Monday, February 20, 2012

New Blog

I've been wanting to write lately but after posting every day on one or more blogs it seems like I ran out of stuff to say about child rearing and life-in-general about a year ago.  There's a need for me to write stuff pertaining to the art and science of sound and light, but turning out a well thought out document is no easy task and too daunting to even start on most nights.

So I started another blog for the purpose of ironing out some ideas.  I don't know if any of my former readers will be interested in any of the nerdy stuff, but there's likely to be some interesting back stage type posts as well.   Here's the link if you care to check it out.

Smart to Noise Ratio

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Salute To Professional Commenters

Apparently Captcha works pretty well, as spammers have been forced to turn to actual human beings to spread links on blogs. Sweat shops are springing up the world over, although mostly in India and Asia where people sit at computers and post for hours at a time. I got over 300 comments in one day by such a method.

On one hand it's gratifying (slightly) to find myself on the radar of a spam network. On the other it's a little depressing to think of some poor (really poor) soul sitting at a terminal, posting link after link on blogs that they may not even be able to read.

So if you can read this, dear spam laborer. My hat is off to you and your boss. Congratulations on personalizing spam (slightly) and finding ever new and interesting ways to capitalize on the internet. I hope the few cents you earn posting encouraging messages and spam links are a help to you and your family. Even though I delete them almost instantly (and in most cases before they ever see the light of day) I want you to know that I am touched by your labors.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympic Memories: Part Two

Since the big kick off this last weekend we've been gleefully soaking up the Olympic goodness at a steady pace. Most of our viewing time is punctuated by a cute baby who takes it upon himself to push all the buttons on the front of the TV. While this used to create quite a ruckus, now it just creates a small, rectangular message window that announces that the buttons have been disabled. While somewhat annoying, it's a lot better than jumping suddenly to whatever Danielle Steele movie is playing on the next channel. And he is a very cute baby, that helps.

Miss O and I have spent a few quiet hours together while the rest of the house is quiet. The Missus went out to a craft night at church on Monday and me and my girl took in some snowboard cross and of course a healthy dose of figure skating. She's starting to catch on to the spirit of competition that the Olympics embodies. She was actually rooting for the Chinese at one point because they had such a good back story.

Tonight we saw the Flying Tomato (or Animal I guess it is now) grab some bur-hur-hur-hurly air on the half pipe. That... was pretty-frickin-sweet dude. Then we watched quite a few of the women down-hillers finish the course in various prone positions. And of course watching Lindsey Vonn take the lead by half a second on a bum leg and scream orgasmically did not suck.

We're just getting warmed up but I'm starting to remember the one great pitfall of watching the Olympics night after night. While the commercials are creative, well produced, and often quite touching, nobody has the gumption to make more than one for the duration. So I'm resigning myself to watching Anton Ohno break the ice loose and spin it around twenty times a night (selling God-knows-what... I sure don't) along with a host of other ads that I'm sure I'll be able to re-create in my minds eye in perfect detail as I fall asleep. What any of them are selling will likely remain a mystery.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympic Memories: Part One

You don't have to read this. I'm just writing it down for the purpose of remembering it later. When I went on my honeymoon to London, I thought it would be memorable so I kept a journal. Turns out it was a pretty good idea because now I can only remember the stuff that I wrote down at the time. The rest is a complete blank.

So this first few days of the Vancouver Olympics I spent fourteen hours watching, including a glorious four hours soaking up the opening ceremonies. The Parade of Nations that is the athletes entering the arena is always such a nice time. All the hopefulness and excitement on the athletes' faces. Not to mention the occasional chuckle at the sight of some tiny tropical nation that sent one skier and five overweight, middle-aged coaches.

Watching Apolo Ohno nearly get his ass handed to him on the short track only to have the Koreans miss out on closing the podium with a spectacular wipe out was pretty sweet. Although you could tell he was holding back with the celebration at being the most decorated winter competitor because he knew he got lucky. The other American, J.R., who placed right behind him was pretty grateful too.

All the modifications to the luge event upon the death of the Georgian before things got going don't seem to have done anything. Cutting 600 meters and a good deal of vertical rise out of the course hasn't stopped the sleds from hitting the ninety mile-per-hour mark.

Women's mogul had a pretty sweet finish. An eighteen year old Canadian who was the darling of the crowd took the lead for a moment until an American swooped down and clinched the gold with a really spectacular run. There were a lot of spectacular wipe outs as well, and a lot of commentary about knee surgery. Eeeeeuch!

Watching the mens Nordic race with the boys was pretty cool. They'd get into it for a few minutes when somebody did some spectacular shooting (or whiffed), but then they'd remember their shows on Qubo and get all agitated. (Speaking of agitated, H-Bomb left a pretty spectacular bite mark on J-Man's shoulder after dinner tonight.)

The real killer was watching short program couples skating with all the kids together. It was pretty loud and annoying for the tall people who wanted to hear the commentary, but the commentary from the peanut gallery was priceless. A couple quotes from The Missus' Twitter stream:

olympic moments with a 3yo, ice skating edition: i like the girl with the purple underwear.

