The Big Think

September 19, 2013

The 30 Most Unforgettable Film Scores Ever

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 8:17 am

The 30 Most Unforgettable Film Scores Ever

I’m working on an arrangement (really a transcription) of one of these and loving the heck out of it. So much detail and nuance. It’s taken me a couple of hours already this morning and I’m only about 6 measures in. Love it!

September 17, 2013

When Men Hoist the Pirate Flag

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:54 pm

When Men Hoist the Pirate Flag:

“Chivalry and the code thereof was the laying down of those good reproductive (and civilizational) rules that make for a functioning society that passes on its values to its young: men who put their strength at the service of the weaker; women who praised them and admired them for it; and children who were raised to do the same.

Tearing it down might seem like freedom, but you can’t remove the walls and wish the roof would remain standing.”

Interesting article worth reading, as is true of most of Sarah Hoyt’s writing.

Time for Some Perp Walks

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 7:41 am

Clean up the IRS: Column:

“It has now been over four months since the IRS admitted it was targeting conservative groups in the run-up to the 2012 election. The chief IRS official in charge of Exempt Organizations, Lois Lerner, has ‘taken the Fifth’ — invoking her right against self-incrimination in order to avoid testifying before Congress on what went on. Nonetheless, President Obama — who himself ‘joked’ about auditing his enemies — has lumped the IRS misconduct in with what he calls ‘phony scandals.’

But new emails have come out that make the IRS scandal look anything but phony. Emails recovered by the House Ways and Means Committee demonstrate that the targeting of Tea Party groups — and of voter-integrity groups — was orchestrated from the top of the agency. Rather than being conducted by a few rogue employees in the Cincinnati office of the IRS, the Tea Party targeting was regarded by Lerner as something ‘very dangerous’ politically, and she observed that ‘Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.’

The emails also reveal Lerner’s concerns that the Democrats might lose their Senate majority, and her hopes that the Federal Election Commission might ‘save the day’ by interfering with right-leaning grassroots activity. The IRS also shared information with the FEC, something not permitted by statute, raising questions about just how politicized both agencies were.”

Just remember, when someone in authority tells you that a scandal isn’t a scandal, and they have something to protect, chances are very good that they’re not telling you the truth. Act accordingly.

At any rate, it all boils down to trust. One reason for the resonance of not only the IRS scandals but also the NSA scandal, the Benghazi scandal, Fast and Furious, and so on is that fewer Americans than ever trust the federal government. It’s a mess that needs to be cleaned up, and denying that the mess exists only exacerbates the lack of trust.

You don’t say?

September 14, 2013

NoDroid

Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 7:44 am

Instapundit:

“If an Android device (phone or tablet) has ever logged on to a particular Wi-Fi network, then Google probably knows the Wi-Fi password. Considering how many Android devices there are, it is likely that Google can access most Wi-Fi passwords worldwide. And isn’t it now, at this point, negligence to allow Android devices access to any business wi-fi network?”

September 13, 2013

Far Out

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 4:03 pm

Scientists confirm Voyager 1 probe is in interstellar space – Yahoo News:

“After 2020, scientists expect they will have to start turning off instruments, until around 2025 when the probes will be completely out of power and fall silent.

Voyager 2, which is heading out of the solar system in another direction, has five to seven more years before it reaches interstellar space, said Donald Gurnett, a longtime Voyager scientist at the University of Iowa.

‘We’re in a truly alien environment,’ Zank said. ‘What Voyager is going to discover truly beggars the imagination.’

The two Voyager probes, which were both launched in 1977 to study the outer planets of the solar system, contain gold phonographic records etched with music, greetings, sounds and images from Earth”

You Don’t Say?

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:22 am

15 Journalists Have Joined Obama Administration

: “According to the Atlantic, Time managing editor Rick Stengel’s decision to join the Obama administration is just the latest example of a new trend among mainstream media journalists who are making it official by officially joining the Obama administration.”

September 12, 2013

Weighty

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 3:07 pm

New measure of gravitational constant higher than expected:

“A trio of researchers working in France, along with a colleague from the U.K. has re-measured the gravitational constant using the same apparatus they built 12 years ago and have found a small change. In their paper published in Physical Review Letters, the team describes how they reconfigured their original equipment to re-measure the gravitational constant and this time came up with a slightly higher number than before.

