Monday, November 1, 2010

Home Recording vs. the World

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.” - Hunter S. Thompson

Having recently anted up and started amassing a collection of Live Audio Recording equipment I have started treading in social circles with whole new rules of exclusivity and elitism.

One of my problems I am sure is that I refuse to be relegated to a particular niche.  "Home Recording" is treated as a "hobby" and therefore the "professionals" want little to do with you because you represent a potential threat to their business.

Simply the Idea that you can build a Good Enough studio yourself is something that pro studios do not want you to embrace. That is fair I suppose.  Part of it however is the economics.  When studio time is extremely expensive, that money could be going towards buying your own gear.  

There is some math to that - how often do you really go in the studio?  If you had unlimited funds, how much time would you spend there?  It's a cost-factor justification to be sure.  The "hobby" aspect comes in when you Want To Learn.

That is where another perceived threat to the Pros comes in - people learning their Secrets.  The real threat barely exists.  Experience is what you need to learn.  Pros have it & everyone else is groping for it in the dark.  Of course the Idea that you can Learn makes some people undervalue that experience perhaps - so is the threat real?

So the final product?  No.  The Pros will, on average, steadily outperform the home-studio guys.
The business?  Maybe - in that if people think that they can do it themselves they might stop considering Pro services as an option - at least until they hit that brick wall called the Final Product. (see above)

What I do know is that though a $300 microphone doesn't have the same capabilities as a $10k microphone - if you plug it into the rest of the gear that you use with that $300 microphone, you won't get the best performance out of it.  You need to upgrade EVERYTHING in the circuit path.  Brother, that is expensive.   So the pecking order is long indeed. 

I also know that you don't need expensive gear to make good music.  Stories about the gear that Bo Diddley and his band scrimped up, borrowed or stole so they could play just proves that you can make do with anything in a pinch.  It's all about bringing the best you can in a given week.

Monday, October 25, 2010


The site got to be a downer. And I just stopped posting.


Monday, June 28, 2010

On the Surface

This is an animation from CNN that shows the oil that is on the surface and how that has progressed over time.

The big question of course is - how much oil is below the surface?  And where is all of that? The whole idea of "dispersants" (with names dripping in spin-doctoring like "Corexit") is to hide the mess by making the oil invisible to the public by making it no longer float.

If you look at the frame from June 8 in particular you will notice a large breakaway swath to the south-east, off of the coast of Florida.  Where did that go?  Did it retreat back to the main mass or did it "disperse"?

What exactly are the effects of 100 million gallons of oil - "dispersed" in sea-water?  Is that considered "cleaned up"?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Real Glimpses of What is Going On

The images that are now slowing coming out of the cleanup effort are horrific.

What is more, now we are getting revised estimates of the size of the leak that are between 2 - 4 times greater than previously released.

So to revise my previous math - it has now been 48 days.  A barrel of oil is 55 gallons.  Most people can relate to a gallon jug of milk or water more easily than to a 55 gallon drum that you could easily fit a human body into.  Maybe thinking of the drums as coffins is a better metaphor...  regardless:
Let us take the average number from the estimate.  That is 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.  So we will call it 15,500 barrels a day.  15,500 x 48 days = 744,000 barrels x 55 gallons = 40,920,000

Try to picture 40 million gallons of milk in your head.... you can't do it.

So let's go back to bodies - the space required to hold all of that oil will roughly hold 750,000 people.  To put that into perspective - at my last count there were something like 130,000 US troops in Iraq and about 100,000 in Afghanistan.  So take all of our deployed forces and multiply it by three and you're still not there...

The worst part of all of this was knowing, not thinking, knowing what was going to unfold & not being able to do a damned thing but watch the Gulf of Mexico die in slow motion...

My next prediction is also just horrific - my best guess is that Manatees will be extinct in the wild in <5 years.  Where are they going to go & what are they going to eat?  They are doomed.

Last Chance to See...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

BP and Spin Control

What I just heard on the radio  is too damned upsetting... I had a disclaimer in place here as I researched the links in this post, which is about the people whom are being paid by BP as cleanup workers for the spill in the gulf.  But I have since pulled it as the information that I am finding not only backs these claims up, but adds weight to them.

As I understand it, to get hired you must sign a contract that prohibits you from talking to the media under penalty of being fired.  So right there - few of the cleanup crews are talking to the media.  These are the only people who are legally seeing the spill first-hand since you are otherwise not allowed to take a boat out in the effected areas of the Gulf.  In many cases BP is using the local police to chase media crews away from filming oil on the beaches.

The result is as BP intended: precious little first-hand information about the cleanup is getting out.