Olympics with kids, 7yo edition: that man is *totally* wearing a onesie.

Now if our sick, sad baby ever gives up and goes to sleep there's just time to squeeze in a couple more hours of pleasant viewing.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Master of Ceremonies

Canada has definitely got the lead on televised live events. Throughout the entire three hour performance I never thought once about the sound except ocasionally to marvel a how GOOD it was.

When I think back to various Super Bowl half time shows it just makes me shudder. The Stones sounded so bad I actually sent an angry e-mail o the network.The Opening ceremony was just so balanced and even and achingly crystal clear.

Maybe I should start looking for work with Canadian production companies?

Sent from my iPod

Monday, February 08, 2010

Ringing In The Ears: Part I

My ears are ringing. That's been a true statement since before I knew what it meant. When I was little I used to ask my folks if they could hear it too. The closest approximation I could come up with was that it sounded like the crystal in my Dad's Timex only higher.

Later on in life I deduced that I have tinitus (Pronounced tin-eye-tus or sometimes tin-i-tis). It's not hearing loss caused by loud noises, although that can make it worse, it's something wrong with your brain that affects the way you hear certain frequencies and makes you hear some that you don't.

There have been articles popping up now and then that say you can take supplements to fight it, but somehow I'm a little doubtful. That, and it's pretty hard to find lipoflavanoid at your local pharmacy. The really interesting articles say that scientists are doing studies that involve playing back white or pink noise, or music that's been modified that are having some good results.

The frustrating thing is that these articles never say exactly what it is that they're playing for these people. Well, the Times finally let it slip that the secret is notching the material at the frequency that the sufferer is "hearing". Listening for a couple hours a day to material with that frequency missing get's the brain to relax whatever kink it's got that's causing the problem.

So with an app on my iPod I located the frequency my ears ring at (9.2 kilohertz or a super high C#). While playing it back in headphones I actually knocked the ringing out for a few seconds. It just stopped. It was the first few seconds off total quiet I had ever experienced. Then I downloaded some pink noise, notched it, looped it, and now I have some pleasant bedtime listening material for the next few months. I'm going to record my current condition here and check in periodically to see if it's working.

Since there's no way to meter the ringing in my ears I'll just use my finely honed sense of loudness that my years as a sound engineer have provided me with.

Quiet Room: The ringing has an apparent volume of about 85dB.

Watching TV:
The ringing is down about 6dB from the program material at normal volume, slightly higher when the set is turned up.

Listening to speech: It's difficult to interpret speech if there is any background noise. Running the faucet or the microwave partially or mostly obscures intelligibility. Power tools or other machinery totally obscure it. (As a result I'm pretty good at reading lips.)

I plan to listen to pink noise, notched at 9.2kHz for two hours each night on earbud headphones at low volume. Part of the time I'll be awake and the rest I'll be sleeping. I'll bring this back for an evaluation after a week, two weeks, a month and two months to see if it's helping.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

It's Electric

I'm sure I've written about this before, but not with such interest as I have today. Electric vehicles seem to finally be gaining some traction. It may just be that since I started reading Wired again I'm a little more aware of it, but even in other media streams the electric car is everywhere.

Of course to try and look good the government has to meddle in all sorts of ways. Tax breaks and grants are one thing. Promising to have a certain percentage of green vehicles by a certain date is another, somewhat questionable, way. The thing is, no legislation was required to phase out the horse and buggy.

Early adopters got stares and heaps of negative input. But pretty soon internal combustion started looking viable and more and more investors started getting on board. It seems like the EV is right at that point. There's an ever growing segment of tinkerers out there, hacking away at designs and modifications. But there's also an increasing number of options for people who want to get on board with an off-the-shelf vehicle.

We're still at the stage where if you buy one you're labeled a bit, but not in such a laughing way as a few years ago. It is a little odd to buy a vehicle that even with breaks and subsidies costs more that what you'll save using it. And you'll basically be beta testing a bunch of new systems. And even with all the different options out there you're still pretty much guaranteed to be in an urban subset of somewhat wealthy people that just drive a few miles to work and stop off at Fourbucks.

For guys like me it's a bit of a different story. I'm interested, but not until somebody comes out with an electric three quarter ton van with a 5000 pound towing capacity, a 400 mile range and a price tag that won't break the bank. The days are numbered for my Chevy V-8 though with a lot of heavy hitters starting to get into things like battery and motor design.

One cool thing to think about is the ultimate source of the "killer app" that tips the EV industry over the edge. MP3 players were just geek toys until Apple came out with the iPod, now they're the pinnacle. It's fun to wonder what scrappy start-up will finally crack the battery dilemma or solve the charging issue and so on. (Not that my hopes are up too high but I'd be perfectly all right with driving an Apple truck. Service vans are already white and chrome. Can you imagine the sex appeal?!)

At any rate, time is compressing. As an avid reader of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science when I was a kid I'd read these articles about coming technologies and wonder what it would be like in twenty years when they finally got developed and caught on (or not). Now it seems like the number of issues between futuristic idea and product advertisement wouldn't supply bathroom reading for a week.

