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Monday, January 30, 2006

Start Your iPods

This work week, we start with:

  1. Adrian Belew - The Ideal Woman
  2. Robyn Hitchcock - Beautiful Queen
  3. The Replacements - Gary's Got a Boner
  4. The Cars - Let's Go
  5. Jimi Hendrix - Wind Cries Mary
  6. Tortoise - Spiderwebbed
  7. Cassandra Wilson - Tea For Two
  8. Pavement - Two States (live)
  9. Colorblind James Experience - She Took The Ring Off The Dead Man's Finger
  10. Pavement - Perfume-V (live)
  11. Bonus : Steven Jesse Bernstein - This Clouded Heart

Just a note... that Tortoise song, like many Tortoise songs, runs into the song the follows it: there's no discrete end. But, in an MP3, there has to be a discrete end; and in this case, it's abrupt and ugly - not even a fade-out, just a CHOP.

So, what I'd like to see is an "alpha channel" for sound. What's an alpha channel, Precious ? Well, a 24-bit image is made of 3 channels (Red, Blue and Green) with 8 bits of color information per channel. A 32-bit image has Red, Blue, Green and Alpha channels, where the Alpha channel controls the transparency for that pixel. So, using the alpha channel, you can blend or mask one image onto another smoothly, without sharp edges. An alpha channel in an MP3 could be used to control how the sound blends with other sounds; for example, you could have the end of a song gradually become 'transparent'. This would need one other little addition: the ability to put a marker in an MP3 that tells the player when to start the next song (even if that's before the current song has ended). The player would see that marker, start the next song, and then blend the two songs together using the alpha values of the ending song.

I know some players can do something like this automatically, for every song; but it'd be nice if the song itself could control it; that way, songs that were intended to run together on the original record (like that Tortoise song) could run together in MP3 form, too.

Monday Cat Blogging

Nikon D100, 50mm

Friday, January 27, 2006

Minor - Major

Like many bloggers, TBogg does a weekly random Top 10. A lot of people (regulars, mostly) post their own random ten in response. We all get to feel good about ourselves, because everybody else has lousy taste in music - or something.

Anyway, it looks like the majority of people who post their random 10 list them in "Song - Artist" order, instead of "Artist - Song" order. This annoys me (no big deal, I'm easily annoyed).

It simply feels wrong to put the more-specific (and presumably less well-known) part of the song information before the less-specific (and presumably more well-known). You can assume everyone has heard of The Beatles. And you can assume not everyone has heard of their song "Long Long Long".

Why does it matter? Well, for one thing, when I see a list of songs, I skim, looking for bands I like, dislike or merely recognize. If it's a band I dislike, I won't bother looking at the song title. Putting the band (the part of the info that people have a better chance of recognizing) first means people can evaluate the list, at least at one level, faster.

Secondly, in all the programming languages I can think of, when you're looking at an object, or a structure, or any heirarchical data, you start with the most-general part, then work down to specifics, in a left to right order: MyObject.SomethingInsideMyObject.SomethingInsideThatThing.TheGoodies. Or, even more familiar, filenames:
You'd never write:

Even if the syntax of that form was better, the idea of working from the inside out feels counter-intuitive.

And putting the song first feels counter-intuitive, too.

Yeah, this is stupid. I'm waiting for 5:00.

Current Events

If "democracy" is President Bush's answer to terrorism, doesn't the advent of democratically-elected terrorists suggest that answer isn't good enough ?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tift and Son

Sony P7

Mrs. Cleek and I went to see Son Volt and Tift Merritt last night, at The Disco Rodeo.

Here's Tift:

Sony P7

She was good, if a bit hoarse. My wife likes her better on record, than live. I like her better live.

Here's Jay Farrar from Son Volt, playing harmonica:

Sony P7

It's a good thing Farrar has interesting lyrics and can write such rocking songs, because the combination of his near monotone delivery and minimal stage presence would sink anyone else - I think I saw him break his blank expression with a smile once the whole night. Nonetheless, I do love me some Son Volt. They have a few songs that rank among my all-time favorites (including their cover of Ron Wood's Mystifies Me).

Interestingly, the lead guitar player, Brad Rice, played for both Tift and Son Volt last night. He played on the latest Son Volt album, and he was playing for Tift when we saw her on Austin City Limits last Saturday night. Busy guy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Adept at Ignoring Facts

A study finds that Democrats and Republicans are both adept at Ignoring Facts. Not only that, they get a mental rush while they do it.

