs, Slacker plays one or two quick ads (the system usually feeds me one PSA, followed by an actual product ad). There are also ads galore on the Web page where the player lives.

Overall, I’m putting Slacker in a close second behind Last.fm — Slacker’s better at keeping the page title updated and showing me the thumbnail of the next album, but they play audio ads and don’t let you favorite just one album from an artist; you have to “love” the artist’s full catalog.

Rules of Conduct at the Rink

Seen at my local roller skating rink, where I get my roll on every week:

Rules of Conduct

Rules of Conduct

The list goes on, it’s about 20 items long. But the second item really caught my eye — seems to me that if I’m skating in a “wreckless” manner, that’s a GOOD thing. Wreckless skaters don’t skate in a reckless manner, that’s for sure.

Black Bean Brownies

That’s right. Brownies … made with black beans. Instead of FLOUR. They’re gluten-free, pretty low-carb, and sound absolutely disgusting. But hold off on judging them just yet.

black bean brownie ingredients

Ingredients:

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
3 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sweetener (sugar or Splenda)*
1/2 cup ground nuts (pecans or walnuts)**
1/8 tsp salt***
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks****

* I use Splenda instead of sugar. But the original recipe called for sugar, and I used the granulated Splenda that measures cup-for-cup the same.

** I prefer pecans to walnuts. But many people love to use walnuts in cookies and brownies. Whichever, just throw them in the food processor and grind them until they’re little (but not until they’re powder).

*** If you use salted butter, or salted black beans, or both, you can skip the added salt. But if you get no-salt-added beans, and use unsalted butter, then add the salt.

**** I didn’t add the chocolate chunks, because that’s not terribly low-carb. But if you’re using regular sugar and are more concerned with having gluten-free brownies instead of low-carb, go nuts with the chockie.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Put the black beans in your blender, or food processor, and beat the hell out of them until they’re a paste. I used my mini-Cuisinart, and they just barely fit. I needed some liquid in there to help, so I added the melted butter.

Mix in the eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla, salt (if applicable), and sweetener. Mix until well-blended. I used my hand mixer.

Add in the nuts and chocolate chunks/chips (if applicable). Stir them in well. I used a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into a buttered 8-inch pan. I would have used a square pan, but I don’t own an 8″ square. So I used one of my 9″ round pans instead, which is probably pretty close in area to an 8″ square. Right? I don’t know, maybe my math sucks.

Bake at 350° F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

black bean brownies

Let them cool on the counter, then throw them in the fridge. This will firm them up, and make them much easier to cut.

I got 16 brownies out of this batch. At 16, the nutrition data are approximately:

100 calories
7.5 g fat
5.8 g carbohydrate
2.4 g dietary fiber (giving 3.4 grams of “net carbs”)
3.1 g protein

The Verdict:

Coming out of the pan, the big round brownie stuck in the middle. Maybe I didn’t butter enough. Next time, I’ll definitely cut and throw down a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom.
We picked the little clingy bits out of the bottom of the pan, and they don’t taste at all beany. But those bits were really dry, and I was afraid I’d baked too long.

After some time in the fridge, I cut the brownies. They were still a bit dry and crumbly, but more solid than when they first came out of the pan. They’re dense, more like fudge brownies than cake brownies, but they’re decent. You can’t taste the beans at all!

Next time, a few changes: something to make them more moist (More butter? Some oil? Hmm.) and less time in the oven (I’ll shoot for 25; maybe my oven runs hot).

Wang Cake Rides Again

There’s just no escape from the famous Wang Cake. Besides Scott’s original post, “In Honor of Ace of Cakes”, the story got a mention and a link in Ken Jennings’ blog, and was reprinted in full on the hilarious Cake Wrecks site. There have been a ton of reposts thanks to Cake Wrecks; in fact, a Google search of “cake wrecks fireman” has over 2 million results. And it auto-completed when I typed it into Google.

This week, I saw a new Wang Cake homage. As part of the current Cake Wrecks book tour, fans have been making cupcake versions of classic wrecks, and at the San Francisco stop, there was a cupcake version of the Wang Cake.

The Cake Wrecks family is local to our area. We should really take them out for a drink, as a thanks for all the publicity.

The famous Good Luck in China - Wang Cake