Sound engineer humor

One of my favorite sites is, where people, mostly sound engineer types, talk about … gear.  Most of the time, the conversations are about experiences with specific pieces of recording equipment or techniques.  Some can be offbeat and really amusing, like this one — He Is…the Most Interesting Gear Slut!

Basically, assembling all the collected wisdom, knowledge and opinion about gear, talent and luck, and packaging it as hyperbole.  Here are some samples:

  • He mixed the entire Hotel California record in one day on headphones in a room AT Hotel California and then left without checking out
  • Word clocks sync to him
  • He records a whole band perfectly with one mic, in one take, on one track, on tape — and mixes it to surround sound … telepathically
  • He pronounces Moog correctly
  • He’s so forward thinking that the last time he played guitar was tomorrow
  • He can tune a piano and tuna fish
  • He’s won Grammy’s for songs he almost worked on
  • He once wrote a concerto for dog whistle
  • He thought he’d made a mistake once, but he was mistaken
  • He can hear, pan, eq and add effects to the sound of one hand clapping
  • At a lecture, he once uttered, “just do it” and walked off the stage.  Nike tried to sue him for using the catch phrase, but ended up being sued themselves by him as he had already developed that exact shoe style for a song intro that required someone running into a house.  The album was “Nike Runner” and the title song was “Just Do It”.  He did however let Nike keep making the shoe pump that he had invented for the compression effect on that intro. It eliminated sock issues by compressing foot sweat.

… well, *I* think they are really funny. 😎

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Gender exhibitionism strikes again

How does one rise above an ocean of talent?  Well, sex sells, we all know that.  On the international stage, gender exhibitionism and gender confusion clearly help bring attention to yourself.  Of course, gender bending is not new among entertainers — Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Boy George, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Annie Lennox, are all or have been gender opportunists, that exploit gender and gender ambiguity as suits them at the time, invariably to shock.

All that to say, the latest in the parade of gender opportunists is the 2014 winner of the Eurovision music content, Conchita Wurst, an intriguing transgender entertainer from Austria.  Here is his/her performance of Rise Like a Phoenix:


The video is well conceived, and the song is an exceptional platform for Conchita. It could easily be the theme song for a James Bond film.

Conchita’s real name is Tom Neuwirth.  I have to say, for me the beard is disconcerting in this context. As it is meant to be, no doubt. However, that is a minor distraction, as the performance, the presentation and the song are exceptional.

Here is a photo of ungendrified Tom:

Along the same gender ambiguity meme, here is a great video by French artist Stromae, and his/her performance of Tous Les Mêmes (All The Same):

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The house always wins, but how much?

“I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol, and wild women.  The other half I wasted.” – WC Fields

Here is a visualization prepared by data scientist Seth Kadish.  The chart presents the house odds in gambling in Las Vegas casinos, the percent of wagered money won by the house against the total revenues for the week.  For example, if $100 is wagered on blackjack, the house will take 11%, or $11.  The data comes from reports published by the Nevada Gaming Control Board .

gamblingYou should already know that the house always wins, or more precisely, the odds favor the house.  If it doesn’t, they unilaterally convict you of card counting and ban you from ever playing in the casino again.

The chart is hard to read here, so if you want to see the detail, go to Seth’s site.  The pithy summary is:

  • sports parlay cards are the worst odds for the player, with the house taking nearly 40% of the amount of money wagered (upper left quadrant)
  • 3-card poker is the worst card game, at about 33%
  • roulette is about 18%
  • craps is about 14%
  • blackjack is about 11%
  • your best odds is the $100 slot, at about 4%

This is not to condemn gambling, but it *is* a money pit.  Thanks for playing.

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Just an Illusion

I’m not sure how this works, but it is fascinating.  Just stare deeply into the cross.  I wonder if everyone sees the same distortion?


