Monday, 31 December 2007


Hillary Clinton as Honoria Glossop

Alex Massie on...

Via Professor Bainbridge (with comments worth perusal), via Instapundit.

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COTC #198

...but before I do, I want to link the 198th installment of Carnival of the Cats, in which, after his usual fine work, Laurence Simon hands over the reins (and the  passwords) to a new proprietor.

Laurence, thanks for all your work for all those years.

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Dear Diary...


Spent Sunday in bed with the creeping crud.  Headed back in that direction.

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Saturday, 29 December 2007

In Passing

Sometimes stories just stop

While doing the annual Holiday Sort Through My Bookmarks routine, I revisited a site that I'd added back in April of 2005. Well not immediately. Thomas had moved a year later, but by then I'd gotten out of the habit of reading him, and my bookmark still pointed to the old address. But all that's been settled. Anyway...

I don't remember how I came to Thomas's blog originally, but while there I revisited the post that led to the bookmark:

For the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed a cat, probably no more than six or seven months old, moving slowly about in the garden outside my balcony.
Later I saw the cat up on the high wall, meowing loudly. I noticed it had no eyes. A woman was down at the end of the high wall, to the right of the ledge, where the people who live in the building around the corner park their cars. She was dangling her keys and calling out to the cat, which couldn’t find its way back to the tree it had climbed up to get to where it was.

I saw it again today, standing on the high wall, “looking” down.

How does a cat survive in a city like Athens with no eyes?...
(Do go read the whole post. Thomas is a fine writer.)

Thus reacquainted, I thought to look through the archives, to see if there was anything more about the cat. Fortunately, Thomas created a category. But it contains a scant four posts, the most recent dating from only two months after the first (over two years ago), a time when I was still reading him regularly. After that, nothing more. Silence.

"Probrecito," wrote commenter Moira.

Indeed. What was his fate? Did he die in traffic, or mauled by a dog, or quietly starve under a bush somewhere, unable to fend for himself?

Or did someone take pity on him and make him their own, so that today he is well-loved, and sleeps on the windowsill on sunny afternoons, and never ventures out?

Or did he always belong to some neighbor, who moved elsewhere, taking him with her?

Sometimes stories just stop.

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In Passing

Second verse, same as the first

Slashdot linked a Rolling Stone story decrying the excessive processing in today's (pop) music:

Over the past decade and a half, a revolution in recording technology has changed the way albums are produced, mixed and mastered — almost always for the worse. "They make it loud to get [listeners'] attention," [record producer David] Bendeth says. Engineers do that by applying dynamic range compression, which reduces the difference between the loudest and softest sounds in a song. Like many of his peers, Bendeth believes that relying too much on this effect can obscure sonic detail, rob music of its emotional power and leave listeners with what engineers call ear fatigue....

... But volume isn't the only issue. Computer programs like Pro Tools, which let audio engineers manipulate sound the way a word processor edits text, make musicians sound unnaturally perfect. And today's listeners consume an increasing amount of music on MP3, which eliminates much of the data from the original CD file and can leave music sounding tinny or hollow. "With all the technical innovation, music sounds worse," says Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, who has made what are considered some of the best-sounding records of all time. "God is in the details. But there are no details anymore."
Really sad, innit. All this new technology, and recorded music sounds worse. But it's always been thus. While the Stone article is a good thing from a consumer-awareness point of view, its author (Robert Levine) hasn't discovered anything that engineers, producers, and audio buffs haven't been arguing over for the last 50 years.

Today record producers get slammed for tweaking their recordings so they'll sound good after being (lossily) compressed into MP3 format. In 1965, the argument was over tweaking recordings to correct for the deficiencies of AM radios or juke boxes.[1] Today’s “authenticity” argument revolves around the use of tools like Auto-tune and Beat Detective to mask musician deficiencies. In the 70s, the culprits were multi-tracking, retakes, and tape editing.[2] The only difference is that today’s all-digital technologies allow the producer to do more radical tweaking, and do it with less effort, than the earlier analog methods. They have also made it less expensive to fix problems in the editing suite (as opposed to the studio).  At the same time it’s much easier to shoot yourself in the foot. 

But what “sounds right” remains matter of ears (and integrity), as it always has been.  As long as the same recording winds up being played in wildly different environments,[3] the finished product will have to be a compromise.[4]  Which is what producers are paid to do:  Find a workable compromise for their particular recording.  For them to run around lamenting, “Stop me before I compress again!” is a bit disingenuous.  

[1] A number of labels, Warner Brothers perhaps the most notorious, did special “singles mixes” of the particular tracks they were promoting for broadcast. These mixes would have extra level compression and special equalization. You'd hear one on the radio, go buy the album containing it, and, WTF?!?, it didn't sound the same! A cople of times around, and you learned to buy the 45 r.p.m. single, not the album, if you wanted that “radio sound.”
[2] Alex Ross:
...even Glenn Gould would have had trouble executing the mechanically accelerated keyboard solo in “In My Life.” The great rock debate about authenticity began. Were the Beatles pushing the art forward by reinventing it in the studio? - “The Record Effect” The New Yorker, June 6, 2005

[3] Witness the typical dive-for-the-volume-control scenario when trying to listen to a classical CD in the car.
[4] Anyone for a choice?  Say MP3 mix / radio mix / car stereo mix / audiophile mix?

