(no subject)

I picked up the habit of ripping my MP3s at maximum quality (320kbps, the preset for which is pointedly called insane by the /usr/bin/lame mp3 encoder) from crossvector, who clearly has much better hearing and stereo equipment than I ever will. When it comes to listening to music on the go (i.e., route 358, where, on a good day, you won't be sharing your seat with livestock), I find that listening to 128kbps a little louder than necessary is a workable alternative. For those of you that run Linux and have a mobile music player, you might be interested in this little batch script to batch downsample your mp3s. (Note: it's not fast -- on my computer it executes at only 15x playback speed, so you'll probably want to run it overnight. YMMV.)

Also ... where have I been for the last three years ? Honestly, I have no idea where the time went. I just sat down in front of the computer and when I got up to make another pot of coffee it was 2009. Weird. If you're so inclined, I post to twitter as @eleuthero these days. My commentary is just as fatuous and puerile as it has traditionally been here, but at least there it's mercifully constrained to 140 incoherent characters.

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Musings accumulated during a long absence.

  • In line at the Starbucks the other day I overheard one middle-aged, middle-class mother gravely opine into her cell phone, "I oppose growth on B---- Island, and so do my kids." She got her coffee and drove off alone in her Expedition.
  • It seems to me that if fundamentalist zealots really wanted to chalk up points for intelligent design, they would cite as their primary example not the human body but rather the anatomy of spacetime. As complicated, wondrous, and improbably suitable we find ourselves, our meager complexity absolutely pales before that of empty space.
  • And yet, I have yet to find anybody whom, in earnest pursuit of pure science, has not been regularly troubled, awed, and humbled by what they have found.
  • If pressed to produce what I felt to be the most incontrovertible proof of the existence of a creator, it would have to be the complete lack of incriminatory evidence -- the pristine prooflessness of this, the scene of the crime. "Here is where the perpetrator or perpetrators of this heinous crime likely made their getaway," I would say, pointing at Exhibit A, a full-page color glossy photograph of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem.
  • I find that if I give enough nonproveable replies to somebody who asks unanswerable questions, they generally go away and I can get back to work. I have no qualms about too-simple people thinking I am difficult.
  • Given the choice between a stronger sense of faith and a stronger sense of wonder, I'll take wonder every time.
  • The sun rode uncontested across the sky for the first time in months today ! I'm as protective of my delicate, vampiric complexion as anybody else, but I have to say that it was a joy to behold.
  • Current Music
    Cardinals - 17

I need a word.

There's got to be a word for typing an instant message, especially one of a potentially compromising or indefensible nature, to the wrong party. It happens frequently enough that it deserves its own term.

The best I can do is dysfenestration, but it lacks punch.

A brief synopsis of the debate.

Sen. John Edwards: Mr. Vice President, I still don't think you're being straight with the American people. Under your watch, the acceleration due to gravity has gone from 9.8 meters per second squared to 32 feet per second per second !
Vice President Dick Cheney: I don't even know where to begin.
Sen. John Edwards: Kerry.
Moderator Gwen Ifill: *bzzzt*
Sen. John Edwards: Kerry.
Moderator Gwen Ifill: *bzzzt*
Sen. John Edwards: Outsourcing.
Vice President Dick Cheney: (silence)
Sen. John Edwards: Suicide bombers.
Vice President Dick Cheney: (silence)
Sen. John Edwards: Anything other than body armor, Halliburton, consistency, or our voting records.
Vice President Dick Cheney: (silence)
Sen. John Edwards: More of the same.
Vice President Dick Cheney: Go f--- yourself.
Sen. Patrick Leahy: Hey, leave me out of this.
Vice President Dick Cheney: Gwen ?
Moderator Gwen Ifill: Mister Vice President ?

Fell on the floor; fell in love with Wendy.

With apologies to e.e. cummings: M. told me not to work so hard. My co-workers told me not to work so hard. My boss told me not to work so hard. I think at one time my neighbor told me not to work so hard. It took the floor jumping up and hitting me smack in the forehead to convince me not to work so hard. So I've been not working so hard for the last couple hours and, for the first time in a long time, I feel. Something. It's a good start. Please don't worry; it was just too much caffeine and too little sleep compounded for too many weeks. I'm now trying to drive a narrative spike between myself and the temptation to telnet back into the office. In the brief time that I was on the floor, my mind conjured a memory I had thought long forgotten, which I feel strangely compelled, for no discernable reason, to share:

So, did I ever tell you that I fell in love with Wendy ? Yeah, that Wendy. The hamburger girl, that's the one. What's more, she broke my heart, let me tell you. See, I used to work in a little place somewhere in the valleys of central California called Paso Robles. You may remember that an earthquake nearly knocked it down a year or so back. Well, back before the earthquake, back before it decided to become the next Napa Valley, back before the acres of dirt became acres of grapevines, there was nearly nothing there but a Sizzler. In fact, I worked in the same building as the Sizzler. It was built in an old grain mill, or at least that's what they told us then. I found out later all of the exposed beams were actually distressed wood -- you know, somebody went around deliberately doing a crappy job of hammering bent, rusty nails into otherwise perfectly-good beams, and, voil�, instant historical site. You can imagine our interest, then, when a Wendy's opened up across town, because we were all sure that one more piece of Texas Toast and they'd be talking about us all on the news.

