The Big Think

March 31, 2010

Up on the Roof

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 11:34 pm

I found a shingle in our yard the other day. Uh oh. A few years ago we had to have a roofer come out and fix a small patch of shingles that had blown off in the high winds. That thirty minute fix cost us $120. So I climbed up on the roof fearing the worst. Yup, a big patch of shingles (probably 6 sq feet) had managed to work loose and expose the underlying felt paper. Fearing another expensive repair I hunted around on the internet and discovered that fixing shingles is actually rather easy. A few hours later I was again up on the roof with a pile of shingles, some galvanized nails, a tube of roofing cement, and a hammer (as well as a pair of grippy shoes!). I ripped the bad shingles out, as well as a few more on the edges of the trouble spot, and in about an hour I had a perfect patch. The whole thing cost me less than $20 and I still have a dozen shingles left over for when the next ones blow off.

Hooray DIY!

The iPad Cometh

Filed under: Apple,Technology — jasony @ 8:59 pm

Xeni Jardin reviews one (hey! How’d she get one?)

March 30, 2010

Bob Kramer, Knifemaker

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 10:04 pm

now I want to go make a knife.

Still Alive, Kid Version!

Filed under: Games — jasony @ 8:23 pm


Repo Man

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 8:20 pm

How to repo an airliner.

Alphabet Geek

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 7:02 pm

The geekiest way to learn the Alphabet.

March 29, 2010

Another Recall

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 10:16 pm

Yamaha has recalled 20,000 pianos due to a problem with the pedal sticking, causing pianists to play faster than they normally would. This has resulted in a number of accidentals. Several near misses have also been reported in the carpal tunnel. The sticky pedal also makes it harder to come to a full stop at the end of a piece making it risky for audiences and professional reputations alike.

Although there have been many accidentals, so far there have been no reported deafs.

Currently sales are flat and analysts are waiting to see if current volumes will be sustained or dampened. Experts suggest that Yamaha’s response will be the key.

Criticism of the company has been sharp, and Congress is planning hearings to find out when Yamaha first learned about the treble.

But it’s Free!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 10:41 am

Just got a robocall offering us a “free funeral, burial, or cremation”. Is there something they’re not telling us?

March 28, 2010

Okay, This is Just Silly

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:50 pm

I mean, really. Really?

Look at this photo:


Take a second look. How many people would you estimate are there? I routinely see 2200 people in a single room (the main theater in Waco Hall on the Baylor campus), so I have a fairly good idea of what that many people look like. I’m not good at estimating really big numbers, but even I can see that this crowd is somewhere between, oh, 10,000 and 15,000 people. Possibly more, but I’d lowball it to be on the safe side. I’ll be extremely safe and call it 8,000. But there’s lowballing, then there’s lowballing.

How many were reported being here by CNN?

Dozens. Yup. Dozens. They also said “hundreds”. In fact, CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield’s language was a bit weird as she specifically said “Hundreds of people, at least dozens of people – we haven’t gotten a count of how many people turned out there.”


Look, I can understand someone saying a thousand people. After all, it’s hard to estimate when you don’t have the God’s eye blimp-cam view. But dozens? Hundreds? As my friend says: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

I’m not ready to go all conspiracy theory on this one, It may have been a slip of the tongue (although the error was never corrected), but I will say that whoever confused this rally with a Bach family reunion needs a new pair of glasses and some tutoring by a certain Muppet.


Just so I’m clear, I’m not getting all righteously-indignant about this one. I think it’s more a case of misspeaking. Still, it’s funny, and it fits the meme of the media downplaying the importance of the massive public rallies that have been taking place (witness the fact that Time magazine didn’t include a single picture of the Tea Parties in their “2009 in Review” issue). I think miss Whitfield is a bit embarrassed tonight. There are plenty of other things to get exercised about than a badly estimated number. Of course, its very possible that the she wasn’t looking at the video as she improvised on the story. It just kind of makes me laugh in a duuuuuuhhhh sort of way.

By the way, the official number was 20,000.

Big Numbers

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:21 pm

The federal government collects about $2.5 trillion in total revenues a year. That is from all sources of taxes and fees. Think of that as an individual’s annual gross salary. The debt owed by the government can be looked at as a great big mortgage. Thus, we have a family that has a mortgage 44.8 times greater than gross salary. That would be the equivalent of a man earning $50,000 gross salary having a mortgage of $2,240,000! An interest-only mortgage at 6% would require the family to pay annual interest of $134,000 per year. A conventional mortgage would be much higher. The example becomes even more ludicrous when one recognizes that taxes, food, clothing, savings, etc. all have to be subtracted from gross pay to determine what is left for debt service.

When we shift back to the federal government, the family analogy becomes even more absurd. The federal government has nothing left from their “gross pay.” Their “living expenses” actually exceeded their gross pay by $1.2 trillion last fiscal year. That is, they spent almost 50% more than they made. Comparable behavior is budgeted for the next ten years.

Meanwhile our leaders continue to fiddle by in the nice pretty flickering light. Read the whole thing. Depressing.


Filed under: Audio,Business,Music,Technology — jasony @ 5:40 pm

I’ve spent most of the day reconfiguring my studio and trying to integrate all the new gear. The audio interface (a MOTU UltraLite Mk 3) is wired in and I’ve managed to chase most of the buzzes and hums down. I also got the Midi interface (MOTU Midi Express 128) in place and everything is wired up and communicating correctly.

The bad news is that, if I want to use any of my MIDI instruments, it looks like I’m going to have to type in all of my old instrument names by hand. Several thousand of them. There doesn’t seem to be any way for Logic to auto load them, and I haven’t found a utility online to do it. I’ll keep looking, though.