The gravitational constant, denoted by G in math equations, has proven to be far more elusive than scientists imagined after it was first measured by Henry Cavendish approximately 200 years ago. The problem is that it’s far weaker than other forces such as electromagnetism. Fluctuating stronger forces acting on measurement equipment can cause changes to readings, leading to an inaccurate result. For that reason, scientists have been striving to come up with a way to definitively measure exactly how much force G exerts. In this new effort, the research team went back to the same apparatus they constructed 12 years ago—one that simultaneously measures G in two different ways. This time around, however, they reconfigured their device in ways they believed would make it more accurate—and in so doing found a slightly different result, but now, aren’t sure which of their measurements is actually more accurate.

Modern researchers use two main types of methods to try to measure G, the first is a more advanced way to do the same thing Cavendish did two centuries ago, using lasers instead of candle light—it’s based on measuring the amount of torque applied to a thin ribbon set between heavy balls. The other involves applying voltage to a wire using a servo to counteract twisting due to G. In this renewed effort, the researchers ran both types of measurements in their device and averaged the results. In so doing, they discovered measurements revealed a value of 6.67545(18)x10-11 m3 kg-1 s-2, with 27PPM standard uncertainty. This value is 21PPM lower than the last time they ran the experiment (measurements by others have ranged as far as 241 ppm lower). The team is unable to explain why they found a difference, and cannot say with confidence which of their measurements is likely closer to G’s actual value.”

Pump Up the Volume

Filed under: Audio — jasony @ 1:24 pm

The Web Is Too Quiet. It’s Time to Pump Up the Volume | Wired Opinion | Wired.com:

“‘The web,’ as venture capitalist Fred Wilson has said, ‘is still too quiet.’

But a few of the noisier places on the net are getting louder. The audio-sharing site SoundCloud (in which Wilson is an investor) has been online since 2008, but it’s now inching toward YouTube-like status.

Users upload 12 hours of audio every minute. The lion’s share is music, but you can find weirder stuff: activists capturing the sound of protests (for the political record) or an audiophile recording the strangely gorgeous sound of ice melting (for… the heck of it). This spring, astronaut Chris Hadfield posted a series of ambient sounds recorded on the International Space Station, and listeners found them mesmerizing. A picture of the Soyuz module may convey 1,000 words, but hearing its eerie hum? That transports you there.

‘When you hear sound, there’s a lot of implicit knowledge in it,’ says SoundCloud CEO Alexander Ljung. Sound is also emotionally loaded, he points out. Watch a scary movie with the volume off and it’s no longer so creepy.”

I agree with the author’s point that there have been many new tools developed in recent years for video and the written word (editing suites, graphical programs, web standards) but comparatively few for the audio world. This tends to reinforce my thinking that audio and sound are easily overlooked (both in daily life and in things like movies and commercials). We all experience audio every waking second but don’t often think about it unless there’s something wrong- a ringing in your ears, badly mixed or edited movie audio, an annoying barking dog.

As for myself, I’m notoriously aware of my sonic surroundings and it drives me nuts. I need to sleep with earplugs in just so I can sleep. A year or so ago we had a washing machine overflow and leave a thin film of creeping water on the linoleum floor downstairs. I could tell this was happening from my studio upstairs just by the fact that the high frequencies were reflecting around in an unusual way. I went down to investigate and fixed the leak before it got out of control. But this is doubtless tied to the fact that I spend much of my working day with my eyes closed just listening to sounds, picking orchestras apart, hearing mixes, etc.

In my experience, though, most people just aren’t that aware of what goes on around them sonically, and it’s a real loss for them. It’s also one of the reasons that I recently got out of the production mixing/recording side of the audio world. Far too many directors give lip service to sound but don’t know the first thing about what’s required to get a good mix, nor are they willing to give time to doing it right.

Anyway, blah blah blah sound. It’s good stuff. Listen to it sometime.

September 11, 2013

Shakespeare in the Original Pronunciation

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 9:12 pm

This is really, really cool.

Land of the Free

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 6:34 am

An amazing first person account of the daily tyranny in China.

Ethereal Fishtanks

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 6:28 am

Neat combination of technology, visual slight of hand, and unexpected materials.

The Ethereal Fishtank Landscapes of Kim Keever

September 10, 2013

Hang Ten at Forty Four

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 12:06 pm

Welcome!

Today I am 44 years old.

Today my blog is one decade old. Ten years! 3650 days. Thanks to friend Giles’ generous gift of a WordPress setup as well as hosting (which has since been taken over by the inestimable Jeff Snider) I started this long journey of public navel gazing. Glad you’ve been along for the trip.