Posted by: Old Grouch in In Passing at 19:47:01 GMT | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Wednesday, 26 December 2007


Just what we need, spoofed comments

Christmas present...

If you get an inscrutable or noxious comment from an otherwise lucid blog personality (I know, that is the tough part!) go hunting for IPs. If you can check their outclicks, you'll know where next to go find scurrilous comments attributed to you or someone you know.

Some scum-bot out of central Florida has been playing in the Fields of the Bored, leaving evil comments, trying to start something. -
Joan's post includes a bunch of IPs for your ban list.

Via: Teresa.

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The Press

Lots of smoke, little fire, as bloggers raise nanny-state fears

(“Fark is what fills space when mass media runs out of news.” - Drew Curtis.)

Don Surber has a post (which Glenn Reynolds linked) about a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article decrying the hazards of sledding without a helmet. The article includes a photo of a Waukesha, Wisconsin police officer using a radar gun to check the speeds of sledders in a county park,[1] and both Surber and Reynolds use that image as the starting point for painting pictures of mandatory-helmets-while-sledding laws and cops handing out “sledding too fast” tickets.

But, at least in this case, it looks like a false alarm. Turns out the J-S story is built around a “recent study” by something called the “Injury Free Coalition for Kids,” which

...compared the average speed of a sled at 19 mph with the average speed of a kid on a bike, which is 10 to 15 mph.
The officer was in the park at the request of the local children’s hospital, not on assignment by local authorities, and used his radar only to see how fast people were going, not to hand out tickets. (The hospital could have accomplished the same thing by borrowing a radar gun from the local baseball coach, but then the story wouldn't have been as photogenic!) Reporter Erin Richards localized things by including the tale of a Waukesha woman who suffered head injuries at age 20 when she sledded into a tree – at midnight,[2] some nice quotes on general sledding safety from the hospital’s injury prevention manager, and another quote from the spokeswoman for a local farm-and-fleet store which (surprise!) just happens to be stocking sledding helmets for the first time!

The article matches several of Drew Curtis’s qualifications for “fark,” i.e., “fake news:” It's based on a “new study” (journalism by press release), and someone is trying to sell something (publicity in place of advertising). It also matches the standard “seasonal template” (do winter-hazard stories in the wintertime) that too many newspapers use to fill space when they run out of ideas. And it ran on the Friday before Christmas, a day when newspapers are ad-fat and news is hard to come by.

But at least for the moment, nobody appears to be calling for new regulations, and thus the blogospherical kerfuffle is premature (although a good way to raise the reader’s blood pressure). The article, which probably would have been spiked on a day with a smaller news hole, is more of an “early warning,” than a “call to (re)action.” (So keep your powder dry.)

One good thing, though: In the process, Don Surber did come up with a great put-down, suitable for keeping in reserve:
The nannies in Wisconsin have uncovered the latest form of PHFWH – people having fun without helmets – sledding.
PHFWH! I'll have to remember to steal that one!

Later: Looks like I agree with Orin Kerr (who posted first).

[1] How fast were they going? 10 - 17 miles per hour.
[2] Leading one commenter at Surber's site to speculate that there might possibly have been other recreational substances besides snow involved.

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Tuesday, 25 December 2007

In Passing

Merry Christmas to all

...and to all a Good Night!

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Monday, 24 December 2007

Dear Diary...

Spoiling myself on Christmas eve

I've been trying to lose some weight, meaning avoiding morning snacks.  But what with the holiday and all, today on the way in I picked up a couple of vanilla-iced crullers.  To go with them, fresh brewed some Mexican Altura, (adding enough whipping cream and sugar to tint it just slightly darker than a manila folder).

There was supposed to be a picture, but they're all gone.  You'll just have to imagine.

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Merry Christmas, cheeseheads, here's your police state

If you're ticketed by Green Bay [Wisconsin] police, you'll get more than a fine. You'll get fingerprinted, too. It's a new way police are cracking down on crime.

If you're caught speeding or playing your music too loud, or other crimes for which you might receive a citation, Green Bay police officers will ask for your drivers license and your finger. You'll be fingerprinted right there on the spot. The fingerprint appears right next to the amount of the fine.

Police say it's meant to protect you -- in case the person they're citing isn't who they claim to be. But not everyone is sold on that explanation. - WBAY-TV
They're going to fingerprint everybody because of about 5 cases a year in which the person ticketed presents someone else’s ID.  But the report quotes a lawyer who says it’s “optional.”  Yeah, right.  Wanna argue with a cop?

Via Slashdot firehose.

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