Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Zero-G coffee cup!

Miles Abernathy, N5KOB, sends this news along:
This is remarkable! Watch the 2-minute video of the zero-G coffee cup for astronauts, invented by an astronaut.

More explanation is here.
All this brings to mind the interesting sociological aspects of how folks will live their lives away from the heavy dose of planetary gravity grip in the International Space Station and future orbital environments. Will they overwhelmingly adapt their environments to mirror the life below or will they choose the opportunity to come up with new ones, changing social situations along the way?


Monday, November 24, 2008

!!! Google, gurgle, blub!!!

I just finished reading an interesting but worried note on the NYTimes Media & Advertising segment on-line, titled "Google Seduces With Utility". In the guise of seeming to worry about the ubiquity of Google tentacles into his life, the author manages to expose all the new and exciting products and tools the company has available for one low price: free. If you worry about such things, this is a good read. If you revel in such things, this is a good read. If you just want to find out what is going on and hear the buzz, this is a good read.

Or tell me why you don't want to.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cold War...cold shoulder

I was catching up this afternoon with the news on the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) site, when I found an article that floored my sensibilities. This article dealt with a young man who listened to other countries' shortwave broadcasts back in the period of time we call the "Cold War" era. A large percentage of shortwave listeners collected verification cards to show their friends which of the stations they had actually snagged on the receivers they so dearly loved. To get one of these cards required (in the era before email and the Internet) the listener to send a letter to the station, requesting the card and giving details of the signal strength of the station received, their receiver and antenna setup, and details of the program(s) listened to, along with the date and time the station was received.

The teen received a card from (among others) "Radio Habana" in Cuba. As the article explains, his "mom -- who was the local draft board lady -- got a call from the FBI and Greg had to explain why he was 'in contact' with Radio Habana. When he explained that he was just a shortwave listener, the FBI told Greg that if he never contacted Radio Habana again, his mother could keep her job!"

That threat to the livelihood of the mother of a teen radio listener and hobbyist...a hobbyist who was doing nothing wrong, and who was pursuing an innocent hobby, seems to me very shocking. But, at the same time, my own veneer of hardness continues toward my government's frequently misplaced and probably illegal actions towards its own citizens through the decades of my life.

How else can you view something reported like this?

Interviews without words: Perspectives

There's a video project that I read about tonight over the Internet. It is called "Perspectives".

The makers of the video series came up with a really different take on interviewing: the interviewees don’t actually say anything. The series leaves only body language, pauses for thought, and interjections to do the communicating, while removing all the actual words the interviewees use to answer the question put to them by the interviewer.

The description on the site says, "Each episode is a selfcontained expression—mysterious, bite-sized, entertaining. But it isn’t until you watch several in a row that you begin to see the beauty of it, and it starts to work on a different level."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Almost-lost Video: Dave Brubeck in Australia

An almost lost April, 1962, Australian performance of Dave Brubeck Quartet hosted by Digby Wolfe. The film was saved from destruction in 1984 and now is with the Australian National Film and Sound Archive. A 1" PAL telecine transfer of the film was sent to Dave Brubeck's management in the mid 90s.

This version of the quartet was:
Dave Brubeck, piano
Paul Desmond, sax
Eugene Wright, bass
Joe Morello, percussion

Craven Filter Cigarettes sponsor, #1, "I'm In a Dancing Mood"

#2, "It's a Raggy Waltz"

#3 "Unsquare Dance" with dancers! dancers Carlu Carter and Bill McGrath

#4, "Rule Brittania"

#5, "When You're Smiling"/"Don't Worry 'Bout Me" (Laurie Loman, singer)

#6, "Blue Rondo a la Turk"

#7, closing credit (I don't recognize the piece)

If you have problems watching this resolution, delete the "&fmt=22" off the end of each URL when you watch it. Comments welcome.

How to watch many YouTube videos in higher quality

On many YouTube videos (IF you have good bandwidth), you can get 720p digital format with less pixelation if you add the characters
on the end of the URL for the video and click Enter again to see it in much better quality. Comment whether this works for you or not. It worked well for me tonight.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Animals and such...on hand

Here's a link for a collection of 22 images concerning painted animals and such on hands (and feet). This one is a commercial site for "fine art bodypainting". I'm sure there must be some odd level of satisfaction in doing so, but I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would pay lots of money to paint their cat. Perhaps they are starved for conversation topics or have some fetish. I just don't think I want to go there in any case.