So. 44 years old. 44! When I started this, 40 seemed a long way away. Now it’s 4 years in the rearview mirror. Funny how time keeps moving. Like a river that never stops. Like a clever metaphor that entertains (but not this one).

So what have I done with the last 525,600 minutes? Some highlights:

Had a rather touching reunion: About a decade ago I let one of the ex-band members’ daughters sit on the piano bench with me during a performance of a Pigskin act. She was a wide-eyed and overwhelmed 8-year-old and I had fun sharing my unique perspective with her. Little did I know that, 10+ years later, this little girl would grow up to become a Baylor student and be involved in the show. She came down to the pit and shyly introduced herself and told me how much that experience meant to her. Well, what do you do after that? Get a pic with her all grown up and sitting in the very same spot, of course. The wheel of time turns and turns and you never know what it’ll bring you. Thanks, Emily:

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Sold my studio. About three years ago I dove headfirst into the software program Logic and never looked back. I do all of my music writing on the program now and, while it was a huge, huge learning curve (as well as about $5000 invested in computer hardware, software, and sounds), I’ve never once regretted trading in the clunky early 90’s underpowered software for a truly state-of-the-art monster sequencing/recording program that uses software instruments and a super powerful 27″ iMac with an i7 chip and 12gb of RAM to handle all of the sound duties (this will all sound so quaint in 10 years). I love using Logic and wish I’d have made the switch earlier. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to the changeover was that all of the MIDI hardware that I had taken years and years researching and purchasing was, at one stroke, completely outdated. I had about 2 dozen MIDI modules and various devices that were suddenly technologically moribund but since I had some emotional attachment to them, and since they still provided some cool looking blinky lights and made the studio look all official, I kept them around. Losing value. So this year I finally undertook the months-long process of unwiring them from the equipment racks, testing them out, boxing them up, and listing them on ebay. Eight months and $600 in shipping costs later my equipment racks are almost empty. I made quite a bit more on the equipment than I had thought and it’s nice to have it all gone, but I’ll miss the cool looking equipment. Technology marches on!

Props: I continued my prop building exercised by taking on a total of 6 groups’ props for the show. This was obviously insane since each build session takes up an entire weekend as well as hours and hours planning, designing, and spreadsheeting materials costs. I had self-limited to just four groups but somehow miscounted and had five. Then when I was approached to build a Revolutionary War cannon, how could I refuse? Along with the cannon I also built 40 flintlock muskets, a giant tiara, a huge set of doors (that, alas, were cut from the show), various platforms, chairs, hanging things, several of the ubiquitous 4′ cubes (boring!), as well as a set of 5′, 6′, and 7′ tall 3d mushrooms. I absolutely loved the process and even though I spent many precious days during the holidays in the cold garage and standing at a CNC machine, the time spent with these clients and friends was more than worth it. It’s a chance, especially for the girls, for them to get some of their first ever experience with power tools building “real” things. Here are a few pics:

CNC cut ribs and supports for the mushrooms. This took probably 6 hours on the CNC ShopBot router:

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Giant doors made in my shop. They eventually got cut from the act (unfortunately the opening song got cut and the doors went with it- wow, what a lot of work out the window).

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Long log “tunnel” for a wood nymph/fairies act (great costumes in this one):

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Finished and covered mushrooms (that’s the Sing director Cheryl on the left being goofy for the camera):

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Huge hanging tiara for a hilarious “Toddlers and Tiaras” act:

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The big cannon with the small laser cut version I built for their approval. I wanted to build a pneumatic gun into the barrel (it would have been fairly easy) but didn’t want the potential responsibility of handing over a semi-legal weapon to a bunch of college guys. “Liability” writ large:

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One of the 40 muskets made from plywood and ENT conduit with a laser cut flint mechanism (you can see the long line of muskets on the table in the pic below). They looked great from the house! I also laser cut 40 small tags that had the name of the group and the title of the act (you can see it on the rifle butt). I had several guys tell me that they were framing theirs to remember the experience.

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And finally, one of my favorites, taken by the BU advertising dept. This act ended up tying for first place. Can’t wait to see it again at Pigskin in a few weeks!:

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Back in the Spring Sean and his son Liam came up and we joined forces to make a giant trebuchet for our friend Ken. He gave it to his dad as a gift. What a great time! We build the thing on the back of Ken’s huge gooseneck trailer out of pressure treated wood and serious hardware. Alas, the first time Ken fired it the main axle bent (that’s what happens when a 28′ trebuchet has only a 1″ thick steel axle). A quick repair and it was back in business. Still needs to undergo extensive testing if you ask me:

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Yeah, my neighbors don’t know what to think of me.

