Thursday, January 29, 2009

Word Jazz - Ken Nordine

There are are those who listen ... and then there are those who listen and SPEAK. Ken Nordine is one of the latter. I've been following his works for decades. His 1950's LP "Word Jazz" and all its derivative works have fascinated me as long as I've known and heard of them. Being a person who spends much time with words, those who play with them have my immediate attention.

Ken has a new Web page here. If you are lucky, you can find his material to purchase or podcasts to download. If you try them out, see if you can find a time when you aren't busy thinking about other things. They DEMAND your full attention...and then some. He layers his words with multiple recording tracks and adds sounds and music till you can just barely contain the entirety of all he says.

I had never exposed my mother to his work. One day we were driving to San Angelo from Austin. To escape her incessant talking during the drive, I had retreated to a small tape recorder and earphones. I borrowed some tapes of the Word Jazz program from a ham buddy to play on the trip. I started laughing so uproariously, she asked me what in the world I was listening to. I placed the earphones on her "helmet hair" fresh from the hairdresser and over her ears. She listened for the next 30 minutes. Several times I had to urge her to speed back up to normal highway speeds. The program so enthralled her that I'm sure she forgot almost all around her. After it was over, she expressed intense liking for his work.

In addition to his own page, there are examples of his work on this page: search for his name. Some are from his album "Colors": they are "Yellow;" "Cerise." This one, "Seratonin," concerns those scary little pamphlets found in scary drugs you are prescribed. And here is a transcription of a portion of an interview with him on his inspiration for the word work. Here is a Chicago Tribune piece on him, his work and his accompanist, Howard Levy.

I have friends who really dislike his work. And I have friends who feel as I do. Try him out and see what you think...and comment.

Regional sources of news: Australia

It is pretty handy having English as a native language. There are countries around the world that share the same tongue...Australia, for instance. Here are some podcasts from their national broadcasting corporation: a general look at the possibilities, religion and those on science. I spent many decades listening to Radio Australia and its coverage of their nation and Asia in news and culture. That broadcast outlet's podcasts are generally mentioned here, with my own particular focus on past radio broadcast coverage evident in my choices of
Breakfast Club Web page/podcast:

(Duration: 20 min, filesize: 9 MB MB , Updated daily)

The Breakfast Club is Radio Australia's window on what's happening in Asia. From Monday to Friday Phil Kafcaloudes and Adelaine Ng present a selection of their best interviews and segments.

Asia Pacific Web page/podcast:

(Duration: 25 min, filesize: 13 MB , Updated daily)

Keeping you up to date with what's happening in our region, Asia Pacific brings you the very latest coverage and analysis on what's making headlines throughout Asia and the South Pacific.

Innovations Web page/podcast:

(Duration: 27 min, filesize: 12 MB , Updated weekly)

A showcase of Australian design, discoveries, invention, engineering and research skills from Radio Australia. Updated every Tuesday.

If that doesn't sat your thirst for knowledge of Australia or Asia in general, comment and let's discuss what you might be looking for.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Corraling a collection

Almost everyone I know has one to a hundred year collection of SOME magazine or other periodical. This Instructables article shows how you can save $2-$5 per back-issue storage box and make your own. Who could want for more than that? (Well, maybe just finding some uncle who'll make 'em FOR you might be better, but we know that isn't likely to happen, now, is it?)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Flight of humorous fancy

Well, all kinds of humor are not for all kinds of people. Everyone likes their own stripe on life's back. Our neighbor in Austin, Darin Murphy, has just posted on the Huffington Post blog about a subject on which he finds satire possible. At least one of his commenters has missed the point that it is satire. He gently reminds them that it is, indeed, satire.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Poem

During Tuesday's inauguration, I was really moved by the reading of this wonderful poem, which was by Elizabeth Alexander. Here are a few lines from it, as an example of why it grabbed my attention:

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to preempt grievance
Take a deep breath, exhale slowly and let THOSE words breathe through your consciousness for a little while. Then, go out and live them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Panoramic digital image camera accessory you can build for $10

This page entry looks like something almost anyone can build to aid in making panoramic images stitched together from individual camera images.