Secondly, Louisiana Shrimpers Association acting President Clint Guidry has alleged that  BP is prohibiting cleanup workers from wearing protective masks.  One can only assume this is intended to prevent pictures from being published with such masks being present.  While some cleanup workers have grown ill and are blaming it on contact with the chemical dispersants that are being used.
BP has stated  that testing has shown that "airborne contaminants are well within safe limits."

Adding credibility to the Guidry's claim after growing ill as a cleanup worker himself, shrimper John Wunstell Jr. has gone so far as to file for a restraining order to stop BP from seizing and destroying worker’s clothes and prohibiting the use of masks.  BP's CEO suggested that an alternate cause for his condition was food poisoning.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Disaster in Progress

It has been 16 days since the explosion that caused the death of 11 people and started the ecological disaster now underway in the Gulf of Mexico.  Depending on which estimate you hear from BP the numbers have changed - however the largest number that I heard was 200,000 gallons a day.  200,000 x 16 = 3.2 million gallons.  By way of reference the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska was 10.8 million gallons. That spill still hasn't been cleaned up.

The latest news is still the same news - the plan is to attempt to put a dome over the leaking well - like an inverted funnel - that will be used to control the output.  This is an extremely risky venture for the people who will be doing it. The pressures involved at that depth are ludicrous.  Add to that the pressure of the oil and the gas that caused the original explosion and this is nothing like a business-as-usual situation.  There is a fair chance that his will not work - leaving the situation without an announced contingency plan.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Steve vs. The Flash

Steve Jobs has some things to say about Flash.

With regards to what he has to say in the first place - sometimes is actually is compelling - but other times, the reality warping field leads to a rhetoric that is somewhat.. broken.

"There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world."

[ahem] Windows [cough] [cough]

I believe that the real problem is what is buried in the 5th point he is trying to make - the only measurable difference:

"Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn’t use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover."

The interface is so revolutionary that is it missing a feature: "mouse-overs"

"Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?"

For that reason then entire website needs to be rewritten?  This is an amazing leap - because HTML5 and JavaScript support mouse-overs too.  It is not a Flash-only feature.

I can easily think of a "mode" where you can add a pointer to the screen that looks like a mouse pointer and be required to double-tap in order to "press" a button.  Being able to switch on-the-fly would enable you to leverage the best of both UI concepts - the "old" revolution (mouse-based) and the "new" revolutionary UI - multitouch.

It is a simple design compromise and therein lies the reason why it will never happen: The Steve doesn't do compromise.

So if you are a web-designer and you want to use mouse-overs you are out of luck.  Forget that they exist in the API.  It was a typo.  Nothing to see here - move along.

Last Chance to See

Today (technically yesterday now) was a strange day for me.  It was the last day of my vacation and I was in New Orleans.  I got up this morning and ate with friends as is our habit for our annual Jazz-Fest pilgrimage.  
We ate some of the largest crawdaddies that I have ever seen. We ate turtle soup, shrimp and alligator sausage.  Just the other night I we had a few dozen fresh oysters served three different ways,

But I saw on television how the oil that is pouring out of BP's well was threatening landfall on the barrier islands in the high-wind today and I am filled with thoughts of doom.  The indigenous wildlife that is the wellspring from which the culture flows is under an assault no less catastrophic than Katrina and it is happening in a time-lapse day to day manner.

As my plane was leaving to come home today we were told by our pilot that Air Force One was taking off and we would be delayed for a period of time.  Prior to that the highway that we took to get to the airport was apparently completely shut down about an hour prior to us coming in.  I indeed saw two C-5 Galaxys at the airport on the way in.   

While it is true that the effort being expended by thousands of workers in the area to lay booms and barriers of many kinds to stop what is being called by BP "sheen" as opposed to "spill" or "slick".  [I actually heard one of the BP spokespeople correcting a reporter and shortly thereafter the weatherman on that same local news broadcast was using the 'correct' term.]  Still I am extremely concerned that all of this has happened to being with - from the workers losing their lives in the initial explosion of the Deep Horizon oil platform to the impending ecological disaster of the century that will cost the local economy there so very dearly.  

How can it be that it was permissible for the risk to exist for a disaster of this magnitude to occur?  Is the amount of potential wealth involved so great that they can afford the costs that are going to be involved in truly cleaning this up?  How can that be considered to be "OK"?  Where is the proper oversight?  Do the words "Risk Management" just mean nothing when dealing with this kind of money?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bring Down IE6

No really.  This is a good idea.

“IE6 is the new Netscape 4. The hacks needed to support IE6 are increasingly viewed as excess freight. Like Netscape 4 in 2000, IE6 is perceived to be holding back the web.”
- Jeff Zeldman, standards guru

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Learning Jython

In the course of my work I am learning the Jython dialect of the Python programming language.