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Much of this crazy building was supported by the annual membership I got at TechShop. If you’ve read this blog at all you’ll know how squeally-fangirl I get about TechShop, so I won’t go into it overmuch here except to say that it’s a brain-spinningly awesome place to hang out and get your creative juices going. Laser cutters, CNC routers, 3d printers, welders, metal shop, wood shop, electronics bay, vinyl cutter, heavy duty computer software, free popcorn, tea, and coffee, and a whole host of members who are good at different disciplines. This place has changed my creative life. Totally worth the membership.

Hang Gliding Lessons! A childhood dream since I was nine or ten, this was made all the more special by the fact that my wonderful wife bought it for me as a Christmas gift! Gutsy choice, that. Alas, I had to wait until the heat of the summer to use it (and scorchingly hot it was, too… 103 degrees!). While I only got some short flights in on account of being at the “utter newbie” level, it was still one of the most memorable things I’ve done in a long, long time. I’d really like to do the extended class some day and get some even longer flights in. And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll take that step off a cliff. If you didn’t see it, here’s a little video of the experience:

We were once again blessed by our friends Bridget and Neil when we did them the favor (ahem) of house-sitting in Colorado. They’re gone for most of the summer every year and this is now the 4th year that we’ve escaped the brutal Texas summer heat. This year we spent 22 wonderful, relaxing, and low stress days in their beautiful house. I got 9 books read, we went to the Denver Aquarium and visited all our old favorite haunts, including a great little Irish pub who’s only downside is its longitudinal deficiency. We watched the sunrises and sunsets from the huge deck at the house, drank good wine, roamed around Colorado Springs, and enjoyed a record 19 consecutive days of wonderful rain. This was probably the best time we’ve had up there. So grateful!

Denver Aquarium:

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Sunday brunch at Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub:

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Sunrise from the 900 sq ft deck:

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While we were there we did our annual tradition and Camped in Colorado: for three glorious days we sat under the pine trees next to a creek and read, got rained on, made camp food, watched the deer, and did even less than nothing. There is nothing that relaxes me more than getting out into the forest for an extended period. Even though it’s only a few days a year it’s still something that I look forward to and cherish:

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Definitely going back to the Collegiate Peaks campground.

One more adventure we had this year in Colorado was an absolutely blow-out dinner at our favorite restaurant, the Dushanbe Tea House annual Tea Dinner. What an incredible experience! A five course meal where every course had a different tea as a main ingredient. We each got something different for each course and split it between us. One of the most memorable dinners I can remember:

Before:

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Tea Dinner Menu
First Course
Ochazuke
salmon, genmaicha green tea broth, rice, nori, ginger,
radish sprouts, toasted sesame seeds, fresh wasabi
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or
Tung Ting Oolong Poached Chicken
Heirloom tomatoes, melted leeks

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Second Course
Black Dragon Tail Black Tea Marbled Egg
frisse, crispy potatoes, micro herbs, aioli,
black dragon tail tea vinaigrette

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or
Keemun Hong Mao Feng Smoked Duck
napa cabbage, sweet peppers, pickled carrots,
jasmine pearl tea dressing

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Third Course
Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop
Three Leaf Farm Succotash,
white peach tea potato puree

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or
Genmaicha Polenta, Portabella and
Heirloom Tomato Napoleon
Peaches and Cream Corn Sauce,
seared TLF Greens and Toasted Puffed Rice

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Dessert
Tres Cambric Tea Cake
Lady Grey, Mate Carnival, Honey Orchid
with Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

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All served with several pots of wonderful Black Dragon tea and foccaccia bread with tea-infused olive oil. Just decadent. Here’s the “after” pic:

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Totally worth it.

