Player 10 adds support for PCM sound generation. The bad news is
that the latency is bad, partially because Actionscript isn't threaded
and so audio must be buffered. In a bit of a strong-arm move, Adobe's
keeping people from pushing the limits of the buffer by randomly
determining its length (anywhere from .2 to .5 seconds) at the player's
launch. So, no realtime instruments in Flash yet, in other words.
If at first your ill-concieved techno-educational project doesn't
Campaign ads are generally pretty stupid anyway, but this McCain ad is
just unbelievable. As Crooked Timber says, you almost expect it to
promise free ponies and perpetual motion machines.
The "snare" on our Rock Band drums went out a while back. You can
still play by pressing the regular-sized gamepad buttons in the center
of the unit, but obviously that lacks the mad joy of using the sticks.
We've been waiting a week and a half now, I think, just for the box to
ship it back to EA for replacement. Not impressed, guys.
Someone stole my car radio the other day. Seriously, who does that
anymore? And what's up with the lack of standard wiring on the backs of
car radios? I blew two fuses in the car when the caps came off my wire
splices. I realize that people don't upgrade the radios often, but
there's no good reason that anyone should be rewiring parts of an
expensive item like a car by hand.
Since loading up VMWare to run Ubuntu, I've also found a copy of OS
X (10.4.7) on Bittorrent to mess with. It doesn't include iLife, but I
wouldn't have any use for that anyway, so I've ignored it. Instead, what
I've been trying to do is figure out the big deal with Mac shareware,
which seems to get an incredible amount of praise: take, for example, this
fawning review of Delicious Library, a program that (as far as I can
tell) is neat but not particularly mind-blowing. In fact, that seems to
describe most of the "must-have" apps I've tried. Perhaps I simply have
no joy in my heart.
I really dig this Lifehacker
post on using a cameraphone as a to-do list. It reminds me of one of
my favorite travel strategies: when entering a new city, make a point to
immediately take a good, high-res picture of any subway/bus maps you run
across. It's definitely worked for me in New York, Chicago, and
Josh's slow-loading link section today includes this
Wired editorial on Ron Paul (with the amusing slug "st_ronpaul").
It's the usual lament: why does it have to be the fringe candidate who
understands the Internet? But personally, I think he's got it backwards.
Ron Paul's campaign didn't understand the Internet. In fact, it
showed repeatedly that it saw the Web only as a vague, magical
fundraising force. It would be more accurate to say that the Internet
understood Ron Paul, with supporters crawling out of the online
woodwork to put together flickr accounts and Youtube campaigns. It was a
great example of self-organization--but note that none of it translated
into on-the-ground machinery, which is the actual domain of an effective
political campaign. If you want to see someone who really used the
Internet effectively in combination with traditional political savvy, I
think you'd have to look more toward Obama, not Ron Paul.
I picked up a Yahoo! mail account a while back when I needed access
to some discussion groups. For kicks, I got a Yahoo! Canada address. But
I started using the account to handle my webhost transition, and to
follow Warren Ellis's Bad Signal. Then I noticed that the whole thing is
in British English. What's up with that, Canada? There's no U in color,
is a pretty neat hack. I forget where I saw this link--from an XKCD
comic, I think. If I had a lot more time and a spare functional router,
I'd have to give it a shot. As it is, I'm more likely to just change the
name of our wireless network to something obscene.
Music Thing has the details on the Anarchy
Cowbell: the cowbell that fights The Man! There's not nearly enough
cowbell-related news out there.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to attend the Anonymous protest against
Scientology in DC. The Scientologist headquarters for the city is up
near Dupont Circle, in a building labeled the "Hubbard Dianetics
Foundation." Flickr user MynameisAnonymous seems to have gotten some
good snaps here.
If you missed it before, the Anonymous video guide to protesting can be
It's quite sensible. I wish Bank protestors had been that smart.
I realized a long time ago that I was not cut out to be a good
programmer--that, in fact, I was a very bad programmer. Not because I
couldn't understand the logic or the frameworks. I was a bad programmer
because I didn't care, and I just wanted to get whatever it was
done. To my surprise, Flash is a pretty good fit for that.
Asian Man links to 9500 Liberty's guest editorials in the
Washington Post, plus a video essay that they've put together. Parts of
the "interactive documentary" project are fascinating, and parts of it
become tedious. It will be interesting to see what emerges when (if?)
they take a more editorial approach to this footage and package it all
In the 1950's, information theorist Claude Shannon builds a robot
mouse capable of learning its way through a maze. He used what he
learned from this to build more intelligent telephone switching devices.