This fellow seems obsessed, since he spent about 30 hours with the various levels of paint on the front of his body during this video of the seemingly frantic period of painting those who have influenced his life on that canvas. He says it represents:
30 different people that influenced my life were painted one on top of another on my torso. I either painted a picture of the person or an object that represents the person.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Laurie Anderson's "Difficult Listening Hour"/"O Superman"

My heart skips a beat when someone says we're going to hear or see Laurie Anderson perform. I can't help it. Her off-the-scale mind trips take me places that nobody else seems able to effect in me. Listening to performances is something that you have to invent images for. But WATCHING Laurie Anderson perform and hearing a piece for the first time that she's prepared is so jarring to the imagination that you are instantly SUCKED INTO IT. The willing suspension of disbelief happens when you realize it is her, when the lights go down and come back up to find that you've been somewhere else for a while.

The performance linked above was "Difficult Listening Hour" from "The Kitchen Presents Two Moon July" television show and was from the UbuWeb Film and Video page. The page states:
UbuWeb is pleased to present dozens of avant-garde films & videos for your viewing pleasure. However, it is important to us that you realize that what you will see is in no way comparable to the experience of seeing these gems as they were intended to be seen: in a dark room, on a large screen, with a good sound system and, most importantly, with a roomful of warm, like-minded bodies.

However, we realize that the real thing isn't very easy to get to. Most of us don't live anywhere near theatres that show this kind of fare and very few of us can afford the hefty rental fees, not to mention the cumbersome equipment, to show these films. Thankfully, there is the internet which allows you to get a whiff of these films regardless of your geographical location.

We realize that the films we are presenting are of poor quality. It's not a bad thing; in fact, the best thing that can happen is that seeing a crummy shockwave file will make you want to make a trip to New York to the Anthology Film Archives or the Lux Cinema in London (or other places around the world showing similar fare). Next best case scenario will be that you will be enticed to purchase a high quality DVD from the noble folks trying to get these works out into the world. Believe me, they're not doing it for the money.
And then they suggest that you buy the films and videos of the artists represented, as well as that you go to see the performances in venues near you. I live in a small farming community in the middle of nowhere in south Texas. This is as good as it gets for a while for me. But you...? That's another story, isn't it? Do what you can.

This plant will not shock you

Let's see now...hmmm. Coulda been (original to this application):
Power to the people

Keep on pluggin'

Socket to me

I'm very cableble, oshifer
Cut the CORD! Cut the CORD!
In an octopus's garden (sic)

The Wisdom project

A good friend sent a link to the movie segment of this project today. I watched the movie, I looked at the rest of the site, and now I'm writing this introduction to it all. There is not a lot for me to add, other than my profound appreciation for the effort that went into the whole task, the foresight of the founders of the project, the acuity of the book and movie authors/producers in selecting these segments or photos to have available as the final mark of the effort expended and the wisdom to be passed along.

The concept:
Inspired by the idea that one of the greatest gifts one generation can pass to another is the wisdom it has gained from experience, the Wisdom project, produced with cooperation from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seeks to create a record of a multicultural group of people who have all made their mark on the world. Presented against the same white space, all of the subjects are removed from their context, which not only democratizes them, but also allows for a clear dialogue to exist between them. In an attempt to create a more profound, honest, and truly revealing portrait of these luminaries, the project encompasses their voices, their physical presence, and the written word. This comprehensive portrayal of such a profound and global group is an index of extraordinary perspectives.
Please follow the link above.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

For the Nation, one man under God...

This is for a buddy, who posts as Joe Nation:


It is just so very good to see that you're back. Back in the saddle; back from overseas; back from the land of dreams that you stayed in too long that day; back from the nadir of nada. Back from the clouds that darken, drain and deceive. Back from desolate days with dry rain of loss of hope and dust storms of gain of fear; running from the sun and baying at the moon as it bounces off the mirrored skins of nearby buildings in your town.

There's a bounce in your keyboard that didn't come from JAVA...or FORTRAN...or FLASH in the pants. It didn't even come from BASIC. Or a little doggie pill. Or even a blue human one. Your words wash and twist and turn like Ali getting ready for a fight, training with arms held tight and body loose, sweat dripping off and steady with the knowledge of what's to come.

I can tell that sometimes (not always) smiles wreathe your face like the imaginary smoke from your jostled subway commuter neighbor. Brightening those in the store, in your vicinity and even strangers who glimpse you from afar.