    The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say.
    Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.
    The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making.


via /.

That fits nicely with a study (pdf), linked-to by a Slashdot poster, which notes:

  1. Your brain uncritically accepts the first information it gets in any new
    subject area as correct, whether it is or not.
  2. Subsequent information that is in keeping with the information already
    present in your brain is uncritically accepted as correct, whether it is or
  3. A new item that is contradictory to the information present in your brain is
    automatically rejected as incorrect, whether it is or not.
  4. Your brain considers every item that is compatible with the majority of its
    information in a given subject area to be correct and every item that is
    contradictory to its information to be incorrect. As a result, the brain has no
    internal way to know which items of its information are correct
    representations of the real world and which are not.
  5. Your brain has no way to know whether or not it has all the information
    required to respond appropriately to a given stimulus.
  6. Unless your brain has additional information to the contrary, it interprets
    similar items as being identical.
  7. Your brain cannot measure anything directly. All measurements must be
    made by comparison against an appropriate standard, which is often done
  8. Your brain continues to interpret the external world as it was when the last
    sensory signal about a given subject area was received. As a result, the
    brain is not aware that some of its formerly correct information is now

Stupid brains.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Without comment

Nikon D100, 28-80mm

My name is Anxiety

Nikon D100, 50mm

Monday, January 23, 2006

The benefits of careful reading

So, I'm trying to install some new forum software to handle user questions for my software company (my fun job, not the one I hate), because the one I am currently using is giving me some problems.

The new stuff installs OK, and then I try to import the old forum posts into the new forum setup. There's a utility that comes with the new stuff that's supposed to handle this, and it does, mostly. All the posts and all the users and accounts and everything gets imported nicely, with not too much hassle. I'm impressed. But, all the dates on all the posts show up as Jan 1, 1970. Now, all you programmers will recognize that date as a timestamp of 0 - the beginning of time for Unix systems (and all that copied the Unix time system), so I sadly realized that the forum importer was just failing to get a valid time, and as default, was setting all timestamps to zero. Oh well.

I thought I'd re-import the old posts, with some different settings, to try to fix this date issue. But, I couldn't find a way in the new system, to erase all the stuff I had just imported first. So, I went for a re-install. I started the installer, and it said "Hey, you already did this. Do you want to write over the existing stuff (possible problems ahead!) or do you want to delete the old stuff and create from scratch (warning! you'll lose all your old stuff!) ?" Well, of course I went with the "from scratch" option - I wanted to lose the old stuff, it was wrong.

But, if I had read a little more carefully, I would've seen that the warning about the "from scratch" option was warning me that it wasn't going to just delete the database tables associated with the forum software... No, it was going to delete all the tables in the database. What? You mean even tables that the forum software shouldn't even be looking at? Yup.

So, kaboom. And it's gone. Goodbye database! Goodbye new forum. Goodbye existing forum. Goodbye website back-end. Goodbye customer registration data. Goodbye ability to add new customers. Hello tech ISP support - got any recent backups? Yeah, we have one from 4 days ago. That'll be $75, please.

Again, if I had read carefully, this wouldn't have happened. But then again, software really shouldn't do things that are both unexpected and calamitous.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Not what I wanted to do tonight.


After twelve hours of panic (and even a few scary dreams about data-eating viruses destroying my home PC), it's all back to normal. They restored my db file, with only 3 days of data missing; and I can fix that by hand. Now I'll run a full backup of my own, create a new db for the new forum to live in and try it all again.

Monday Cat Blogging

Nikon D100, 50mm

The Wienerwhistle has four holes

So, grab your Wienerwhistle™ and learn the toot!

Start Your iPods

This week we start with:

  1. Throwing Muses - Fall Down
  2. White Stripes - Passive Manipulation
  3. Beatles - Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
  4. Replacements - We're Coming Out
  5. Robyn Hitchcock - I Have Seen The Sleeping Nights of Jesus
  6. Led Zeppelin - Over The Hills and Far Away
  7. Pavement - Motion Suggests
  8. Breeders - Invisible Man
  9. John Lennon - Mind Games
  10. My Bloody Valentine - Emptiness Inside

Keepin it old school - I guess.

Friday, January 20, 2006

34 Q For You

Take the MENSA Intelligence Test! It's fun.

I got a 27. Would've been 28 if I thought to make the J's plural on #6.

The Jingo

    The people who write that kind of stuff never fight; possibly they believe that to write it is a substitute for fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours. Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.