The details make it sound very "steampunk," in a way.
I don't have a piece for Corvus's Round Table on gender yet (I'd
like to do one on Tomb Raiders Legend and Anniversary,
respectively, but would have to finish a game and a half before I could
do so), but I'd like to toss this out there: here's a rule about
movies and feminism that asks whether a film has two women in it whose
conversation does not involve talking about a man. I like it because it
expresses a problem of sexism in a pithy way. But to what extent is this
useful for gaming? It certainly says something about Half-Life's
Alyx Vance, who's a tremendously positive character in terms of being a
smart and reasonably realistic female, but who still exists primarily to
praise the player and flirt with Gordon Freeman.
We had our router go out on us this week. It started to repeatedly
crash, and we'd have to pull the plug and reload it. Also, it wouldn't
let us change any of the settings. So we went out and got the new
Linksys model, for lack of better immediate options, and then I sat down
with the old one and looked at replacement firmwares for a little while.
See, you can load a new operating system on these things, due to some
crazy GPL licensing reason. Which is great and all, but I couldn't get
it to work--and more importantly, I couldn't think of a single good
reason why I would want my router to do anything other than
route, which is after all the reason that I bought it.
Line 6 has a new Pod out now: Pod
X3. I didn't see a lot of fanfare about this when it was first
released, but it's got some nice features. USB 2.0 is a plus (although
the direct monitoring on the Pod tends to make that less important), but
I think there are two more interesting draws. First, they've added an
XLR port and models for vocal preamps, so you could theoretically record
just with a Pod as your main interface. And second, they've added a
dual-pathway signal chain, so that you can route two separate amps and
sets of effects and mix between the two. That's a big deal for bassists,
and the extra flexibility in routing is a welcome addition to the Pod.
It's not enough for me to replace my Pod XT Live (at least until they
add a looper), but it definitely addresses the weak spots of the last
I've had that line from The Thin Man going through my head for
reports that Korg has recently sold its 20 millionth electronic
tuner. Doesn't surprise me a bit. Every musician I know has at least one
Korg tuner, usually something like the CA-30.
They're small and cheap, they work well, and they last forever on a pair
of AAAs. Cockroaches of the music world.
Also from Salon, but much more recent, I thought that this
article on Guitar Hero as a gateway drug to real instruments
was interesting. In my limited experience, musicians react in all kinds
of ways to the game--some with disdain, others with amusement. I think
it's a fantastic stress reliever, myself, and one that does (to some
extent) use the same reflexes as the real thing. I'm sure that much of
my GH skills are owed to my real-life bass playing. And I do
think that it can serve as a goad toward learning to play the real
instrument--as well as a buffer against frustration, because learning to
play a real guitar can be a slow and painful process.
In other musical news, the Tenori-On was released a couple of days
ago. Designed by Toshio Iwai, the man behind Electroplankton, and
manufactured by Yamaha, it's a pretty cool little groovebox. CDM put up
a great set of pictures, videos and impressions. In turn, I have a
journal post up at Ars about it here.
Television site TiFaux has been
doing profiles of their most personable commenters. One of them is John
Walker, whom gamers probably know better from Eurogamer and the newly-launched Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I am
really uncomfortable with different parts of my blogroll mingling
this way. What's next? Music Thing contributes political commentary to
First Draft? Brad Delong starts leaving troll comments about the Wii on
Joystiq? Members of the bass forum appear in Warren Ellis's infamous
don't-look-my-eyes-they-bleed links? If the latter, I may weep openly.
For the last week or so, I've been reading from Raymond Chen's blog
The Old New Thing. Chen
is a programmer for Microsoft who specializes in
backwards-compatibility. It's really kind of fascinating. Very few
companies do as much as the Redmond giant to make old software work on
new hardware. New software on old hardware, not always so much. But it's
A gem from the Bank's intranet page: HeroRat is a program by Belgian and
Tanzanian researchers in which African pouched rats are trained to sniff
out landmines. The rats, which grow to the size of a small cat
(around 6 pounds), are too light to set of the landmines if they
crawl over them. They've also got an 80% success rate of identifying
tuberculosis, with 10% false positives.
None of which will make Belle feel any better about six-pound rats
crawling around. This will be a real complication if I decide to get a
job in a mine-infested region of Tanzania.