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Herman the Merman revealed

The Horniman Merman (aka “Herman”) is a fake mummified creature believed to have originated in Japan, and now resides in London’s Horniman Museum. Its actual provenance is unknown, but likely made its way west via sailors doing business in Asia 200 years ago.  In 2011, Herman was decompounded using a CT scan to reveal just what he was made of (here is a nice video going through the unveiling).  Turns out Herman is made of fish (likely carp), papier mache, wood, wire and clay.

hornimanMerman_cropWith a face only a mudder could love, he’s not much to look at, but you have to admire the detail and artistry that went into creating this little guy.

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A mind on drugs visualized

Bryan Lewis Saunders is an interesting guy.  A visual artist, on March 30th 1995, he undertook to create at least one self-portrait everyday for the rest of his life. At present, he has more than 8,000. According to Saunders, “like fingerprints, snowflakes and DNA they are all different, no two are the same.”  Read some of the interviews to get inside his head.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this effort is an additional phase: “After experiencing drastic changes in my environment, I looked for other experiences that might profoundly affect my perception of self.  So I devised another experiment where everyday I took a different drug and drew myself under the influence.  Within weeks I became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage.  I am still conducting this experiment but over greater lapses of time.”

I would expect that the self-portrait he creates while under the influence is reflective of his state of mind.  In which case, it is clear that many drugs do not take you to happy places.  Others look fun.  Here are trips on a few of the more well-known drugs:



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Sun Traces Huge Figure-8 Patterns in Sky

Here is an intriguing time-lapsed photo of the sun’s position in the sky over Wroclaw, Poland, taken three-times a day throughout one year:


Maciej Zapiór, a solar physicist at the University of the Balearic Islands in Palma, Majorca, and colleague Lukasz Fajfrowski built a pinhole camera and set it to make 1-minute-long exposures onto a single piece of photographic paper at 10:30, 12:00 and 13:30 each day from 1 March 2013 to 1 March 2014.  The resulting image shows how the position of the sun in the sky changes throughout the year.  In the summer it is higher, in the winter lower.  Its position also shifts horizontally, tracing a figure-of-eight path called an analemma.

see original article on New Scientist

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I Want One of these

The Turbo Encabulator

Here is the transcription.  Brilliant:

For a number of years now work has been proceeding in order to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a transmission that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such an instrument is the turbo encabulator.

Now basically, the only new principle involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxes, it is produced by the modial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive-directance.

The original machine had a baseplate of prefamulated Amulite, surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving bearings were in a direct line with the panametric fan. The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzel vanes so-fitted to the ambifacient lunar wane shaft that side fumbling was effectively prevented.

The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots of the stator; every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversible trem’e pipe to the differential girdlespring on the up-end of the grammes.

The Turbo Encabulator has now reached a high level of development, and is being successfully used in the operation of nofer trunnions. Moreover, whenever a farescent skor motion is required, it may also be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocation dingle arm to reduce soinasodial repleneration

And here is release 2.0:

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Before Snowden was the Media, PA 8

There is a fascinating article and excellent video at the NY Times site about the 1971 burglary of an FBI office in Media, PA, and the subsequent release and disclosure of documents implicating the FBI in illegal spying (and other nefarious) activities against Americans under J Edgar Hoover 43 years ago.  The perpetrators were never discovered, remaining silent … until now.   A book revealing details of the burglary has just been published.  The statute of limitations for prosecution of the burglary has expired, which leaves the individuals free from any legal action.  Four of the 8 have have revealed their role, while the others remain anonymous.

Of particular note, the disclosures were a catalyst to revealing and eventually understanding the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, which aimed to intimidate and silence political dissent through surveillance, infiltration, entrapment and other tactics — political dissent being American citizens legally voicing their opinion and opposition to government policies and actions (e.g. protesting the Vietnam war).  Targets were silenced through coercion, vilification and criminalization, hardly what one would expect in a democracy.  But then, former-president Jimmy Carter believes the US “has no functioning democracy”.

