krazy kyakers

Ottawa has the good fortune of being near lots of water, mostly in the form of two rivers, the Ottawa and the Rideau.  The Rideau drains into the Ottawa.  Historically, the Rideau Canal was built to accommodate trade between Ottawa and as far as Kingston.

To facilitate boat traffic, a number of locks were installed.  In addition to the locks, dams were built, typically next to the lock, to manage the flow of water.  Near to where I live is a lock/dam called Hogs Back.  The dam side flows over a series of rocks, that are typically quite nice to look at, but with the spring melt, become a raging rapid.

So, this spring (2014), I brought my video camera down to Hogs Back to capture the wild torrents, much more wild than in other years, crazy huge flows.  After a bit of filming, a fellow asks if I am there to video the kayakers.  “Huh?”, I said.  He tells me three kayakers are suiting up getting ready to run the Hogs Back rapids.

So, I stick around and capture the following video.  Amazing stuff.  For 20 seconds in the rapids, it must have been invigorating, not to mention very cold.

For comparison, here are some pix of the flow in June,  Very pretty, but not nearly as dangerous. Note when the initial kayaker goes over the first flow, that is the same point as the first picture below.  Pretty amazing.



Ooo Eee Oo Ah Ah

A recording technique that has long been used for interesting and amusing effect is to change the speed of the playback.  Faster would raise the pitch, slower would lower it.  In some cases, artists slowed the tape speed down during tracking to make instrument parts easier to play or to hit higher notes, and then sped up for the final mix. Other times they would adjust the tape speed during mastering to get a sound they liked more.  The timbre of the notes changes.  Guitars played back at even slightly faster speeds sound chimier.  Vocals at slightly slower speeds have a deeper resonance.

One of my favorite Beatle songs, which coincidentally used this technique, is Rain, where the master was slowed down.  The guitars sound sublime, especially that little guitar break at 2:33.

In thinking about the Beatles use of the varispeed technique, it occurred to me that the backing vocals on Magical Mystery Tour sounded like they were pitched upwards.  And indeed they are.  Here are some parts with the final version followed by the slower playback which would have been used during tracking:


On a tape machine, this was easy to do, as you just needed to flip a switch for preset speeds (typically 30ips, 15ips, 7.5ips and 3.75ips), or change the voltage to the capstan motor (varispeed) for continuous increments.  In the digital world, this is, surprisingly, not  straight forward.  Pitch tuning (Autotune, Melodyne, …) allows you exceptional ability to change notes.  But this does not sound the same to me, and more extreme changes result in artifacts that sound bad.  Changing the playback speed for recording or mastering takes a couple of extra steps.

All that to say, as a little exercise, I took a run at Alvin and the Chipmunks, to see what the real voice behind the little critters actually sounds like.  Here is the amusing result at half-speed, from the original 1958 recording of Witch Doctor that started it all for Alvin:


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?


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.

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:



I Want One of these

The Turbo Encabulator

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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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Beijing 2008, a painting by Liu Yi

Here is a painting by Chinese-born now Canadian artist Liu Yi.  It is an exceptionally beautiful and provocative piece.  The imagery will no doubt confront some viewers.  However, I am posting it because of the intriguing geo-political insights embedded in the piece, which really deserve close consideration.


I can’t take credit for the following synopsis, and I don’t know where it originally came from … perhaps the artist himself.  If I find out, I will amend this post.  There is clearly much subtle detail that requires some guidance to discern.  Within the context of global affairs, the painting conveys deep insights.

The work, titled “Beijing 2008”, depicts four young women playing Mahjong.

The woman with the tattoos on her back is China. On her left, focused intensely on the game, is Japan. Across from China, the one with the shirt and head cocked to the side is America. Lying on the floor is Russia. And the girl standing on the right is Taiwan.

Of China’s visible set of tiles “East Wind” has a dual meaning. Firstly, it signifies China’s revival as a world power. Secondly, it signifies the military might and weaponry that China possesses has already been placed on the table. On one hand, China appears to be in a good position, though we cannot see the rest of her tiles. Additionally, she is also handling some hidden tiles below the table, behind her foot.

Russia appears to be disinterested in the game, but this is far from the truth. One foot hooks coyly at America, while her hand passes a hidden tile to China.  Both countries can be said to be exchanging benefits in secret. Japan is concentrating on her tiles, oblivious to the actions of the others in her focused (self-absorbed?) state.

Taiwan wears a traditional red slip, symbolizing that she is the true heir of Chinese culture and civilization. In one hand, she has a bowl of fruit, and in the other, a paring knife. Her expression as she stares at China contains anger, sadness, and hatred. And perhaps frustration that she cannot play the game.  No matter who ends up the victor, she is consigned to serving fruit.

Outside, the riverbank is darkened by storm clouds, suggesting the tension between the nations is dangerously explosive. The painting hanging on the wall depicts Mao’s face, but with Chiang Kai Shek’s bald head, and Sun Yat-Sen’s mustache.

The four women’s state of undress represent the geo-political situation in each country relative to the others. China is naked on top, clothed with a skirt and underwear on the bottom. America wears a bra and a light jacket, but is naked on the bottom. Russia has only her underwear. Japan is naked.

At first glance, America appears to be well composed and seems to be a good position, as all the others are in various states of nakedness. However, while America may look radiant, her vulnerability has already been exposed. China and Russia may look naked, yet their key private parts remain hidden.

Assuming the play of the game requires that the loser of each hand removes pieces of clothing, if China loses, she will be in the same state as Russia (similar to when the USSR dissolved). If America loses, she will also be in the same state as Russia.

If Russia loses, she loses all that is left. Russia acts to be disinterested and unengaged, but in passing tiles to China, is establishing a secret alliance.  Japan has already lost everything, and will be out of the game if she loses again.

America may look well-positioned, but is in much danger. If she loses this round, she will give up her position as THE world power. Russia is playing both sides, much like when China was de-occupied, she leaned towards the USSR and then towards America; as she did not have the ability to survive on her own, she had to weave between both sides in order to survive and develop.

There are too many of China’s tiles that we cannot see. Perhaps suggesting that China has several hidden aces.

America appears confident, and is glancing at Taiwan, perhaps trying to read something in Taiwan’s face. Perhaps what she sees going on between Russia and China.

Taiwan stares coldly at the game, longing to participate but constrained only to observe. She sees everything that the players are doing, and understands the shifting alliances. But she doesn’t have the means or permission to join the game, she isn’t even given the right to speak. Even if she has a dearth of complaints, she cannot voice it to anyone, all she can do is to be a good page girl, and bring fresh fruit to the victor.

The positions of power are with China and America. But, while America appears dominant, they are, after all, playing Chinese Mahjong, not Western Poker. In the end, playing by the rules of China’s game, how much chance at victory does America really have?

Transparent life

Iori Tomita began making transparent specimens while working as a fisherman. This has evolved into a project, the New World Transparent Specimens, which is as much art as it is science.

The method of making transparent specimens — enzymatically turning the protein transparent, dyeing the bones magenta and dyeing the cartilages blue — was established for scientific purposes to study the skeletal system.  Tomita has taken the process and turned the result into art imitating life … or life imitating art … or the art of life.  Whatever.  Beautiful stuff.

The Truth is Out There: Was the Destruction of the Death Star an Inside Job??

A fascinating documentary presents compelling evidence that suggests the destruction of the Death Star was not the result of Luke Skywalker’s coincidental tapping of “The Force”, but rather a carefully orchestrated inside job that included none other than Darth Vader himself.  I won’t go into the details here.  You can view the video and decide for yourself.

May the farce be with you.

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