The good news, the very good news, is that I will possibly never touch the old MIDI gear ever again. I’ve been auditioning the sampled sounds that come with Logic and Soundtrack Pro and… holy jumping Judas on a Vespa, WHY didn’t I make the move to sampled sounds before? It’s just stunning the difference. It’s like going from riding around in this:


to suddenly being shoved into the cockpit of this:


Yeah, they’re both red, and they’ll both get you there (kind of) but I know which one I’d pick. In thirty minutes I’ve knocked together a tune that sounds miles better than anything I ever did on MIDI. And I haven’t even loaded the half-terabyte, seven library bundle of East West sounds (I’m waiting on the giant 2TB hard drive).

I’m a long, long way from getting my head around Logic Studio, but the sounds are going to totally change everything. Just wow.

Here’s a quick audio file I threw together in just a few minutes with the first sounds that came up in the sounds browser. Didn’t edit, mix, or do anything but bounce it down. Quite a change from MIDI.


Apollo XIII

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 12:00 am

What would really have happened to Apollo XIII. Wow, who knew?

March 27, 2010

Fly, Boy

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 11:52 pm

What it’s like to land the Space Shuttle (simulator).

March 26, 2010

Equipment Overload

Filed under: Audio,Business,Music — jasony @ 5:49 pm

It’s fun integrating a bunch of new equipment into the studio, but right now I’m feeling totally overwhelmed with the amount of new hardware and software. Audio-wise I’m 100% (no worries on the mix, Storme, Andi, and Lee)- the audio mixing portion isn’t changing much except for a new interface, but those are transparent once you get them hooked up. What is changing is the way that I do my composing. Learning not one, not two, but five major programs has my head feeling like it’s in a vise. It’s all blurring together. 🙂

Final Cut Studio
Digital Performer
East West Play sample engine


For Want of a Cable, a Studio was Rewired

Filed under: Business,Computing,Music,Technology — jasony @ 12:16 pm

The new MIDI interface is USB only. Max USB cable length is 16 feet (they make 20′ cables, but MIDI is very timing sensitive and subject to error on long runs). The MIDI interface is 18′ from the computer.

When I first wired my studio three years ago I was extraordinarily careful about not crossing power and data runs, about the order of equipment and heating issues, about careful and neat cable tying behind the racks, and about workflow and equipment access. I spent days deciding how everything should be laid out, drawing diagrams of each piece of gear. It’s paid off as I’ve almost never had an issue with buzz or noise in the system.

I may now have to completely disassemble and rewire my pristine studio layout based on the fact that a single cable is two feet too short.

I’m going to risk $15 on a 20′ cable from Amazon and see if the MIDI signals are reliable, but if they’re not…

Someone kill me please.

March 25, 2010

Medical Nanobots on the Horizon

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 12:20 pm

Specially constructed molecules could potentially block the expression of genes critical to the reproduction of viruses and the spread of cancer. But until now, doctors had been unable to direct those molecules to the right cellular nuclei. Scientists from the California Institute of Technology solved this problem by placing the RNA molecules in a specialized polymer robot with a chemical sensor. When the environment of a cancerous cell triggered the chemical sensor, the robot releases the RNA.

The trial involved three people with melanomas who received the RNA-load nanoparticles intravenously four times, for 30 minutes, over three weeks. At the end of that time, samples taken from the melanomas showed both the presence of the RNA, and a reduction in tumor gene expression.


March 24, 2010

Memory from the Future

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Technology — jasony @ 9:20 pm

The tech of 2040.

Happy Birthday to X

Filed under: Macintosh,Music — jasony @ 8:46 pm

Mac OS X turns 9 years old today. I have continued to use the old OS 9 since then. I use X, but do all of my professional work on OS 9… until now. It’s fitting that tomorrow I will accept delivery on my new 27″ iMac. Yup, from now on I’m OS X only! I’ll miss Vision and OS 9, but technology changes, and eventually you have to change with it. This move was brought on by the confluence of several events: the continuing dilapidation of my G4 MDD, the need to update my sound pallet, and an upcoming feature film audio mix. Fortunately, all three of these things came to a head in my “off season”, so I am spending quite a bit of time at night curled up with manuals and new hardware. The Fedex guy has come to our door for the last five mornings straight (except Sunday).

I’m a bit nervous about finally making the switch to Logic and Digital Performer since I was probably among the fastest Vision users in the universe (a distinction that’s akin to being one of the fastest Cobol programmers around), but I’ll get it. Change is good, right?

Happy ACMS Day!

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 6:53 pm

Tomorrow is the official Armstrong Community Music School Day in Austin Texas! Congrats to Erin and all the hard working folks at ACMS for running the only community music school in America that was founded by an opera company. ACMS is a wonderful place that helps people of all ages make music a part of their lives.


March 23, 2010

Take Your Own Medicine

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:48 pm

GOP members propose an amendment to the health care bill. Specifically, it is

“an amendment that would require the president, vice-president, members of Congress, political appointees and congressional staff to get their federal health benefits through the soon-to-be-created health insurance exchanges.”

(link) The specifics of the bill contain language that exempt our leaders from the new legislation.

“President Obama has publicly advertised that his reforms would give members of the public the same coverage available to Members of Congress,” reads a GOP summary of the Grassley measure. “This amendment would ensure that he, his successors, and all his appointed political officials would also have the same coverage members of the public enrolled in the Exchange receive.”

Democratic leaders are expected to vote no on the proposed amendment.

Yes, it is political theater on the part of the GOP, but even granting that, I can’t imagine any American disagreeing with the principal of the amendment. Put aside the odd diplomatic immunity law and park-where-you-want quirks, I am trying to understand why it is in any way acceptable for our leaders to be exempt from the laws that they write for the citizens.

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