    -- George Orwell
    Homage to Catalonia

Via The Poor Man Institute.

The blob

Nikon D100, 105mm macro, 5T close-up

I did some drywall patching this past weekend. One morning, I found this little guy was stuck to the wall.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I'm not sure why, but this picture scares me a little.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


"Behold, good Cabinet Maker, the ancient and mysterious forest! I command you, turn this into a fine dining room set! Upholster the chairs in red leather, and I'd like real leaded glass panes in the curio cabinet."


"Here, take this screwdriver and paint brush. You'll need these to screw the boards together and of course to spread the polyurethane after you sand and stain everything. No too much, though. Matte finish, please. I will leave you to your work." He leans over and pushes me out of the truck, closes the door tips his hat, then drives away with a truck full of tools and Joe, the lumberjack, who's dozing in the back seat.

"Ummm... Really? OK. What?"

I stare at the wall of trees and vines for a week. Eventually, the barest outlines of plan start to form: I must find dry wood on the ground to build a fire, find rocks, iron ore, smelt it, fashion a saw of sorts, maybe a dozen different saws, etc.. The more I think about it, the more confused I become; I am astounded at the scope. I'll need to find and cut down hardwoods, saw them into boards. Build a lathe, a chemistry bench, formulate a stain, re-invent polymers, produce polyurethane in quantity. Make nails, screws, glue, glass, sandpaper. I sigh. I try a few times to throw the screwdriver just right so it sticks in the ground.

This project will take many years. I have a month. I call my boss to ask for assistance. "Do you really want abalone shell inlay? Where do I get that?"

"From the ocean."

"Is there an ocean nearby?"

"Of course there's a ocean nearby. It's on the other side of the forest. Once you've cleared a road through the trees, paved it, and installed street lights, you'll be able to tow your boat out to the lake."


"Yes, a small one should do. I figure you'll have enough lumber leftover - look how many trees there are! Oh, GPS might be useful too. Your choice, though. Whatever you think is best. Anyway, you need to cross the lake, sail north 60 miles then through the channel with the whirlpool. Or is it south? Whichever, just look for the volcano. Once you get past the whirlpool, you'll see a fishing village. Win the trust of the tribal chief, marry his daughter. When your first child is born, offer it to the god of the volcano. At sunrise the next day, the sun will appear atop a distant mountain peak. The ocean is just beyond a desert on the other side of that mountain."


"Just holler if you need some help. I'll be on the beach with Joe."

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Unintended Consequences of Religious Fervor

An interesting read, if you're an atheist. I imagine it would be quite infuriating if you're not.

Etymology Lesson

The name Iran means "Land of Aryans":

    Etymology of Iran is [ir(ayr) + an]. ir/ayr is the root of the word arya/ayria, meaning "noble, high, free-spirited" and the an at the end is suffix of location in Persian, as in Gilan, Isfahan, Tehran, Ardakan, Khorasan, Azarbaijan, Gorgan, ..... and literary hundreds of city and village names in Iran. It means "Land of Aryans".

That is all.

Start Your iPods

This horrid work week starts with:

  1. Liz Phair - Divorce Song
  2. Fiona Apple - Tymps
  3. Robyn Hitchcock - You and Oblivion
  4. Miles Davis - All of You
  5. Elliot Smith - Pitseleh
  6. Unrest - I Do Believe You Are Blushing
  7. Polvo - Tragic Carpet Ride
  8. Belly - Every Word
  9. Chris Hillman & Steve Earle - High Fashion Queen . From the fantastic Gram Parson's tribute album.
  10. The Beatles - Polythene Pam

Wow. Great set.
Hate hate hate my job.

Trivia about Cleek

The Mechanical Contrivium Has this to say about Cleek:

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Cleek!

  1. A bride should wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and cleek!
  2. Long ago, the people of Nicaragua believed that if they threw cleek into a volcano it would stop erupting!
  3. The Eskimos have over fifty words for cleek.
  4. Europe is the only continent that lacks cleek.
  5. Cleek is the world's smallest mammal!
  6. The water in oceans is four times less salty than the water in cleek.
  7. Two grams of cleek provide enough energy to power a television for over twenty-three hours.
  8. Native Americans never actually ate cleek; killing such a timid prey was thought to indicate laziness.
  9. Cleek is the only king without a moustache on the standard pack of cards.
  10. Louisa May Alcott, author of 'Little Cleek', hated cleek and only wrote the book at her publisher's request.