The disclosures in 1971 have an obvious parallel to the Snowden disclosures on the NSA.  However, unlike Snowden walking away with hundreds or thousands of documents on a USB stick, these burglars did the deed the old-fashioned way — breaking into a locked office and walking off with suitcases full of paper documents.

One thing I find peculiar in both cases is the lack of security on what turns out to be among each agency’s most damning secrets.  As much of a fan as I am of the Snowden disclosures, I find it incredulous that such a person was able to obtain access to and walk off with the NSA’s trove of secrets.  The übersecret NSA still seems in the dark about what exactly Snowden made off with.  Weird.  Wheels within wheels, perhaps.

The book’s author, Betsy Medsger, was a reporter at the Washington Post at the time, and one of the first to publish articles on the disclosures. According to Medsger’s book, even though the New York Times eventually published a story based on the documents, a NYT reporter apparently handed the documents back to the FBI to help with their investigation. The Los Angeles Times never published a story and may have also handed the documents back to the FBI. Peculiar actions for newspapers and their investigative reporters, to help the agency fingered for the illegal persecution of US citizens to identify and apprehend the source of the damning information. Why would they want to help maintain a cloak over this activity rather than blow the cover off of it?  Things are not so different today.  MSM continues to be split on the Snowden disclosures, though many are coming around to acknowledging Snowden as a whistleblower rather than a traitor.

It is worth perusing the comments below the NYT article, as many contributors offer personal anecdotes about their own anti-war protest activities, surveillance by authorities and persecution during that time period. Fifty years from now, I don’t think there will be similar stories of protest over the surveillance and tracking activities of governments and corporations today. Where is the outrage? Instead, we see complacency, apathy and ignorance.  I just don’t get it.

Additional references:

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Web 3.0: Insecurity and Continuous Surveillance

The NSA appears to have hacked or bought its way into just about every system connected to the internet. The result is that anything connected to the internet should essentially be considered as compromised.

Der Spiegel has published an expose on the NSA’s hacking toolkit.   The NSA’s “digital plumbers” offer their services to other parts of the NSA through a catalog, reproduced here on Zerohedge. There are even prices for services offered.

Of particular note in this latest round of NSA revelations is the complicity of technology companies.  ANT (Advanced Technology Network [group]) offers malware and hardware for use on computers made by Cisco, Dell, Juniper, Hewlett-Packard and Huawei. What becomes clear is that the NSA doesn’t actually hack as much as they collaborate with and financially compensate technology providers on backdoor access into their technology.

Apple’s devices were singled out by Jacob Applebaum at a recent presentation to the 30th Chaos Communication Forum as being wholly compromised (here is a video of the actual presentation).  Apple has since denied complicity, but this strikes me as hollow, given the extent of the NSA’s work on the Apple platform.

As troubling as they are, the NSA’s digital surveillance activities should have been expected, whether by the NSA or someone else.  What this really reveals is that digital security is a total farce.  Good guys, bad guys, corporations, just about everybody wants to get the goods on some else for some reason.  Even if the NSA gets shut down, Pandora’s box has been hacked and compromised.

Welcome to Web 3.0.

Update Feb06: TomDispatch has a thorough expose on the overall state of insecurity and surveillance.

Update Feb24: Apple iOS security flaw looks suspiciously like it was an NSA backdoor inserted by an Apple developer.  The flaw, called “Gotofail,” allowed hackers or other actors — e.g. spies — access to theoretically secure data transmitted through wireless connections or along a shared network. Such data includes credit card numbers and other personal information passed on when establishing a connection between a customer and a merchant’s point of sale.  The flaw was a simple one, an “if” clause nested deep within lines of code.  Apple has vehemently asserted that it did not cooperate with the NSA to create backdoors in its devices.  This could have been an Apple employee operating on behalf of the NSA but unbeknownst to Apple, or Apple was, in fact, complicit with the NSA.  Who knows.

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