Those of us that are pretty serious about our LPs have a cleaning ritual before each playing. I use a combination of different cleaning solutions. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain, but it keeps the records in fine sounding shape. I have a pipette for the record preservative, when I withdrew it from the bottle, it immediately shot out a quantity of the liquid in the vicinity of my amp for the left channel. I didn’t see anything, or smell anything burning so I quickly dismissed it as a close call. Grrr, I put on “Life’s Rich Pageant” and thought, “Crap, I’ve worn this LP down to nothing…” It was scratchy, distorted, etc. So I immediately got onto ebay and put in a bid on another copy. Then the phone rang. It’s easy to forget how handy a pause control is on cd players when you’re halfway through an album side… I lifted the needle and got Rick. When I put the needle back down my heart stopped. The left channel sputtered and then went dead. OMG! I’ve fried my amp! Hmm, all the tubes are still lit though, and there’s no smell… Wait a minute, the right side is quickly fading too…. I had forgotten about my phono preamp. It is powered off of two 9 volt batteries. I popped in two new ones and viola! It sounded just like it should. Guess I didn’t need that new copy after all…


Ahhh, LPs

I’ve always thought that Men at Work’s second album was better than their first. “Overkill” and “It’s a Mistake” are of course great songs, but the whole album is solid. I’m trying to get as much listening in now as I won’t be able to for a while. That and ice cream, won’t be able to get Ben and Jerry’s over there either. Mmmmm… Music and ice cream, what better way to spend my day off?


I’m officially old…

I had my first eye exam in 20 years. He gave me a (mild) prescription to counter my growing nearsightedness. Mom says I’m a freak, that I’m supposed to be getting more farsighted, not nearsighted. I think that its weird that calling my inability to see clearly at distances is “more” anything. I would think that the appropriate term would be unable to see far off… Anyway, he thinks that the glasses would help when watching movies (he doesn’t know me very well does he) or driving, especially at night. He also confirmed my fear that I should go and get glasses with really nice lenses like Zeiss or Pentax because the “cheap” ones would likely drive me crazy. Ah, the perils of being an optics snob… I’ve only found one optician in the area that sells Zeiss lenses and they’re in Reston town center and old town Alexandria, sounds expensive. The trouble is that I can’t figure out how to do this over the web, I need to see the frames on me. I’m not sure if I should get a regular set of glasses or just a pair of sun glasses. I won’t be driving in the near future and I need some sunglasses. I’ll have to look at the prices and see what makes sense.



Last week was particularly draining for me. It seemed as though all I did was work and sleep, and I never had enough sleep.. Rick’s party went well, lots of people having a good time. I was introduced to various people as the guy going to Yemen in October. I have done so much reading that the exotic nature of the trip has faded somewhat. It was a bit exasperating to explain to person after person what I was doing. It was also a little weird having one person after another tell me that was nuts and then immediately turn around and say what I was doing was very cool. I don’t really think my trip either crazy or “cool”, but I didn’t expound on that at the party.

Had my first strong desire in a long time to drink today. For some reason a 6 pack of Mike’s hard cranberry lemonade really appealed to me. I actually stood there for a minute or so debating whether or not I should get it. People ask me why I don’t drink and I usually come up with some sort of plausible reason, but the truth is that I’m scared to death of it. I lived with several people that had alcohol problems, that isn’t pretty. Crawford males have a long history of not being able to handle alcohol or of alcohol handling them too easily… So I decided not to get the Lemonade, best not to worry about it.


1st amendment of the internet and net neutrality

I keep coming back to this topic because I am a little worried about the misunderstandings people have with how markets work. There are companies that want to start charging for better connections and possibly exclusive content. They feel that they need to deviate from the IP standards that exist today to do that. They want to be able to discriminate between types of data so that they can offer low latency, high bandwidth connections for people that want them.

Net neutrality supporters claim that this will violate the so called “1st amendment of the internet.” This is the idea that all content is equal, that everyone has full access to all content out there. There has been some major league FUD spread on this concept, net neutrality supporters paint the picture of a fractured internet where certain content will be favored and that some sites will not be accessible at all. If you think about how this 1st amendment feature came about, you can see that there’s no reason to worry.

