Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I heart my subwoofer

In the summer of 2010 I had some money in my pocket from the recent deceasing of a relative, and I thought, "My car stereo sounds like crap; I'm going to upgrade it". Keep in mind, please, that I am a musician and a sound engineer; I'm very sensitive to bad sound; I listen to my own music in the car all the time for editing purposes.

I thought the sound in my '95 Previa was hopeless, really, but I gave it a little thought and realized that my main problem was lack of bass. Any attempt to add any bass to the sound would immediately lead to speaker farts. And the sounds was harsh, without being crisp; there was no presence to the music at all.

I went to the car audio store, and of course they sold me a much more expensive subwoofer than I was planning on.

It sounds ... wonderful. And amazingly, it clears up all the sound problems I had. My stereo was already subwoofer capable, and once I added the subwoofer and removed the low frequencies from the regular speakers, the sound opened up in an incredible way. I have lots of bass, sure; I can now be as annoying as anyone driving down city streets. But the high end is 100% better as well; it sounds like the musicians are in the car with me. What a difference.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


FINALLY, a couple of those moments with the choir where everyone knows the music well enough that we can become one with the director. In moments like that the ego dissolves, along with fear, and I get to transcend my normal limitations. No feeling like it. I don't even crave that feeling anymore, it happens so seldom, but it's such a pure joy when it does happen.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Better than iPhone

My Nexus One is better than an iPhone. Why?

1. Not locked into Apple
2. Easy to hack
3. Physically larger screen
4. I just upgraded it from 16 to 32 GB for music for $90
5. plays OGG and FLAC files
6. Strong integration with Google services (I use the damn services EVERYWHERE)
7. T-Mobile kicks AT&T's ass in download speeds.

I am, indeed, VERY happy with this phone.

An Idea for MSNBC

I've been kicking this idea around for a while: NBC should buy McClatchy, and McClatchy would become the source for the news that MSNBC broadcasts. That way, McClatchy gets TV money to keep going, and MSNBC doubles down on both good news reporting and on friendliness to liberal takes on news. Win/win; McClatchy, which must be suffering as all print news services do, gets to greatly expand their audience, while MSNBC gets to compete both with CNN as a news operation and with Fox as a partisan operation, since their news reporting would be better than both Fox and CNN AND have the strong liberal partisan flavor they are obviously going for.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

American Politics

Does the state of American politics surprise and dismay you? How many really stupid people do you personally know? Now, think about this: their votes count just as much as yours.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Am I getting old?

When did it become unacceptable to reach behind a heavy and precariously balanced pile of expensive equipment on tiptoe to turn off a lamp? Am I getting old?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bill O'Reilly is not Independent

Bill O'Reilly speaking with Jon Stewart. O'Reilly (seriously) brings out every republican talking point and cliche. Instructive.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Sony NEX-3 is NOT a DSLR

I recently purchased a Sony NEX-3 camera, which puts an APS-C sensor (the kind low and midrange DSLRs use) in a much smaller form factor. They do this by removing the complicated mirrors that allow DSLR users to look through the lens as they are framing the photo. To me, the DSLR mechanism is just too old-school; I don't want to see what the lens sees, I want to see what the SENSOR sees. I would have preferred an electronic viewfinder over the ubiquitous swiveling LCD screen, but as a space saving measure I guess that makes some sense. The LCD is very high resolution and quality, at any rate.

They also make the camera smaller by creating a brand new lens system, what Sony calls the "E" mount. It seems to work well; the NEX-3 is even smaller than comparable Four-Thirds cameras, whereas since the APS-C sensor is larger than the Four-Thirds sensor, physics would seem to require a larger camera and lens to handle it! Well done Sony!

For me the important things were:

1) new and exciting form factor, which they did
2) very high ISO, which they also did; I defy you to find another camera under $1000 (with a lens) that can make usable pictures at 12800 ISO!

The user interface is practically guaranteed to offend DSLR users ;) This is exemplified by the review in dpreview. The review is typically thorough, but they conclude at the end that the user interface "falls down", evidently because it takes a few button presses and dial rotations to do things like change the ISO setting. I think, though, that they pretty much review the camera from a DSLR user's perspective, whereas I think they should have done it from the perspective of the user that is moving up from a point and shoot camera (like me); I like the interface; if you are not all that familiar with the arcane incantations involved in taking good photos with a high-end camera the interface makes a lot of sense; it's like a Mac camera versus a UNIX camera ;)

However, I agree whole-heartedly that it makes little sense to have a camera that can take good pictures at down to at least 3200/6400 ISO and then not allow these ISO settings to be used in full auto mode. That definitely needs a fix, Sony!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unfortunate Allies

Those Libertarians who may be thinking about supporting social conservatives just to get a conservative into office, you might want to give some thought to, I don't know, maybe ... Iran? Where intellectuals and business leaders allied with fundamentalists in order to oust the Shah? Worked out great for them, didn't it?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Music Synchronization, Android and MacOSX

I've got a problem; I've been a strong and relatively happy user of iTunes since it came out, since I'm also a strong and relatively happy user of MacOSX. Things have changed, though, especially since I no longer use an iPhone (for reasons stated in earlier posts) and my current phone, a "Google Phone" (Nexus One), running a 3rd party ROM, can play the free music file types OGG and FLAC. I no longer want to use proprietary music formats, such as Apple's lossless format ALAC or even MP3, so I need a method of music synchronization that can handle OGG and FLAC.

Now, I've been successfully using Salling Media Sync up to this point, as it seamlessly integrates Android phones and both iTunes and iPhoto. If you just want iTunes sync then I highly recommend it. It even handles OGG, since you can use plugins to get OGG to work in iTunes.