Rather than spend all that time just teaching it to myself - I thought I would make the journey available to everyone:

I will be updating this shared document over time.  So feel free to take the journey with me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

If you ever wanted to know who "THEY" are...

As a Republican and as a US Citizen I find this extremely embarrassing:

RNC document mocks donors, plays on 'fear'

I am going to own it because I have been saying "Dude, where's my Party" for more than a decade now.

If you were to go around saying that the Republican Party was acting in this way, playing off of people's fears for example - you would be called "Paranoid" at best and at worst a "Conspiracy Theorist" and would promptly be invited to don a tinfoil yamaka.

But if you look at the slide above - that is the first thing on the list to play on when trying to get funds by direct marketing.

So at what point do we point to corporate interests having more sway with politicians than citizens do and slick corporate public relations and marketing being used to further an unpopular agenda with mountains of propaganda in concert with actual military and police brutality being used to quell dissent - when do we start calling it Fascism?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

With Great Freedom Comes Great Liability

Just as you may not shout "Fire" in a theatre during a performance, apparently you may not mouth-off on Twitter for fear of being taken too seriously either.

Given the way that people are taking everything written and blowing it out of proportion to look for some kind of threat in everything - I am starting to understand why Hunter S. Thompson didn't want to live in this world.  His outburst-laden style would have had him interrogated on a regular basis.

What is especially weird about this to me is that the simple fact that something was sent as a Tweet - seemed to be the thing that made the authorities take it seriously.  If it was some guy making emotional statements in the back of a taxi cab - no one would care.  If it was some guy yelling on a sidewalk in New York City - no one would care.  If it was an email that was sent from one person to all of his friends - no one would care.  But the fact that somehow in the daily tsunami of information that is millions of people tweeting - this guy stood out.

That is a little telling to me.  One can infer that there is a mass-search taking place of ALL tweets on a daily basis - and that law enforcement is on the receiving end of that information somehow.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

And So It Begins...

The breaking news today is that China is telling Obama not to meet with the Dalai Lama.

They are making thinly veiled threats about economic warfare.

To his credit, President Obama held firmly that he absolutely intends to meet with the Dalai Lama.

Keep in mind that the US recently made a deal to sell Taiwan $6.4Billion worth of weapons.

I think this will go much further.

During the Clinton presidency I distinctly remember seeing the First Family sitting in a box in Tiananmen Square watching a military parade and thinking to myself that not even a decade had passed since the massacre and how ashamed I felt for us to sell out the protesters.

Not long after that I distinctly remember freaking out about Chinese war-games off the coast of Taiwan while everyone else worried about where Monica kept her cigars.  The one event emboldened China to make the other happen.

Back then everything we bought in terms of electronics was made in Taiwan.  In 15 years a lot has changed. Now everything we buy is made in China.  They have been engaging in economic warfare against Taiwan for the entire time.  China claims Taiwan as it's own 'rogue province'.  There is the ever-present threat that they will at some point attempt annexation.

Our own engagement with China during this time has fueled their economic growth and at the same time given rise to Walmart and every other distributor of cheaply manufactured goods.  The lure of extremely cheap manufacturing is an addictive force that no large business can apparently resist.

What happens if the kinder & gentler China suddenly "pulls the plug" and goes into a hard-line mode?  What if they turn their backs on intellectual property law and instead take all of the designs to the world's most popular gadgets that they have sitting in their factories right now - and take the ball & run with it?  What if they put up every piece of software ever written on the internet for free?  What if they cashed in all of the treasury bonds that they currently hold all at once?  What if they outright invaded Taiwan?  How many different ways can they dramatically threaten US interests?

This marks the beginning of a newer and more aggressive phase in Chinese politics.  China telling a US President whom he may and may not meet with is audacious at best and outright threatening at worst.  That they are willing to make such a move is at the very least a test of resolve.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It is Official - Behold the iPad

No, really!

You think you're getting one for free from a burning bush?  What have you been smoking?

OK OK, you want to type like your father did and not just on the screen?  (or maybe that dead spot on your screen is stealing the q's from your documents?)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Government-made Terror-Mule

The Slovakian government is completely insane and highly dysfunctional.  Apparently they planted enough plastic explosives on an unknowing airplane passenger's luggage to blow that plane out of the sky.

This was supposedly part of a Slovakian government-run "unconventional security operation" where eight different items were planted on people to test if those items were found during airport screening.

It was not found.  The seven others apparently were - but not the RDX planted on this particular unnamed traveler.

Interestingly when the Slovakian authorities finally contacted the Irish police - three days later - and told them of the test - they fell on the innocent man unwittingly used as a government mule like ravenous raptors, raiding his apartment in Dublin, arresting him, interrogating him, and charging him with being a terrorist.