There is a distortion that happens when you simply put a camera on a tripod and snap away to create a panorama. This accessory prevents that distortion before it happens by making the rotation happen around the appropriate area of your camera's lens.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thoughts of genome and career pursuits

I was just reading a post by Bernie Latham at Brittle Hum of the Republic blog. It was this one, which describes a New York Times Magazine article by Steven Pinker, which is a really well-written discussion of where having personal knowledge of your own genome might take us as a society, once the price for reviewing and picking it apart is well within the discretionary income surround of the cognoscenti who can use the material.

He then wanders off to discuss how shaken he was when he was being interviewed and the interviewer asked him what caused him to take his particular career path. His stuttering reply then forced him to vow to himself to be better prepared the next time he was asked that question. Do YOU know the answer to your life's direction? What steered YOU to stumble or smoothly run down the path you've taken?

I am convinced my path toward getting my electrical engineering degree at UT, Austin, was finalized by the years I spent in an electronics-specialty Explorer post, sponsored mostly by the engineers at the headquarters of General Telephone of the Southwest in San Angelo, Texas. Well, that, coupled with getting my ham license at 16. Both of those things led me to spend my time with tubes and transistors, capacitors and transformers. My friends were mainly geeky electronics-speaking souls who might just as well mumble things in spoken Morse code as much as they might talk about the advantages of the Williamson amplifier.

Once I had all that firmly in mind, with the viewpoint of what the engineers told us they did for a living, and how we teens viewed their casual ability with the technical details of the electronics we loved so much, I was certain that electrical engineering was for me. Never mind that we were dirt poor, that there were no engineers in my family, that I had to run a morning paper route just to make it through high school. THAT was my goal. [It took a wavering path, with spots of poor performance due to lack of focus, and years of striving to make it all happen.]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Saving techno money in a slip-sliding economy

I'm never sure who reads this blog, but if you're someone who might be teetering on the edge of things with a job on the way out or worse, then another blog with this post is just the thing for you. Now, that assumes you're a techno kind of person. It may go without saying that if you're reading this blog, that assumes you are anyway. /g/

The description is in the blog post of how to save thousands a year, if you are willing to make some changes in your life. If you are in the aforementioned situation, then you're about to embark or already HAVE embarked on such an adventure, anyway.

Good luck. And comment if you found this useful...or not.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Analog to digital: Books

The folks at MAKE blog are at the big Consumer Electronics Show (CES). They have the opportunity to see and write about many wonders of this year's inventions.

The first device I'll talk about is a contraption that takes a whole book and automatically (I really prefer to say "automagically") outputs digital files for each page of the book without intervention beyond setting it into motion. My goodness, this thing looks like a Rube Goldberg device if ever I saw one. Wonder where the finger lick goes to make the page turn right?

Then they talk about a product where you have to insert a book and, page at a time (like conventional flat-bed scanners, this thing scans books directly into audio files for $700 for the product. But, getting the book square with the scanner and flipping and flopping the book is definitely not only hard work, but it is also TEDIOUS in the extreme.

Having done a few such operations "back in the day", I can say that one has to have almost infinite patience to make it all happen in a successful way. From that standpoint, the first product makes more sense, since you just load the book, start it going and step back.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Getting the balance: Sanity/Insanity?

When I saw this post to the MAKE blog, I first swayed over heavily to the Insanity side of consideration of the fellow's efforts to thwart gravity, albeit briefly. Then I considered moving back the other way, when weighed against jumping off a cliff and zooming inches away from losing a limb before crashing to earth. Included in that consideration was the concept that he would probably be miles from any cliff side. Bouncing back the other direction, I thought of wearing rocket skates to blast his way through the heavens. Sliding down the slope back into Sanity, I thought that he WAS way up in the air in a hot air balloon before taking the plunge. But, wavering in my thoughts, Insanity won out that there were numerous other folks in the hot air balloon that he was endangering with his flaming rockets when he began his leap.

Thanks for riding along in my ruminations on this latest effort to leap out of a perfectly good (lighter than) aircraft and survive the fall to earth. Comments welcomed.

Race: a concept of the past

This podcast is one of the most fascinating of a long series by radio station WNYC in New York, NY. Race has been debated, hated, folded INTO hate, taken for granted for human life and discourse. The show/podcast takes the subject through the UNIQUE flow of how shows work on RADIO LAB to present an engaging search that is based on DNA findings that we're all human and race cannot be determined by that test...and, indeed, cannot be talked about from this most basic of deep looks into our building blocks. Whether you have feelings for this subject or want most to avoid it, this show may educate and shock, as well as change what you think you know about it.