You don't need a chip or a tee (no matter the size, don't bother to look) to win the race that used to be outside your range of triumph or defeat. It's in your grasp now. Suck in some wind and blink away the sunshine and grip the grimy street surface with your shoes and SPRINT! There's no water or juice or carbs or hydrates needed for this race.

The finish line isn't in sight, but you're almost there. Your heart won't burst, but you run as if there's no tomorrow, legs pumping, heart pumping, a rictus of a smile pasted on your puss.

You forget gravity and the last couple of years and time flies by and conversations happen and music is heard, dances danced, people clapped on their backs...

and then you blink and look in the BIG MIRROR and gasp as you realize that...

You're happy again.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Flash! goes the light in my shop!

The deed is done on the 12'x12' workshop electrification project. 18 yards of 10-12" deep trench, finished by a tin can to dump all the dirt out. An electrician friend did the electrical parts. We have lunch once or twice weekly and he rides to ham club with me every month. WHAT A PAL!

Everything that can hurt does hurt...a lot. As I told one correspondent: these hands are used to throw Frisbees and type on keyboards...not smash shovels into hard, dry dirt, swing grubbing hoe/picks for hours on end (with rests about every ten minutes...I am getting on in years) and using leather-palm gloves to use tin cans to scrape and toss all the dirt in the trench. Two Aleve tabs and prolly an early-to-bed for me. The hands will get over the cramping, trembling and bruising in a few days. All is well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Field scope use for iPhone

Well, this isn't great, but it reminds me of using a cell phone camera in a pinch out in the field, when the proper tool isn't available. It seems that this version is very limited in that it can only analyze the sounds that come into the microphone hole in the phone. Therefore, in many circumstances, you would have to put yourself into odd positions to aim the microphone at the source you are trying to analyze, while simultaneously trying to hold the phone where you could view the results. That seems not only a challenge to do, it was quite a challenge to adequately describe in a meaningful way.

If any readers actually try this, I would surely like to read the results.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tributes: A Cappella <==> Amore

From friends Judy and Steve, we see (stick with us here, it builds):

Watch a tribute to composer John Williams and "Star Wars".

Once you've regained your composure from that and you're ready,
then move along to a funky breakdown to "Waste Time".

If that seemed good to you and you're still okay, then this more expansive
tribute to the spiritual piece, "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho"
might impress you.

Are you ready to be amazed? Here's a tribute to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in 64 parts! done by François Macré.

That concludes our tributes for this post. I hope you are now in the mood to hang around and SING! a cappella.

You're welcome...No, thank YOU!

Veteran's Day

There is that time each year when Veteran's Day rolls around. Just about to a person, each person I know who IS a veteran of military service during a foreign war think that they really don't deserve the high praise that abounds on this holiday celebration. "We were just doing our job," is the statement heard most often. As a matter of fact, the speaker probably WAS just doing their job. There is little room for showboating or trying to stand out in the rigid confines of the military world. One does their work and follows orders to the best of whatever level of ability they possess.

People come up after church when the veterans are recognized and say, "Thank you." What else can one reply except "You're welcome" to that statement? Well, I've always wanted to speak out when we are recognized in church.

I've wanted to say to the assembled, thankful people, "No, thank YOU. Thank you for the money to pay our salary that sustained us during our national service. Thank you for taking care of our loved ones while we were away on active duty. Thank you for not caring that we came into the work force late or finished our education a few years later than we 'should have' by normal standards. Thank you for holding up that standard of societal rule of law that we could look back to returning to in civilian life after living in the midst of war and turmoil, strife and danger. Thank YOU!"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Walk of faith: no matter the length of stride

A friend sent this video under the subject of "Cure for self pity". After watching it and having damp eyes during the inspirational speech concerning the ministry of Nick Vujicic that is telling folks about faith in the future as seen by someone without arms or legs in this modern world, I have decided that I'd more like to characterize it as "Walk of faith: no matter the length of stride" and let the viewer approach it from another direction.

Here, check it out!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Flanging a rock

There are things that happen in the analog world that encourage innovation in the electronic world. One such occurrence is the invention of the "flanging" effect in producing music recordings for sale. It was first accomplished by synchronizing the playback of two recordings, then varying the speed of one of the two slightly to produce an eerie effect in the music output. The phase difference in the one that was not the same as the base recording is very hard to describe. But once you've heard it, it definitely will stick in your memory. The history of such recordings is here. One of the first if not the first very popular recordings can be heard here: "The Big Hurt" from 1959 by Miss Toni Fisher. Another popular version of the same piece can be heard here: this one is by singer/guitarist Del Shannon and also includes the flanging effect. Credit for the invention of this effect goes to the guitar and multi-track recording wizard, Les Paul. He did his recording direct to disks with no tape involved.