Well, the new Wendy's was, by Paso Robles standards, dressed to the nines, festooned with little multicolored plastic flags on a line, like you'd see at used-car lots. The place was absolutely packed. Even having waited until a week after it opened, it took us about forty-five minutes to finally get our food and find a table, and we were just about to tuck into our uniquely square-pattied fare when Wendy showed up. Yeah, that Wendy. She was dressed up in the fin de si�cle blue-and-white striped bloomers and Victorian lace cuffs, black grandma boots, a bright-red wig made of yarn, and three little freckles painted on each cheek. I was instantly smitten. She ask us something in a Victorian affectation -- presumably about the food, but that's just speculation on my part -- and when my tablemates' attention returned to their food, and eventually to me, they knew me well enough to know precisely what the look that must have been on my face meant, and nearly fell out of their chairs laughing. I think somebody upset one of the tables but I don't recall that for sure either.

So for the next week, it was Wendy's for lunch every day, and most of them Wendy was there, either working as the cashier, sweeping the floors, or buzzing around the tables asking if everything was fine, her bright-red yarn coiffure bobbing merrily. But as the new rapidly wore off the Wendy's, fewer people came in, and Wendy became less and less of a presence in the lobby, until one day she was replaced with some teeny-bopper of the same height and build, but wearing the usual Wendy's uniform, a relatively well-ordered short black hairdo, no freckles painted on each cheek, and a vaguely familiar smile.

I was unconsolable for weeks.

My advice, then, for those enamored with corporate mascots, is that it will end in tears.

It's good to talk to you all again.
  • Current Music
    David Lanz - Cristofori's Dream

Perfect notes.

See, crossvector and I both enjoy discussing and trading what we call perfect notes -- well-bookmarked, fleeting moments that stand out in our musical experiences and CD libraries where an inspired instrumental elocution, once heard, changes our lives irrevocably. (Readers at home should know, in the spirit of full disclosure, that crossvector is also a highly talented producer, as well as consumer, of such notes. I inform you of this because I fear that he will not.)

Our name is somewhat of a misnomer, as what we call perfect notes include short, inspired patterns of notes, unexpected or altered patterns of beats, percussion, unclassifiable sounds, and even the absence of a note or voice that a lesser artist would have retained. Even the best-architected songs, in their absence, eventually become common and drained of their original emotional and spiritual impact, but a single perfect note can sustain in perpetuity the power, vitality, and depth of the song that possesses it. As an example, I believe that we would agree that there is one nestled in the chorus in Murray Head's "One night in Bangkok" but it took a considerable amount of trouble and technology for him to actually locate it. One of my favorites is a passage in Peter Gabriel's "Love to be loved" where you only realize after the fact that there's been a key change: like staring at the Pleiades, you can only see them if you don't look directly into them.

So I was delighted to read retroCRUSH's most agreeable 50 Coolest Song Parts. While it focuses a little more on lyrics, riffs, solos, and sustained efforts than the spontaneity and ephemerality that is generally implied by perfect notes, I find that it's a very well-researched compilation and wide enough to include Johnny Cash, the Sex Pistols, and the B-52s. You'll learn something you might not have known about the fretless bass solo in Paul Simon's "You can call me Al" (at, alas, merely #36), Joe Strummer's hopelessly bludgeoned Spanish (#20), and, yes, everybody's favorite Johnny Cash lyric (#5).

Share and enjoy.
  • Current Music
    KUOW - Marketplace

A memory of Usenet.

Even back in college I didn't have a life, and I'm not entirely ashamed to say that while my roommates were out drinking, tipping cattle, and climbing water towers, I was generally at home digesting sci.physics on Usenet -- not necessarily because I was that studious about physics, but rather, 1995 was a wonderful year for scientific and mathematical cranks in that particular newsgroup: the more literate of that cretinous population somehow saw the medium for what it was -- a method for reaching not only intelligent and scientifically-inclined individuals but the support and sympathy of other crackpots -- and the regularity with which they assaulted the group with their crackpot theories and whiny ad hominem attacks made it required reading.

For the most part, the troublemakers provided ready-made entertainment, either in the substance of their theories, their inexpert presentation or argumentation skills, or their prickly inability to construe even the first and gentlest criticism of their beloved theories of everything as anything less than a vicious, slanderous personal attack. Collapse )
  • Current Music
    M. playing Legend of Zelda