I’m sure that the ISPs would love to be able to do what people fear. They would love to lock you into their preferred content providers, raise their rates, and block sites and domains that they don’t like. To my knowledge there isn’t any legal block to doing this right now. Here’s the thing, as much as they might like to do this, they can’t. It’s not that they aren’t capable of raising rates, blocking content, and denying access to domains that they don’t like, after all there are many countries that do this to their citizens right now. China is the highest profile example of this. Companies in this country are not able to do any of this because of the competition for our dollars. Can you imagine if Cox was known to block content? Verison would gain an incredible number of new customers. I believe that AOL has learned this the hard way. Didn’t they start out blocking many sites that they thought were objectionable? If I’m not mistaken, they have had to liberalize considerably in order to stem the mass exodus from their service. They also tried to go the exclusive content route and found that most people preferred the regular internet instead. The only force that can get away with content blocking is the government.

So the fact that ISPs have not raised their rates or blocked content yet is a pretty strong argument that they will not in the future as long as competition is strong. The 1st amendment of the internet was never legislated before, and yet it occurred, How? By allowing the market to sort it out on its own. Government legislation to “guarantee” it is not only not necessary, it is dangerous. We do not want to open the door to the government being able to legislate what the internet “ought” to be. That isn’t up to them, it should be in the hands of all the people that use it and pay for it


Frederick Mosteller died today…

He was the first statistician that had a real impact on me. His book “Data Analysis and Regression” coauthored with John Tukey was the first time I had encountered any thinking when dealing with statistics. Until then, all of the statistics books I had read were purely mechanical. You have a normal distribution, your mean is this, your median is that. You calculate standard deviation like so. Mosteller’s book started out asking how normal was the distribution? How can you be sure of what you are measuring and how can you minimize the errors when trying to discern the central tendency of that invisible distribution underlying your data? He showed how it was easy to confuse a normal distribution with a so called “dirty” normal distribution. The dirty normal was a kind of worse case scenario for statisticians in that the data looked like a typical normal distribution, but the actual trend that you were trying to study deviated from a normal distribution in some substantial ways.

What this means is that if you took an arithmetical mean (the average) of your data, it would be significantly different than the actual center point of the underlying trend. He used a variety of trimmed means and studies of Kurtosis (how normal is your normal distribution) in order to minimize errors when trying to estimate central tendencies.

I know, I’m a big geek. But the man made statistics something worth thinking about! I admired his approach (if not his rather obtuse writing style) and his book gave me quite an insight into how statistics actually works. Turns out that he was in a nursing home right here in Falls Church! Had I known that I’m sure that I would have gone to visit him once in a while…

You can read more about him and his amazing range of research topics here.


Lunch and Burl Ives

I was thinking about my upcoming trip to Malta with my cousin today at lunch. We had hammered out the dates that she was going to be over there, the 2nd through the 13th of Jan. My plan all along was to get there a day or two before her, just so I could settle in and meet her at the airport and whatnot. Well, that would mean I needed to get there on the 1st. Hmmm, that might be problematic it being a holiday and all. Well how about a couple of days before that? If I was going to get there on the 29th, I might as well get there a little earlier and see Christmas. That wouldn’t be so bad, after all, it would certainly be better spending Christmas in a very Christian place as opposed to a conservative Muslim country where it would be just another day… Maybe I could be in Italy during Christmas, that would be amazing! Christmas in Sicily… kind of like the ring of that. But I don’t know, do I really want to spend the extra money and go through the hassle?

As I was debating in my mind whether I should spend an enjoyable, if more expensive, Christmas in Italy, a strange thing happened. “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” came on the radio. I kid you not, the 25th of July and Burl effing Ives was on the radio in Arby’s. That’s a bit too random to be random. As Rick says, “Sometimes God speaks to you clearly and directly.” So I’m looking into it. If I can afford it, I’m going to do it.


MOre tubes…

Yes, I know… I shouldn’t be buying any more tubes right now, but they were on sale! Black Plate RCA 6as7g tubes have been a little rich for my blood but I’ve always wanted to try them. I have been told that 6080 tubes and the 6as7 tubes share the same internals but with different envelope shapes. So when Antique Electronics had a sale on 6080 tubes for 5 bucks a piece, I jumped at it. They’re still breaking in, but I’m impressed already by the bass and naturalness of the tones. Right now the music is still a bit muddy, but I don’t even have 5 hours on them. I’ll report back after 50 or 60 hours…


Being “controlled” by corporations

This idea of being controlled by corporations has come up several times in recent online conversations. It’s usually in the context of the government regulating something to protect us form the evil corporations. This puzzles and worries me on several different levels. What strikes me the most is this idea that we are slaves to various companies, that we have no choice in certain things and we are therefore controlled by these companies. Following that line of logic, we are in need of a protector, and most people want the government to play that role. With just a little thought you can see how backwards this really is.