A more technical discussion of the effect with graphics is here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Salute the grand old..."Robin Williams"?

Some people get to have lots of fun on stage. This video is one of those times. I think it is obvious that Robin Williams as the American Flag is something worth watching. Let me know if you agree.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A story may be your moth...er...

A friend told me about this storytelling set. He sent a recording along for me to listen to from a recorder he'd set in front of a radio's speaker. As soon as I finished listening to the story (which was simply a great story!), I searched for the name given at the end of the broadcast. Wow. I wasn't expecting to find such a mother lode of stories to listen to whilst on the road. Texas highways being what they always are: very, very, very long and black with little stripes running lengthwise. They need something to keep the mind from going into a trance. Bad things happen to he who trances out on a driving trip. Here's the solution. Hear the story.

What is The Moth?

The Moth, a not-for-profit storytelling organization, was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon's Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his friend Wanda's porch. After moving to New York, George missed the sense of connection he had felt sharing stories with his friends back home, and he decided to invite a few friends over to his New York apartment to tell and hear stories. Thus the first "Moth" evening took place in his living room. Word of these captivating story nights quickly spread, and The Moth moved to bigger venues in New York. Today, The Moth conducts six ongoing programs and has brought more than 3,000 live stories to over 100,000 audience members.

Why "The Moth"?

The screen around Wanda's porch had a hole where moths would flutter in and get trapped in the light. Similarly, George and his friends found that the characters in their best stories would often find themselves drawn to some bright light—of adventure, ambition, knowledge—but then find themselves burned or trapped, leaving them with some essential conflict to face before the story could reach its conclusion. So George and his original group of storytellers called themselves "The Moths". George took the name with him to New York, where he hoped that New Yorkers, too, would find themselves drawn to storytelling as moths to a flame. They did. With no advertising, through sheer word of mouth, every show to date has sold out in 48 hours or less.

Their home page is here. They do accept monetary support, but that is not what I'm telling you about. Their podcasts are found here. Grab a bag o' podcasts & your MP3 player, warm up the car engine, and HIT THE ROAD. All of Texas awaits your mindful travel. [Heck, gas prices are getting more reasonable all the time...if you have a Prius.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Jumping, leaping, galumphing Jehoshaphat!

Tonight on the Make blog, I saw a fellow's work that definitely bears further viewing. I suspect there will be novelty views that incorporate this technique through the next few years. The link above takes you to the actual YouTube video of the work. The blog link is here.

As the Make text mentions, this brings to mind the images almost all of us have seen of the now antiquated zoetrope loops that were popular in arcades at the turn of the previous century. But the synchronizing aspect that causes the images to seem to move is the camera shutter speed itself. Jim LeFevre calls this the Phonographantasmascope.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Too much effort to create more than music

I just read a post on the Make Magazine blog. The post describes how current musical groups are going beyond just providing their listeners with music for their ears: They are providing (what seems to me to be) crude images in the musical files folks listen to that are only visible when you use particular programs to make them visible.

C'mon now...why should listeners go beyond listening to a group or watching them if they either provide a window of opportunity for live viewing or a music video on broadcast/cable/satellite/YouTube?

This seems to me to be a launch into esoterica that is not needed to enjoy the group's sound output, has very little to do with lyrics composed for production of the numbers, and has small reward for the effort required to view the images.

Solar magnetic headlights shine on Earth

When you think you have everything in some arena thought out and there isn't much to discover, something else is discovered or uncovered to turn your head straight around.

Just in from a correspondent...
Magnetic Portals Connect Sun And Earth (November 2, 2008) -- During the time it takes you to read this article, something will happen high overhead that until recently many scientists didn't believe in. A magnetic portal will open, linking Earth to the sun 93 million miles away. Tons of high-energy particles may flow through the opening before it closes again, around the time you reach the end of the page. ...
The full article is here.

Picturing the orbits and paths of all the vehicles and sensors that it took to solidify that background for that news release is fairly boggling. The foresight of folks who created the vehicles, convinced governments to pay for the launch vehicles, provided test budgets to make sure they would work for lengthy periods in the wild and wooly reaches of interplanetary space, provided the design expertise for the communications that gets the information gathered back safely to earthbound scientists is well deserving of praise and positive thoughts. It also deserves our continued support through conversations with elected officials who may be wondering if spending money in space is something our country needs to be doing.