Joystiq reported yesterday on Sir Ben Kingsley and his partnership
with Uwe Boll:
What were you thinking when you accepted a role in Bloodrayne? It's so
hard to imagine someone so gifted not realizing what a terrible film that
"I don't know whether to be upset or flattered by that question," read his
response. "To be honest, I have always wanted to play a vampire, with the
teeth and the long black cape. Let's say that my motives were somewhat
immature for doing it."
And honestly, while I'm no
great fan of the flick, I see his point. If I were Sir Ben Kingsley,
internationally-renowned thespian, it would be tempting to do anything
that came along, if it seemed like enough fun. See also: Sam L. Jackson.
I don't remember why I was looking for it, but part of the special
making-of video for Bad Mojo is on YouTube. Caution--contains
cruelty to already-deceased animals in the name of adventure gaming:
Speaking of the Thinkpad, I'm extremely pleased with it. It seems
stable, although there are a few hiccups in the OS that I hope will be
ironed out by SP1--going in and out of sleep mode is fast and flawless,
but shutting down takes a while, for example. Other than that, Vista seems
quite nice. Very keyboard-oriented, which is awesome. The hardware exudes
solidity--opening the lid, there's no flex as one side moves a bit more
than the other. I've had one crash, but I think it was related to F.E.A.R.
Gaming performance is good: the Lost Coast Video Stress Test clocks in at
an average of 40fps, and clearly goes past 60 at some points if the video
tearing is any indication. I'm running F.E.A.R. with everything at maximum
but with pixel-doubling on, giving it an effective resolution of 720x450
without stretching artifacts, and it spends 80% of its time over 45fps. I
consider this sufficient for what little PC gaming I do, and I imagine it
will be overkill for my audio work.
The Torzal Twist
bass is odd: its fretboard literally spirals gently as it moves away
from the body of the instrument. The idea is to follow the ergonomic
position of a player's arms, so that the wrists aren't ever bent
unnaturally (which contributes to RSI). On the long neck of a bass,
especially for players who spend their time down at the lower positions,
it's easy to see how this would feel much better once you got used to it.
The always engaging (if slightly geeky) Ed Friedland did a video review
for Bass Guitar Magazine.
The Bank's HR system has a bug in it, where they can't start my short-term
contract until my long-term contract wraps up, and they seem to be having
a delay with that. So it's just me and Wallace hanging out right now. Say
Look, I don't know if the iPhone is good or bad. I suspect that, like
most Apple products, it would drive me nuts. Lots of people seem happy
with it. All I'm saying is, for any tech product, you should never
trust a review written
two days after release. There's just not enough time for the
new-purchase glow to wear off.
Someone has released a chiptunes album on
an NES cartridge. Which is all well and good, but I'd be dubbing that
off into WAV as soon as I could recover from blowing the dust out of my
At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers. One
at a time or in small groups, he summons leading authors, historians,
philosophers and theologians to the White House to join him in the search.
Over sodas and sparkling water, he asks his questions: What is the nature
of good and evil in the post-Sept. 11 world? What lessons does history
have for a president facing the turmoil I'm facing? How will history judge
what we've done? Why does the rest of the world seem to hate America? Or
is it just me they hate?
The whole thing is a fluffy, loosely-sourced collection of flattery that
largely comes from Republican policymakers and hacks, all of whom seem to
be worried sick about the tremendous pressure that Bush faces. He seems to
be holding up so well! they marvel. Although the article carefully places
all the dots, it does not see fit to connect them: maybe he seems
oblivious to his poor perception and his disastrous war not because of his
faith or his stubbornness, but because he's truly unconcerned with any of
The more relevant question, of course, is why the Washington Post
felt like using its editorial power to write a puff-piece about how
hard it is for poor President Bush, and how well he's doing
despite all those inconvenient dead soldiers--not to mention his
increasingly fascist legal stances.