Monday Cat Blogging

Nikon D100, 50mm, Hi-2 speed

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Song of the Idiot

Once you have this:
    President Bush did a town hall-type appearance in Louisville, Kentucky today. He was unbelievably good, as was the audience. You can read it all here. Please, please do. Here are a few excerpts, but they can't begin to capture the sincerity and the compelling logic that President Bush put forward.


    George W. Bush is Churchill's heir in our century.

...and this:
    It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

How long till we get this?

MP3s: Nixon, Carter, Kennedy

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Garfield Zen

The Eagle_Fire Garfield Randomizer shows three randomly-chosen cells from Garfield comics. The results sometimes read like they've been translated to and from another language - and the punch line didn't survive. Sometimes they are so disjointed that it's like a little Surrealist play. And sometimes they feel like Doonsebury - maybe there's a joke there, but I just don't see it.

It's fun. But I still prefer Savage Chickens.

Great Moments in Cinema

Bush: 'If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I'll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!'

Secret Service chief: 'But Mr. President . . .'

Bush: 'Try Commander-in-Chief. Whose present command is: Take the President home!'

(from DC 9/11)

Monday, January 09, 2006


Nikon N80, 105mm Macro, Fuji Sensia 100


Grow Cube

Arrggg! Defective Yeti linked to Grow Cube, and I wasted an hour.

It's a puzzle game. Your task is to find out how the various items interacts with the world, and add them to the Cube in the correct order. It's hard.


Behold the horror of this bill, currently before the Missouri State Senate SB763:

    SB-763: This act prohibits any grocery store or convenience store from selling individually packaged beer or beer that is refrigerated below 60 degrees on the premises. The Supervisor of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control may suspend or revoke a license for any violation of this provision.

The goal is to reduce drunk driving. Apparently, the idea is that nobody will want to drink warm beer from the store, so they'll have to take it home and spend an hour waiting for it to get cold, first.

Fine. But sometimes you buy a six-pack, take it home, and want a beer straightaway - you don't want to wait an hour for it to get cold. And just think of what that would do to the traditional Beer Run!

Monday Cat Blogging

Had to take my father to the airport this morning, so I didn't have time to post a new Tricksey picture. So, instead, I'll note that there's a new Tricksey Gallery up (see right side links, near the top). This is Tricksey, in chronological order, so all you cat geeks can watch as she grows!

That is all.

Start Your iPods!

On this early Monday AM, the iPod starts the work week with:

  1. Sea And Cake - Two Dolphins
  2. Hector - She Said, She Said (live)
  3. REM - Ages of You
  4. Robyn Hitchcock - Viva! Sea-Tac
  5. REM - I Remember California
  6. Jimi Hendrix - Dolly Dagger
  7. Sugar - If I Can't Change Your Mind
  8. Flaming Lips - Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon
  9. Stereolab - Des Etoiles Electroniques
  10. Led Zeppelin - Communication Breakdown

Nice mix today.
I hate watching the sun come up from my window at work.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


My father is down this weekend. Since we all like pottery, we took him to Seagrove, NC, to check out the area potters.

About 2:00, we get to Seagrove, coming in on NC 220-S. We stop at a cluster of pottery shops sharing a small parking lot near the center of town, near the intersection of 220 and 705. We go into the first shop, look around for a while, buy some things, then walk the 30 feet to the next shop. We snoop around there for a few minutes, leave without buying anything, walk another 50 feet to the next one, which is on a corner of the intersection.

As we're coming up to the door of the shop, looking in the shop windows, chatting, I hear a bang that sounds like a small car accident - metallic, but dull. So I look at the intersection and notice that there's only one car there: a white Explorer-sized domestic SUV, stopped where it would be if it was waiting for the light to change. We're still in back of it, and it's facing away from us, so I have a rear-driver's-side view. The SUV and we are all facing south on rt 220.

A white man, 30's/40's, is running in front of the SUV, towards the driver's side, somewhat crouching as he's running, fast. I wonder if he just got hit, or if someone else got hit and he's running to get help. But the driver's door is already open, and there's nobody in the driver's seat. There was no time for the driver to get out and run around the front of, turn, then run back, in the 2 seconds since I heard the sound. The man turns in front of the SUV, running for the driver's door, a pistol in one hand. A couple steps later, he's past the door and is shoving the gun down the back of his pants as he's jumping in the SUV.

