Thump thump.

Monday, December 5th, 2016 12:47 am
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Genesis, Mama - this 1983 song played on the radio late one night when I must have been between 11 and 13 years old, and I taped it. It hinted at an alternate dark spooky world. Thump thump. Thump thump. (Don't break, don't break.) A part of the music spoke to me deeply, a part of it repelled me. I don't think I ever heard the song again on the radio, at least not *that* version. *That* version was something that could only play late at night, in the dark, found by chance while scrolling through stations on my radio.

The opening music before the vocals is simply awesome.

The lyrics didn't make much sense. Surely he couldn't be singing about his mother. I knew he must have been calling his girlfriend "Mama", but that still evoked an uncomfortable sense of incest to my mind. I had never heard anyone else call their girlfriend "Mama". The other part that repelled me was the crazy/evil laugh.

The line "It's getting so hard" meant only "It's getting so difficult", to my mind. The alternate sense only occurred to me today upon reading the lyrics. I wouldn't have understand that other sense back then. The "oh ooooooooooooh!!!" after the line was a perfect expression of pain/feeling/longing/suffering. (Shout, shout, let it all out, but that's another song.)

The Wikipedia page for the song has a quote from Phil Collins explaining what the lyrics are about.
"...and that's really what the song is about, with sinister overtones".

Sinister. Yes, that is the word. The laughter is definitely sinister.
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My mom sent me a cassette in 1986, back when I was living in the U.S. with my dad, and she was in Germany. She spoke on it, and let several of my German relatives speak on it too during a family gathering over there, and then let it record in the background while relatives were chatting with each other. She and my aunt sent me a few such tapes during those years, and I likewise recorded and sent a few to them. When we ran out of things to speak about, we recorded music on the remainder of the tape.

I must not have listened to this tape in a long time. Six minutes into recording the first side onto my computer, the tape got stuck in the player. I managed to pull the tape back out without breaking it. I twisted the tape back into the shell. The reels weren't turning smoothly or easily, which is why it got stuck. The part of the tape which had been stuck was crinkled up, and I worried that it might get stuck again.

This page: FRUSTRATED by old cassette tapes binding my decks
Try slapping the sides of the cassettes firmly against the palm of your hand (do it on both sides.)
This does help in many cases in freeing the layers of tape, and in my case I am talking tapes that go back to 1972.
If the rollers in the cassette are sticking, this could also help loosen them
Then after that, wind them through.

So I tried that. After slapping the cassette, the reels *did* seem to turn more easily. I then fast-forwarded and rewound the whole tape, and started the recording over again. This time it is playing fine.

There are voices on this tape from aunts and uncles who are no longer alive. I didn't even remember that they had spoken on the tape, and that I had any recording of them. What a precious treasure to find.

Update. Ok, while recording the 2nd side, towards the end, the tone started shifting between low and high. So I had to slap the cassette some more, but that fixed it.

soda city

Thursday, December 1st, 2016 12:01 am
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There's been a "Soda City Market" downtown for several years. I always wondered a bit why they called it that. I figured it had something to do with soda being sold there, among other things. Because I remembered reading about some brand of artisan soda being sold there once.

Now it just hit me. Columbia is abbreviated "Cola". Cola = Soda, ergo Soda City!
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I bought a USB modem to use for back-up in case my broadband goes down again... It works! It really works!

It gave me a little thrill, hearing the modem noises while it was connecting, and seeing some web pages load successfully (even though the first few attempts were unsuccessful; I may have been too impatient).

I plan to also get a newer cell phone with a bigger data plan for backup too, but frankly the idea of trying out a phone-line dial-up connection again, like in the old days, was too good to pass up.

unknown song

Monday, November 28th, 2016 12:03 am
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Can anyone help me identify this song?
It's electronic, no lyrics, and goes sort of Boop Bee Dee Deep...

unknown song

(I already tried uploading it to the site, but that site did not find a match.)

Or can anyone recommend a good app for identifying songs, especially more obscure ones which don't have lyrics?

Update: andrewducker was able to identify the song! It is Voodoo Chronometer, by TimeShard.

audio cassettes

Sunday, November 27th, 2016 02:04 pm
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Yesterday, I was inspired to continue the task of converting my audio cassettes to MP3 files. The longer I postpone it, the more the audio on the cassettes may degrade, and the more likely that the equipment I've been using to do the conversions, will break.