According to a few of the bassists from the Lowdown, the UK put a
smoking ban into place on July 1st. My understanding is that it's similar
to DC's. Most people welcome it, but some are up in arms. Why not ban
cholesterol, they ask, and Twinkies, and all the other harmful personal
choices that someone can make? Which would be a valid point, if
your second-hand Twinkie gave me cancer and made me smell
funny. Although the Twinkie is a wonderful and many-talented thing, until
it can do that there's just no comparison between the two. Smoking bans
Virginia speeding tickets have just gotten an upgrade. Fines
up to $2,500, and $350 taxes for three years is pretty hefty. I got a
ticket on Sunday, actually, and the officer was kind enough to cite me for
disobeying a traffic sign instead. The problem with traffic tickets around
here, as far as I'm concerned, is that there's a lot of classism in
action. When I was researching a story on DWI for NoVA Magazine, the
traffic lawyers would come right out and admit that fighting a traffic
ticket basically costs more, but wipes your record clean. People who can't
afford the lawyer end up losing their driving privileges, which is no fun
for someone who's already at the bottom of the employment ladder. I also
tend to notice more "residential zone" signs and lower speed limits in
wealthy neighborhoods. Must be nice to have the system looking out for
your kids. Wallace just has to learn to look both ways.
Now I have the He-Man intro speech stuck in my head. Thanks, Dan.
The Guitar Zeros are a band that plays rock music using
Guitar Hero controllers hooked up to a synth instead of
guitars. Which kind of adds a new layer to the whole "why don't you learn
to play a real instrument instead?" question.
For $250, you can get a tiny Linux-based computer called the Zonbox.
It would be a great live musical tool--if it didn't run Linux, which is
just not a viable audio platform as far as I'm concerned, for a variety of
reasons: poor driver support for pro-level interfaces, limited plugin
variety, almost no MIDI support, and an audio infrastructure that's a
usability nightmare. Maybe in a few more years, but I have my doubts.
Slate asked several award-winning writers what font they prefer. Most of
them say Courier New, because they either learned on typewriters or wanted
to learn on typewriters. Luckily, nobody says Comic Sans. I write
everything in Notepad, personally, and so the font is usually either
Lucida Console or Tahoma, but I specifically write in Notepad so that I
won't have any options to distract me. When I work on this site, it's all
in a terminal window, so I guess that's Courier. How about you?
You can hear one of the IFC podcasts that I edited on the World
Bank's Private Sector Development blog, here.
I think it's the one that the interviewer conducted over Skype, so the
audio quality is not fantastic.
Lucretius is heading off to college and needs money for a camera, a
laptop, and a copy of Photoshop. He's selling his prints in a book form.
$50 is a bit pricy, but it's a good cause. You can see the photos here.
L., you might also consider selling singles or large prints.
Sound on Sound magazine is really good this
month. There's an article on Dr. Who, an interview with synth expert
and crazy person Ray Kurzweil, and a look at the $40 Reaper DAW. SOS also
has the best online strategy of any magazine I've ever seen: subscribers
get access to everything online, and then the magazine shows up in
physical form a week or so later. I really can't recommend it highly
And this one goes out to the World Bank Staff Association:
Developing photographer (and unfailing commenter) Lucretius wants more
exposure. Ha! See what I did there? But seriously, Lucretius asked a week
or so ago if I would help highlight his artwork, and I'm more than happy
to do so. Here's his introductory statement:
My media is Digital Photography and Digital Image Editing. I chose this
form simply because I do not like my drawing or other forms of art that
require manual dexterity. I'm simply not good at it and cannot even draw a
straight line. My drawings are childish, and not in that quaint, adorable
way. More like the sad, man-child way that earns the wrong kind of
"awww's." Only gets worse when I add paint and color. I find photography
to be forgiving to the artists with a flair for mistakes, as I am.
Photoshop is even more forgiving, allowing me to ruin an image entirely,
yet still trace my steps back.
Early on, I started with, and often return to, the ever-popular form of
digital art known as clones.
From photo-shoot to Photoshop, you must have a substantial amount of
control over what happens in the image. It can be hard and tiring, but
it's worth the work once an image is completed. At the same time, I'm
usually much more intrigued by side projects/series and other miscellanea,
such as my recent series "His
Last Few Papers," or my penchant for ghosts. Those
are similar to the clones, yet much more satisfying and, to me, eye
catching. In fact, I'm planning a new project based on the ghosts of
Artists have a multitude of subjects with which to work. The world is full
of things to draw, write, and sing about. And yet here I am taking self-portrait
For me, this is the purest form of art, because it's the most literal form
of self-expression, and my most direct connection to the audience. I'm
much more comfortable when that connection is made through myself, rather
through something or someone else.
Be sure to check out those links to his portfolio. I think these are
really very cool images that showcase a lot of potential, and I don't just
say that to flatter a reader. Two of my favorites are here and here.