I'm trying to get the attention of my wife and father: "That guy right there: he has a gun. I think he just shot something. That guy. Look." But I'm a little scared and unsure about what's going on - I don't want to shout because, well, the guy apparently just shot his gun in the middle of town - I don't want to attract his attention. So, my wife and father take a second to get the gist of what I'm trying to say.

He jumps in the SUV then makes a right turn onto 705 W, and takes off as fast as that thing can go. Gone in a flash. I look around, but there's nobody else around, no bodies anywhere, no obvious damage to anything I can see, nobody's screaming. I assume he shot down the road - maybe at another car? The road there has a little hill in it, and I can't see him or any other car past it.

After he's gone, we talk about what I saw; but nobody else saw the gun, or even heard the bang. I'm not sure they believe me. But we all saw him jump in the SUV and take off like he needed to get somewhere, fast.

So, we go into the store and based on the looks of things nobody in there heard anything either. I'm still nervous about it, but don't say anything else about it.

I've checked the web sites of the local papers, but there's nothing about any shootings or any armed men in SUVs.

Maybe I imagined it ?

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Startup Sound of the Crimson King

Robert Fripp made the sounds for Windows Vista. Watch him doing it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

General Relativity, Very Plainly

At 3quarksdaily, you can read a very simple, but effective description of General Relativity (and one on Special Relativity, too) - easily the best explanation of it that I've ever read.

Great moments in cinema

Amidala: The trouble is that people don't always agree.

Anakin: But then they should be made to.

Amidala: Sounds an awful lot like a dictatorship to me.

Anakin: Well? If it works ...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

'The judge will decide if Christ exists or not

CNN reports that an Italian man is suing a priest, claiming the priest is defrauding the Italian people by telling them that Christ was a real person.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Nikon D100, 28-80mm

This is the same location as an earlier shot I did, but they've since replaced the stop sign.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Monday Cat Blogging

Nikon D100, 50mm

Start Your iPods

The iPod starts the lovely non-work Monday with:

  1. Nod - I Gotta home
  2. Judas Priest - Freewheel Burning
  3. Archers of Load - Toast
  4. Throwing Muses - Angel
  5. The Soft Boys - Strings
  6. Radiohead - Like Spinning Plates (live)
  7. Gillian Welch - Barroom Girls
  8. REM - Pale Blue Eyes
  9. The Kinks - Naggin Woman
  10. Beck - Canceled Check

That's right. Hate my job.

Rocka Rolla

Patrick Nielsen Hayden asks a question:

A fine question to ask. He got many witty answers.

I took the Iron Maiden reference as a cue to bop over to iTunes to start samplng all the old Maiden classics I loved back in high school. Sadly, most of them sounded shallow, silly and pretentious to my jaded ears. And even worse, hearing that stuff made me want to hear another of my old high-school fav's: Judas Priest!

I always preferred Priest's straightforward approach over Maiden's somewhat more complex wankery - though Maiden was certainly capable of writing a great metal song, and Priest would often drift into prog-metal sillyness, Maiden would never do something as simple and direct as JP's You've Got Another Thing Coming or Breaking The Law. Rock mag's back in the day would devote issues to the question: Maiden or Priest: Who Rocks Harder? I was usually on JP's side, though it was a fair question, and even then I could see how reasonable people might disagree.

Nonetheless... while I only sampled the Maiden songs last night, after the second bottle of wine was gone, I went ahead and bought The Best of Judas Priest. And then we rocked the night away, kinda.

Speaking of buying music, here's what I've purchased in the past three weeks or so:
  • Sufjan Stevens : Illinois - 4 songs into it. So far so good.
  • Judas Priest: Best of Judas Priest. Ah...
  • Nirvana : Unplugged. I don't know how I managed to wait so long to get this. A classic.
  • My Morning Jacket : Z. Needs more time to grow on me.
  • Bloc Party : Silent Alarm. Angry Brits jumping around.
  • The Police : Regatta De Blanc. Another high school favorite - I'm still in awe of their technical abilities.
  • Rogue Wave : Descended Like Vultures. Not as intimate as the last one, but still an enjoyable listen.
  • Pixies : Doolittle. I needed to wait 15 years before I could listen to this one again - we wore it out in college.
  • Rolling Stones : Let It Bleed. I just don't get the country version of Honky Tonk Woman - and the car horns at the beginning and the end of that song always scare me, when I'm driving.

So, hooray for iTunes.

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.