Adding to my list of unique experiences from the year, we got to fire an AR15: I had mentioned to a friend that I’ve never had a chance to fire a “black rifle” and he told me that he had an AR15 that we were welcome to try out. So Erin and I took him up on the offer and spent an hour or so gleefully putting holes in a big 50 gallon plastic barrel. Not nearly as violent or powerful as I’d thought it would be. In fact, contrary to everything that’s been implied by the media and certain politicians, the gun isn’t a “fully automatic machine gun”, nor is it more powerful than a hunting rifle (a standard well-accepted 30.06 deer rifle is many, many times more powerful). An AR15 isn’t even a true “assault rifle” in that it’s lacking most of the features of these military-only weapons. Sure, it has the cosmetic features (it’s black, it has the cosmetic barrel shroud that protects hands from a hot barrel, and it might or might not have a mount for a bayonet), but otherwise it’s pretty much a normal, underpowered .223 rifle. Yes, the projectile it fires is only. 003 inches bigger in diameter than the bullet that came out of my childhood .22. Anyway, politics and misreporting aside, it was a lot of fun to shoot and we appreciate our friend’s generosity. Erin even got in on the act and had a lot of fun.

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Drove a Bobcat. Thanks to friend Ken Fowler, I was able to fulfill another boyhood dream when I got to drive his Bobcat front loader. And what big kid wouldn’t want to do that? Happily the only thing that I managed to damage was his driveway from my gleeful out-of-control donuts. Dang! Can’t find the video now. Sean, can you hook me up again? I’ll repost it here.

Finally, one thing I’ve recently done that I’ve enjoyed a lot is joining a local Austin board gaming group. The group meets each Sunday and Wednesday for a random assortment of board games of the more epic and Euro-style persuasion: think Settlers of Catan, Agricola, Drum Roll) as well as more pickup games like Love Letter, King of Tokyo, etc. It’s been a great way to blow off steam after spending way too many hours staring into a computer all day. This lets me get my fix of board games as well as get out of my studio for a few hours each week. I’ve met a lot of new people, and some of them even have social skills. 🙂

So that’s year 43 in the books. New friends and old, travel, experiences, and learning. What fun! I always wonder what the next year brings and this past year was no disappointment. I wonder what’ll happen next year?

September 9, 2013

World’s Largest Cave, Son Doong, Prepping For First Public Tours

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 1:29 pm

World’s Largest Cave, Son Doong, Prepping For First Public Tours: “The Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is the biggest cave in the world. It’s over 5.5 miles long, has a jungle and river, and could fit a 40-story skyscraper within its walls.

But nobody knew any of that until four years ago.

A local man discovered the cave entrance in 1991, but British cavers were the first to explore it in 2009. Now, tour company Oxalis is running trial tours of the cave and accepting sign-ups for real six-day tours to take place next year.

The man who discovered Son Doong didn’t go in because the entrance he found had too steep a drop. On next year’s tours, visitors will rappel 80 meters to enter Son Doong.”

Lots of cool pics at the link. Sign me up!

Hand of Man

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 10:42 am

…with the sounds of blah blah blah

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 9:09 am

Sorry folks, I just didn’t get the sports gene:

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Only I wouldn’t look nearly as good in that dress.

September 8, 2013

Not Just for Millennials

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 4:56 pm

For Millennials Connections Are Easy, Friendships Are Hard: “We have the chance to form a network of people who truly are our tribe, not merely a mixture of those in proximity. That’s an exciting opportunity if we can accept its limitations and find comfort in the fewer and fewer people we have within our physical reach. “

September 6, 2013

Thoughts on Homeschooling

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 8:35 pm

An intuition and an encounter.

Future U

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 11:57 am

What does the college of the future look like?:

“For some colleges, the future includes massive open online courses (MOOCs) that can free up students struggling to balance academics with work and also reach an exponentially greater number of learners. Other institutions reject the digital approach altogether, stressing hands-on experience over more theoretical coursework.

There’s no real suggestion that either online or experiential learning should completely replace the brick-and-mortar campus experience, which still provides students important opportunities for socialization and collaboration. The goal, experts say, is for colleges to blend crucial elements of the campus experience with new approaches, striving to capture the best of both worlds for students increasingly priced out by the cost of a traditional four-year degree.”

This is great news for those recent high school grads who want to fight back against the rising cost of higher education. It’s even better for those of us who just really, really enjoy learning and want to take advantage of the knowledge but don’t necessarily need the piece of paper. Yay technology!

The Future of Design

Filed under: Space,Technology — jasony @ 10:29 am

Wow, very, very cool. h/t Josh:

The Onion

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Politics — jasony @ 10:08 am

: “WASHINGTON—As President Obama continues to push for a plan of limited military intervention in Syria, a new poll of Americans has found that though the nation remains wary over the prospect of becoming involved in another Middle Eastern war, the vast majority of U.S. citizens strongly approve of sending Congress to Syria.”

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