Anyway, I'm sitting back to ponder it all and dream of a not-too-distant day when I'll wave at you as I go humming by.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

In The Shadow Of The Mushroom Cloud

A while ago I was writing about a favorite song of mine that goes, "We who grew up tall and proud, in the shadow of the mushroom cloud." For some reason there's been all kinds of mentions of Hiroshima in the media lately, I haven't had time to see why but it's been prickling the back of my mind.

It seems like there's a tendency to periodically dredge up tragedies so we people can grieve some more. Hiroshima, Pearl Harbor, Attica. Even as the number of people still around who were actually there dwindles we still bring this stuff up. It seems kind of lame and even counter productive but there is some value to it I think.

Back in the early Eighties when I was a wee school boy classes were still watching civil defense films from the Sixties. The school did have one Betamax rig but the majority of our moving media was viewed by threading 16mm film stock through the old Ektar projectors. (In second grade I was the one doing the threading.) While these movies are the stuff of folly nowadays, picked over when people need quaint/disturbing footage for video montages, they were actually still pretty relevant back then.

Little Tony wouldn't have survived an Eighties-era multi-megaton blast under his checkered picnic blanket, but the awareness those movies generated was of a high level. Of course now, schools are too timid to show students anything like that, and nuclear blasts are the stuff of video games. It's apparently much more important to educate kindergartners about lesbians and make sure that no one keeps score at the soccer game.

I'm not really sure what it was that I wanted to say here. I guess it's just that I hope somehow people manage to see something meaningful in the media these days. Footage of 9-11 is so censored in the media that if you didn't see it when it happened you will never know what it looked like. And that was something malicious that was done to us. The mushroom cloud footage is one of the most iconic images on the planet, and that was something malicious we did. It's a different era.

I guess it's up to us as parents to educate our little ones on some of this stuff. Don't worry, they can handle it. We did. It's up to us to make sure that the significance of major events around us registers with them. Otherwise, world changing events like Hiroshima will be nothing but video snippets grabbed to generate irony in music videos. I don't know about you but the image of a mushroom cloud is one of the most hideous, bone chilling things I've ever seen. That's why twenty years ago it was such an effective image for Megadeth to incorporate into their videos. Now, does it mean anything? Black Sabbath using an air raid siren in a song chilled the Brits to their very cores. Now it's just a sample.

Generating a culture of fear isn't the idea here. There was a good deal of that doing on when I was in school. Thanks to popular culture I have an irrational fear of Russians. The Commie Menace in reality can barely keep body and soul together. Perspective is important. Anyway, enough doom and gloom. I'm off to try and balance some of this out with a cup of coffee and a pleasant viewing of my section of America the Beautiful. Made even more so by the fact that it is at present unmarred by destruction.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mr Know-It-All

My paternal grandfather did a lot to make his mark around town. In addition to being a crack math teacher and beloved superintendent of the local school he just did everything. He was a master vegetable gardener, an athlete well into his eighties, contributed to nearly everything going on around him in some way or another and read voraciously, constantly.

He, and others, sometimes referred to a time not so long ago when a person really could know it all. The body of knowledge possessed by the human race has only in the last couple hundred years gotten so large that being fluent in all areas of study has become an impossibility. Once upon a time you really could be a know-it-all.

My grandfather was now and then referred to as "the worst kind of know-it-all... he really does know it all!" Not that it was true, but he had an uncanny ability to put forth some sort of factoid about nearly anything at all you wanted to discuss. I pride myself in following in his footsteps to some small degree. Although my friends are a lot younger than his friends were so they in comparison obviously don't know as much.

But it brings me around to my point, and that is: You really should be a know-it-all.

There's something eminently desirable about being a Renaissance Man. A guy who knows about classical art and how to gap a spark plug. A person who grasps the subtleties of timeless musical works, and knows how to get your computer going again after a crash. Someone with an inkling about French cuisine, who also knows how to cook a rockin' good beer brat. You get the idea.

I'm off to read some more...

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Rembrandt

When I was in college studying theatrical lighting design I was faced with a minimum course requirement that put me officially on overload. I think it was if you were over 18 credit hours per semester. That left me looking for the easy way out on my liberal arts credits. I fount it right off the bat in a prof that taught art history, specifically baroque art.

It served me quite well. The classes were an absolute breeze. All you had to do was show up reasonably often, look at slides of paintings without falling asleep, and remember something about them come test time. I took every class she offered. And if not for her I would never have known about Caravaggio, which was quite the boon to the young student of lighting design. (That Bernini ain't no slouch neither.)

At any rate, one morning while peering up at the screen I got smacked in the face with this particular beauty of a sketch. It's a self portrait of Rembrandt, done when he was a similar age to myself at the time. And there I sat, looking at one of the most highly regarded of the Classical Masters... in a funny hat with a silly look on his face.

Now that is something I can identify with!

I don't think I need to go on at length about taking yourself too seriously. Just get out the silly hat and make a face. Go ahead and post the results here, I'd love to see em.

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