I had already converted all 26 of the cassettes that were official purchased albums. The remaining ones (45 to 50) have music that I recorded from the radio or which other people sent me. The former were simpler to do than the latter (which I'll call mix-tapes even though that term may not be accurate). With the albums, I simply recorded each side of the cassette onto the computer as a audio file, applied noise-reduction, then split the large file into a separate MP3 file for each song.

Right now I am recording the remaining cassettes to audio files, without yet doing any further processing on them. 15 cassettes are already done, leaving about 30 more. I could finish them in another week or two if I keep at it.

Then I'll eventually have to decide:
Should I keep each long 45 minute file, without splitting it by song? That is how I used to listen to them, and would keep the original experience. But some of the songs I really don't care to listen to anymore.

Splitting the files by song would require much extra effort. With the albums, there was silence between each song, and software was able to split them with minimal manual effort. My "mix-tapes" don't have the silences, and they have many more clips per side, all of which I'd have to manually split.

Once I split the songs, I'd be tempted to delete the ones I no longer care for, and to find better versions of the ones I still really enjoy. But the "lower" quality cassette versions of some songs still have a special nostalgic quality, which higher-quality versions simply can't replace. So I'll end up with multiple versions of those.

I think I'll do this:

Keep the full long versions of each cassette for archival/nostalgic purposes.
Also split them into individual files, and keep a full copy of those files just in case I ever want them.
For the remaining songs which I still enjoy listening to, put them in folders where my random-play MP3 player will be able to pick them up.
For the songs which I especially like and don't already have other versions of, see if I can find better versions online to purchase.

phone spam

Saturday, November 26th, 2016 03:10 pm
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This was a new one for me.
Pick up the phone, hear what sounds like a live voice saying "Hello?"... I reply Hello, and the lady's voice says "I'm sorry, I was having trouble with my headset", which really makes it sound like a live person. Then she starts off reading some marketing spiel. During which I try to interrupt to say I'm not interested and would she please put me on their no-call list, but the voice just keeps on going without pausing, as if it must be a recording after all.
I hung up.
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Maine has become the first state in the country to pass ranked choice voting (for state-wide races). A similar measure was passed in Benton County, Oregon, for county elections.

Maine is also one of only two states (the other being Nebraska) which allows their electoral college votes to be split between candidates (though so far it hasn't happened in Maine, and only once in Nebraska). They use the "Congressional District Method", whereby for example:
Nebraska has five electoral votes, as it has three Congressional districts and two Senators. Two of these electoral votes automatically go to the winner of the popular vote. The other three go to the winner of the popular vote within each district.

So it still isn't a proportionate split based on the popular vote, but isn't always necessarily winner-takes-all as in the other states.


Thursday, November 24th, 2016 12:21 am
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The Stein/Baraka Green Party campaign plans to request recounts in 3 states. They are raising money to cover the fees. From refreshing the page a few times, I've been watching the amount raised going up astonishingly fast. They are likely to reach their goal of $2.5 million in a few hours if not by morning. Actually, the $2.5 million is only for the filing fees: The total cost is likely to be $6-7 million. So I imagine they will keep taking donations even after reaching that goal.

One thing mentioned on the page was news to me: "In 2004, the Cobb/LaMarche campaign demanded a recount in Ohio. Because of their efforts, an election administrator went to jail."

So I looked it up, and found this:
Election Staff Convicted in Recount Rig
Elections board workers sentenced to 18 months
Elections board workers take plea deal

More about the current recounts:
Hillary Clinton urged to call for election vote recount in battleground states
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I've had this radio since about 1981. It still works well. It's much more viscerally satisfying to scroll through stations by turning the tuning knob, compared to modern radios with their seek and scan buttons. And it sounds just as good to me as my larger stereo receiver system does.

The clock display is blank in this video as the button battery went bad and I had to remove it. But after cleaning the battery compartment out and putting in a new battery, the clock still works too.

Video title: Sanyo M1950F Clock Radio Cassette Player
Posted by: Darkoshi


Monday, November 21st, 2016 03:27 pm
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The Follow Your Heart vegan smoked gouda cheese slices mentioned in this post tasted great when melted.

I found a similar product by Daiya, Smoked Gouda Style Block, which melted and tasted pretty much the same. However, it wasn't pre-sliced, so the other one seemed more convenient.