Companies depend on us buying their products and services to survive. It is in their best interest to provide us with what we want. We are the ones that control of the corporations! This is easily shown by the fact that companies regularly go out of business. As long as there is competition between companies for our dollars, we are the ones in control. We always have options, we can buy from a company, not buy from them, buy from their competition, etc. If we do not like their price, their business practices, owners, or whatever, we can choose to do something else.

When we involve the government, our range of choices always decreases. Government ownership being the worst case scenario. Lets use a ridiculous example to make a point. Let’s say that the local power plant decides to start burning babies to provide power. There are people that applaud this decision since babies are messy and loud. Plus, they burn much cleaner than the traditional fossil fuels. You are outraged of course, but what to do, you need power! Well, you have options. You can use some sort of alternative energy source, maybe buy your own generator or install solar panels. In the worst case scenario, you could move somewhere else and use some other power source. The key is that you do not have to use their power and you no longer support what you don’t like. Now imagine that the government owns the power plant. You could choose not to use the power, but you’d still be paying for it. If you decided to make a stand and not pay for it (as you should), you would be thrown in jail, or at least fined. Sounds silly, right? Well, just substitute your least favorite war, educational policy, political junket, or least favorite bit of bureaucratic red tape to see how relevant it really is. When the government is involved, you have to pay no matter what you think of the policies. That’s quite a bit more control than any business could ever have over you.

OK sure, but the government doesn’t own most things, and besides the poor need some sort of protection. They don’t have the same kind of options that you and I have. It’s true that the US government doesn’t own most things (thank God!) but that’s not the case in many countries. The government here may not own as much, but they certainly regulate quite a bit. Regulations have a similar consequence, they cause us to have fewer options. How? By forcing expenses on companies, it raises the cost of entry and operation. his prevents some companies from starting and can cause others to close. By stifling competition, we have fewer choices and pay higher prices. This gets us back to the protection of the poor. The poor wouldn’t need protection if they had adequate choices. In fact, they may choose an option that you wouldn’t because it would save them some money. I’d like to think that everyone, regardless of income bracket, would choose the nuclear power plant over the baby burning one. But not everyone would choose the nuclear plant over a coal burning one. Some would prefer the lower operating expenses of coal, some people just don’t trust nuclear power. Some people wouldn’t choose either, they’d rather pay the extra money and use wind or solar power. The key is that the more choices companies can offer us, the better off we are. They have no control over us, we control them. The government is the one you have to watch out for, it can either limit your choices or control you directly by threat of incarceration (or worse).

The same principles apply to ANY product or service that you can think of. If you let businesses pursue profits, you will have the most extensive range of options, including the lowest possible price. Regulations passed, no matter how well intentioned, will always interfere with someone’s choices. This limits them to them paying more and/or eliminating a service that they would rather have. Granted, environmental, educational, and national defense issues are complicated, but the fact remains that the government is the only one that can “control” us, the corporations of the world can only ask us for our money.


Music not to give your mom

Mom was up this weekend. She wanted an external drive to store her burgeoning music collection. So I picked one up for her and showed her how to use it. She then got the idea that I could just transfer my itunes collection onto her new drive. Sure, why not? I did it, no problem. Of course when I loaded it up in her itunes library I realized that she now owned “Pussy Whipped” by Bikini Kill. I immediately went on a purging spree. Let’s see, “Dial M for Motherfucker” had to go, as did all of my NWA. She wasn’t going to appreciate Hole’s first album nor would she really dig “Fuck Religion, Fuck the Police, Fuck the Lot of You.” “Exile in Guyville” probably wasn’t going to get much playtime from her either. I ended up deleting entire genres. She’ll probably do some more but at least she won’t be aghast at anything on her computer (I think). Who knows, maybe I left some obscure songs by the Adicts, Xray Specs, or the Buzzcoxks on there that she won’t like. Eh, she’ll have to deal, she’ll like a lot of stuff…