Comments welcomed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Building a triode

What can I say? The Holy Grail of music has seemingly (at least during our lifetimes) been the perfect amplifier. That piece of electronica which can reach the world with music.

Or if you're a ham radio operator, reach the world with your own voice or digital signal or Morse Code: to communicate completely and sufficiently with those whom you'd like to carry on a conversation.

The linked blog posting deals with a video that celebrates a kind of amplifier. The first amplifier, to be exact. The triode vacuum tube as realized by Lee De Forest so long ago. That tube started in many ways the modern electronic age. It is when the writer found, as the MAKE blog post says,
...this documentary about the 2006 European Triode Festival in the Netherlands, celebrating the 100th anniversary of this game-changing electronic component. To celebrate, a copy of the De Forest Audion (the first triode) was replicated. This video documents the build.
One of the most watched videos of the whole MAKE blog was one where a triode was constructed.

Cat hair handbags

Now one can often find combinations of words that SEEM to make sense. But, if taken at their face value (with the attendant "normal" connotations), they seem to be outside of the norm by enough standard deviations to either be impossible or unlikely. In today's world, it seems, unlikely may be evident around us.

This video details (er, we won't go into the pun that might be possible there) the work of...well, let's look at the MAKE blog entry for the video:
Erica points out this vid on cat groomer Danielle German - Unhappy tossing all the hair leftover from a thorough longhaired feline shave, Danielle decided to try spinning the otherwise unwanted fur into a "silky yarn" fit for an owner's purse.
This CERTAINLY goes ta show ya that it takes ALL KINDS to make up this world!

(The image is from and has attached such sayings as: "Purr-zazz"; "Shed Happens". Hope they sell some from their Web page ad.)

Uncle Jay Explains: Year-end!

A friend wished a Happy New Year and sent this video link along today. Well in the grand ole tradition of remaking Christmas and holiday songs with new words to make a bowl-full of laughs. Or not. Hope you enjoy them. Have a bite...or byte.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hollywood's Digital Dawdling

A very interesting article that highlights some of my own frustration about which movies you can find on DVDs and which you just can't seem to find ANYWHERE. It turns out that the answer is not always straightforward. But that doesn't seem to lower the slow burn for me.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Looking around whilst looking AHEAD

There's not much more boring or exciting than driving nearly 160 miles on Texas highways. How can both of these situations be concurrent, you ask? I answer that it is all in the CURRENT state of mind.

Have you droned on down the same road or roads that you've traveled a hundred times before? Are they Interstate Highways that spawn similarity in the cultivation of one shopping center after the next until the number of customers is so low that a living cannot be made off them? Each shopping center is built and stacked of one chain store after the next, straining and struggling to be the BEST possible store of that chain...or are they? When they look like the cookie cutter just stamped them out or the cookie cutter stamped them out 30 years ago and their edges are crumbling and the paint is faded and the awnings are rumpled and there are letters missing on their signs...can they be the best?

Or, you've just turned down a road that is new to you with houses you've never seen and signs you've never seen and trucks you've never seen with signs on them that say things that will interest you. And people you've never seen wave at you as you drive through towns you've never seen. Even DOGS you've never seen seem to look at you as you drive by with SOMETHING that attracts you to them. Your attention is captured in whole and in part by everything around you. You couldn't go to sleep while driving if you tried.

But then you get close to home. No matter how novel your direction of travel, there comes that time that you are traveling on roads you have been down before. Now, the heavy lids and sneaky sleep crawls around your defenses. No matter that Coke or cuppa coffee you just drank at the last occasion to stop. Eyelids droop and head is shaken...slap yourself and then a moment of clarity. You exclaim to your traveling companion(s). "I am getting sleepy." To which they reply, "But we're only a few miles from home."

Head getting heavy and heart pounding, you try harder and harder to NOT GO TO SLEEP. The last few miles are past and you're pulling into the driveway. You put on the handbrake and turn off the ignition.

Looking around whilst looking ahead, you've made it home again.