But I don't always eat things up very fast, and the Daiya block was in my fridge for some time (I'm not sure how long), partially used up. These last 2 days, I finally used the rest up as a burrito topping. The interesting thing is that now, it even tastes quite good raw to me. I don't remember it being the same when it was fresh. The raw taste and texture - slightly crumbly - now reminds me of non-vegan cheddar cheese blocks I had as a kid (not the sharp cheddar ones with the bitter taste, but the very mild ones).

I'm not sure if I ever had Gouda cheese before I became vegan, so I can't say whether either of these brands tastes like dairy Gouda or not.
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The Secret Agenda of a Facebook Quiz - to get a profile of quiz takers, to be able to target them with political ads tailored to their individual concerns.
For several years, a data firm eventually hired by the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, has been using Facebook as a tool to build psychological profiles that represent some 230 million adult Americans. A spinoff of a British consulting company and sometime-defense contractor known for its counterterrorism “psy ops” work in Afghanistan, the firm does so by seeding the social network with personality quizzes.
One recent advertising product on Facebook is the so-called “dark post”: A newsfeed message seen by no one aside from the users being targeted. With the help of Cambridge Analytica, Mr. Trump’s digital team used dark posts to serve different ads to different potential voters, aiming to push the exact right buttons for the exact right people at the exact right times.
In this election, dark posts were used to try to suppress the African-American vote. According to Bloomberg, the Trump campaign sent ads reminding certain selected black voters of Hillary Clinton’s infamous “super predator” line. It targeted Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood with messages about the Clinton Foundation’s troubles in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
One day in August, [Trump's campaign] flooded the social network with 100,000 ad variations, so-called A/B testing on a biblical scale...

Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’
Paul Horner, the 38-year-old impresario of a Facebook fake-news empire, has made his living off viral news hoaxes for several years.
"Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it."
"My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist."

Wikipedia now has an entry on fake news websites too - the page was launched on Nov 15, 2016.

How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study

The pro-Trump fake news website that’s finding an audience — with Trump’s help - (article from April 2016)

What was fake on the Internet this week: Why this is the final column - from the Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2015.
Frankly, this column wasn’t designed to address the current environment. This format doesn’t make sense. I’ve spoken to several researchers and academics about this lately, because it’s started to feel a little pointless. Walter Quattrociocchi, the head of the Laboratory of Computational Social Science at IMT Lucca in Italy, has spent several years studying how conspiracy theories and misinformation spread online, and he confirmed some of my fears: Essentially, he explained, institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it’s demonstrably fake.
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Red states and blue states - Wikipedia entry with several interesting maps and tables. The last table shows which president won each state from 1972 through 2016. I was surprised to see that in 1984, Reagan won absolutely everywhere except Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Likewise, in 1972, Nixon only lost in Massachusetts and DC.

Maps of the 2016 US presidential election results - maps and cartograms (size adjusted by population), including ones with shades of purple, for the 2016 presidential election.
And for comparison:
2012 election
2008 election
2004 election

How America really voted + maps going back to the 1960’s - Red/Blue cartograms showing the electoral college results from 1964 to 2008.

seeing dream

Saturday, November 19th, 2016 05:46 pm
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I've been trying to find a replacement for my old sleep mask. It was contoured foam, so that it didn't press on my eyes or lashes. The lining is coming apart. But I've tried 3 new ones of that kind now, even one of the exact same brand & model as the old one, and they are all uncomfortable. They must be a different shape or a different type of foam. The thicker parts of the foam on the edges press into the side of my face when I sleep on my side.

I tried the 3rd new one out last night, and was able to sleep for a while with it on, with my head slanted slightly upwards on the pillow, as it isn't quite as uncomfortable as the other 2 were. But it entered into my dream.

In my dream, I was wearing the mask with my eyes open in the daytime. And I could see everything clearly in spite of the mask blocking my eyes! But I only could see when my eyes were open. When I closed them, I couldn't see. And I thought, aha that is how it works - when I close my eyes, my brain knows that it shouldn't see anything, and so it doesn't. But with them open... there was some explanation for why I could see in spite of my eyes being covered, but I don't remember it. Something about my vision coming outward from my brain, not inward from outside.

Which actually makes a lot of sense, considering I was dreaming.

I'm pretty sure the dream was related to a video alcippe linked to several months ago.

see saw

Thursday, November 17th, 2016 10:59 pm
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Over the past week, my thoughts have been see-sawing back and forth about Trump's win. Between, on the one side, a great fear of very horrible things that may be coming (!), and on the other, hoping that maybe it won't be that bad (~), maybe no worse than past administrations we've lived through.