The Slovakian government then had to convince to the Irish police of the innocence of the man.  Clearly the Irish police took their frustration for being left out of the loop on such an operation out upon the poor man who was used as a stooge by his own government.  Remember - after the Slovakian government contacted the Irish police and had already explained the situation they still charged the man in question rather than merely confiscating the explosives.

While the Irish and the Slovakian authorities try to figure out the legality of such tests - it is left for the rest of the Citizens of the World to wonder what our own governments might end up planting in our luggage.

I have, for example, had Italian cookies stolen from my luggage by security inspectors (I had specifically purchased a sealed container for the purpose of travelling home with it & declared it on my paperwork when coming into the country so the word "confiscated" does not apply.  They did not inform me of it either.) and I have found an umbrella that was not my own in my luggage after it had been searched - making me wonder how many bags are opened & searched at one time where they can mix up people's property.

The best solution to this problem is the same one I propose for all luggage-related issues when flying : ship your bags ahead of you via Federal Express or UPS.  Take nothing on the plane except what fits in your pockets.  The baggage handlers/throwers have no respect for your property to begin with and what you are allowed to take onto the plane can shift so rapidly that you will be required to throw your property in the garbage at the security checkpoint.  I recently saw a pile of discarded laptop cases for example.

In times of old people used to ship their wardrobes ahead of them in steamer trunks.  In the modern age I think that this practice might come into vogue again - if only to minimize the hassle at the security checkpoint.

What is interesting about this practice though is that it actually makes you stand out to the security staff when you travel with no bags.  So there is no real 'win win' scenario, but at least if you have no bags your government can not plant things in them without your knowledge.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chinese Government Hacks Google

Things are getting pretty serious over at Google with regards to .  It would seem that there was a large-scale effort to root out dissidents by hacking into Google and up to 20 different companies and the Chinese Government is implicated.

To put this in proper perspective - what you have to look at is simply .  That is the number one search engine in China, not Google.  They are eating Google's cheeze on a large-scale while emulating them across the board.  What is interesting is when you crunch the numbers with regards to the number of users.  There are a LOT of people in China with computers today.

The implications with regards to human rights and the freedom of speech are very deep indeed.  I find this particularly fascinating since most large tech companies today are doing everything that they can to do business with China.  Bucking this trend in the name of actual freedoms is a political move that fits perfectly with their original mantra of "Don't Be Evil".

But it has taken them a while to properly define 'Evil' in this context.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Too Many Tweets...

How many whales does it take to sink an internet startup?

That is the question that the Twitter User Experience team needs to consider.

I really liked twitter.  It was as anonymous as you wanted it to be.  It could be used with laser-like precision for communicating tons of short updates about just about any damned thing that no one really cares about.

The opt-in/out mechanism is straightforward and the opportunities to game the system are little more than a nuisance.

But how many times do I have to try to tweet & get this stupid message before I just give up?

Worse - how do I depend on this as a professional service for other people to find my information through?

Monday, January 4, 2010

World of Warcraft & Your Privacy

It would seem that a deputy wrote a subpeona to Blizzard Entertainment asking for information to finger a suspect that that fled to Canada.  This was based on information that the suspect that he was looking for actively played World of Warcraft.

It would seem that Blizzard complied enthusiastically and provided among other things, an IP address.  That IP address then provided longitude & latitude information in a "search" which was then put into Google Earth to find a street address.

That address was then given to the Royal Canadian Mounties and the Canadian Border Services Agency who deported him.  Marshals then picked him up in Minneapolis.

What is interesting here is that the Sheriff that the deputy works for has never seen a "fugitive" located in Canada before.  So this is clearly above & beyond what is "normal".

Friday, January 1, 2010

Facebook and Your Privacy

Recently Facebook implemented some changes to their privacy policy.  The intention that they announced was that they wanted to offer you more control of your privacy settings in order to respect your privacy, bla bla bla.

Whatever the reason - they made it extremely easy for you to completely open up your account to EVERYONE by default.

I use a pseudonym on Facebook - so don't bother looking for me unless you actually know me.  Even so you might say that I keep the settings on the "most paranoid" mode.  But as you can clearly see above - by default they wanted to give out all of my information short of my actual Address.  (As though I would actually put it up there?)

You could actually mouse-over the old settings radio buttons & see a popup that displayed what the settings actually were.

But my point is that if you were 'in a hurry' or not willing to read through this carefully - you would find yourself utterly compromised.

I think that this happened to many people recently.  It is an observable and testable fact that the majority of people just click through complicated screens in a hurry to get to what they want.  With the compulsive nature of Facebook use that happened quite a lot. 

Cyber-stalkers of the world rejoice and use this opportunity while it lasts!  People will catch on soon enough & change their settings back - but for a little while - anyone whom might have been unavailable to you just might be wide open right now.