But for my current needs, I've tried:

1. Songbird
2. Banshee
3. Doubletwist

Banshee is quite a long way from usefulness on MacOSX; it's a Linux project being ported. Songbird is just not quite there yet; you have to edit raw XML to get it to handle FLAC for my phone at this point, and I just couldn't get it to work properly. And even without FLAC, it failed on an awful lot of files, even with the lastest MacOSX beta version.

Doubletwist seems to work. Basically an iTunes clone, it handles OGG on my phone natively and handles FLAC by converting it to OGG on the fly, which is not the perfect solution but it's certainly better than nothing. I've been told that it will soon have a feature to defeat all media conversion and just copy the files, which would be perfect for me. In the meantime, it's a little buggy and slow, but it's free and it works.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Evil doers never think they are doing EVIL. The great ones, the ones that kill a lot of people, always think they are doing RIGHTEOUS GOOD. If you think you are doing RIGHTEOUS GOOD, that is the time that you must really question your motives and your actions.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Stock Market

The stock market confuses and horrifies me. Not that it is terribly complicated, or I don't understand how to use it, but it really seems to have no good purpose. Or, actually, it has one purpose which no one seems to talk about ...

I mean, if I buy, say, a share of Apple stock, who profits from this? Apple stock doesn't pay dividends; I make no money from that share of stock unless I sell it again for a price higher than I bought it. And Apple makes no money from the purchase of this stock other than during the initial offering.

So, as far as I can tell (and counting only stock that doesn't pay dividends, which is the majority), what we're basically trying to do here is transfer money from the dumber stock investors to the smarter ones ...

Oh wait ... forget I said anything!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fun U.S. Government Facts

1. The Federal Income Tax as we now know it was implemented in 1913. Soon after we were involved in winning WW1.

2. FDR's social programs and corresponding governmental expansions were implemented in the early 1930's; soon after that we won WWII and became the most powerful country in the world.

3. The top marginal tax rate in the mid to late 50's was 91%; the current top rate is 36%, which will rise to 39% when G.W. Bush's tax cuts expire; soon after that Armageddon begins.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hadrian's Wall

Very cool that they lit up Hadrian's Wall for the first time in 1600 years. However, isn't that also a big "Fuck you Scotland!" ?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Problem with The Lord of the Rings

I love the movie trilogy, but sometimes I hate it.

I think the problem is that Peter Jackson, a great director, hired the best artists, the best craftsmen, the actors and musicians, and then got his wife and her friend to write the screenplay.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nexus One versus Nokia N900 versus T-Mobile G1 versus iPhone 3G

This will be sort of a run-off between the last 4 smartphones I've owned. Let's go backwards and start with the conclusion:

Conclusion: I prefer the Nexus One to any of the other phones. It's fast, it's pretty, has a lovely screen, sounds good through headphones, feels good in my hand, and most importantly, it can easily be operated with one hand (but maybe not for the reason you think if you know me ;) ) The trackball, larger than on the G1, is useful and not too inaccurate.

Evidently the Google way is to emphasize one-handed operation, and I find that this is really important to me. The phone can sit in my pocket and I can control the volume with the external volume rocker switch without even pulling it out, and I can pause, play, skip a song or answer the phone with the buttons on the headphones. I can do most operations on it with one hand and the trackball. All of these are totally important on my bicycle, or even if I'm doing some serious walking.

Also, although the Nexus One doesn't come out of the box ready for hacking, it's pretty easy to set it up for that and maintain it that way. At least Google doesn't try very hard to prevent you from doing it.

Sounds quality is important to me as a musician; the Nexus One isn't the very best sounding device, but it's within shouting distance of the Nokia. It plays Ogg files out of the box, and I expect it to play FLAC files any day now.

Other phones:
I love the Apple iPhone 3G. I especially like the well-stocked app store, but I have various problems with it, mostly having to do with Apple's attitude towards people that want to open up the phone a bit, documented here.

I won't go back to the iPhone unless this changes. Ironically, I like MacOSX on computers best because it so succesfully straddles the proprietary and open source worlds. Too bad they are so very afraid of openness on the phone.

The T-Mobile G1 was never meant to be my permanent phone, it was basically a placeholder until I could pick up a Nokia N900 something better in the Android world. It is ... OK. It has a truly terrible sound chip and it really sounds bad with headphones, and it doesn't have a headphone jack, you have to use an adapter with its USB connector to use headphones, which is clumsy and unpleasant at best. The trackball was useful, but so tiny and inaccurate it was difficult to use. On the other hand, it was fairly easy to "root" (the equivalent of jailbreaking an iPhone, which is a real pain to do and maintain) and made me familiar with the Android OS, which I got to like a lot. I recently dropped it in my jacuzzi, which gave me a good excuse to get something better.

Then there's the unique Nokia N900. Lots of fun, but it's simple not made to be operated one-handed at all, other than in phone mode. I kept sitting down at a desk and playing with it, and having fun, but then thinking that if was going to be sitting down with a computer I'd much rather do it with my laptop. The N900 seems heavy and bulky, and although it definitely has the best web browser of any of these phones (it even has Flash!), I found myself wishing I could access my Google online apps in mobile mode; a 3.7 inch screen is very small for normal web pages with my elderly eyes.

BTW, I was not going to use anything other than a GSM-type phone so I can take it on my irregular international excursions, so the Droid was not an option.

I gave my iPhone to my wife, who loves it an has no ambitions to hack it. The G1 was not that expensive. I certainly can't afford both the Nokia N900 and the Nexus One at once, but the price of the unlocked phones comes out to be less than you'd pay for them if you bought them subsidized by T-Mobile (and you can't do that with the Nokia anyway) over the span of a two-year contract. I have 30 days to return the Nexus One if I don't like it, and I got the N900 for a special price from Dell which is no longer available; I should be able to sell it for most of what I paid for it.