! human rights abuses, loss of liberties, breakdown of democracy, dictatorship, rolling back of health care progress, complete outlawing of abortions, etc.

~ even though the Republicans have the majority in both houses, doesn't mean that they will support Trump on all issues. Republicans have been greatly divided about him. Then again, he'll probably support most of the awful things they'll want passed.
~ Maybe now that he's won the election, he'll back off on some of the things he proposed. Yeah, right.

Anyway. There's not much point in me going into many details on that, as I don't think other people really care what I think, and they have their own thoughts and worries to deal with. And so many other people say it so much better than I can.

About the protests that have gone on, I sympathize with people being upset, fearful, and worried, and wanting to demonstrate and protest. But what do the protesters hope to achieve? To somehow prevent the president-elect from becoming president, through something other than the rule of law? That would likely be the end of democracy in this country, so I can't support that. It would be our demise.

(I had had a slight hope that Trump would be convicted of some major crime before he was sworn in, preventing him from becoming president in a legal manner, but that hope seems ever more remote. And I don't even know what the law says about such a scenario.)

Likewise, I'm all in favor of getting rid of the electoral college and instead electing the president by popular vote. But I'm against the idea that Hillary should be made president *now* based on the popular vote, scrapping the electoral college. Again, that would likely be the end of democracy in this country. The electoral college needs to be disposed of by changing the law, and for the next election, not one that has already happened. Unfortunately, that will not likely happen anytime soon, as the party who benefits the most from it has a majority in Congress. But anything else would result in a civil war or a complete downfall into chaos and loss of government stability. How would Hillary's supporters be feeling right now if she had just barely lost the popular vote, but had a majority of electoral votes? Would they be willing to hand over the election to the other side based on the popular vote? I don't think so.

(I'm not totally against the idea of electors switching their votes, as from what I understand, that wouldn't technically be illegal. If a bunch of electors did that, at the very least it might give Congress more impetus to get rid of the electoral college sooner than otherwise. But if enough electors did that to change the outcome of the election, I worry that would also lead to extreme violence and rioting nationwide, and a breakdown of government.)

I sort of wish that the people who've been protesting in the streets would be saving their energy and outrage for later on. Right now, the protests give the impression that the demonstrators are protesting against democracy, against a fairly elected president*. I don't see how that can do us any good. It would be much better to protest later on, if and when the people in charge try to pass bad laws, or try to issue bad edicts. Then the protests would be against something concrete and real, not based on dislike of a person, and fear of what that person *may* do.

*I haven't heard any reports of election fraud, so I have to assume the election results are accurate.

Before the election, I heard someone on the news talking about how American democracy is so good, compared to many other countries, because we have a peaceful passing of power from one administration to the next. In many countries, such things are always marked by bloodshed and fighting and violence. In many countries, political opponents are assassinated. I don't want to live in one of the latter kinds of places.

Yes, I do think the Trump presidency is likely to be a big step backwards for us. But I think the alternatives now would be worse. Obviously, depending on what may come in the next 4 or more years, I may change my mind.
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I watched Trump's acceptance speech yesterday. Or rather, I watched some and read/skimmed the transcript of the rest so that I could get to bed quicker. Ditto for Hillary's concession speech.

Trump's speech itself didn't seem that bad. What bothered me the most was the repeated chanting/yelling of "U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!" from the audience. Not just the chanting itself, but the sound of it.

It sounds so mob-like. So unthinking-violent-monster-like. (Though re-watching it today, it doesn't seem quite as bad as it did to me yesterday. Today, the background music raises my hackles instead. OMG. They actually played "You can't always get what you want" at the end of the speech. Apparently Trump played that song at most of his speeches and rallies, even though the Rolling Stones didn't give him permission. What a way to rub it in. Brilliant irony, that's the word)

The implicit message of the "U.S.A." chanting seems to be "We're the best!". Which naturally implies "The rest of you (the rest of the world, etc.) aren't as good!", ie. "The rest of you are inferior". That's what bothers me about it. It's one thing to feel good about yourself/your county. It's another thing to denigrate others, as Trump and many of his followers seem fond of doing.

It also reminds me again of my high school's pep rallies, back in the day. Those were full of the same kind of "We're the best" propaganda/shouting/cheering. I never could identify with that. I never could see why students of one school should feel they were automatically better than students in other schools.