"Which cup is it?"

"It's the one that says motherfucker."

Seeing through CDs

Rupert Neve is a name that people who read audio engineering magazines will have seen. He's responsible for developing some expensive electrical stuff that makes music sound pleasing.

The following quote is from an interview with Mr Neve in Audio Technology and it's interesting in light of the shift we've seen toward digital audio formats:

"The Japanese showed some time ago that the brain produces electric radiations in the presence of different emotions and emotional stimuli. If you listen to an analogue music signal that is good quality, with no crossover distortion and no digital sampling, in can be a very satisfying experience. And as you start listening to it, you do the the thing which us older ones have done for a long time -- you come home after a long, hard day, put a long playing record on, and put your feet up. Even if the record is a bit scratchy, you can listen to it and enjoy it and relax. But you can't do that any longer…[because of the distortions of CDs and cheap transistor circuitry.]

"The Japanese have shown, and in fact a lot of us are accepting quite happily, that these distortions -- first of all the lack of music-related frequencies above 20kHz, and secondly the presence of the switching transient noises above 20kHz -- actually produce a different form of brain radiation. They produce the kind associated with discomfort, frustration, even anger. I am wondering whether we can't blame the CD for some of our social problems."

This makes sense to me because I've grown up with CDs and find I rarely listen to them to relax. I mostly enjoy music to be energised but sometimes for background noise.

For a while I'd listen to music while falling asleep and chose laid-back albums but there were only a few where I could actually fall asleep while listening to them. One time I put one of these albums on repeat to play through the night and found myself awake in the early hours of the morning feeling really angry at this mellow sort of music and couldn't understand why.

And MP3s must be even worse as they have an even narrower frequency range and often more distortion.


Thought this comment on judging the ARIAs was illuminating:

Upon joining the judging panel for the ARIA awards, I asked for all of the CDs for which engineers and producers had been nominated. My contact at ARIA was perplexed by this request. Dumbfounded, I patiently explained that I couldn’t possibly judge the quality of engineering and production work without listening to the recordings themselves. This was a perfectly reasonable argument, of course, and a box of 40 or so CDs landed on my doorstep shortly afterwards. Likewise one year later. But on the third year they objected, saying I was the only one of a dozen or so judges who asked for the CDs. I don’t know how the other judges made their decisions, but it sure as hell wasn’t from listening to the recordings – unless they happened to be extremely keen fans of Australian-produced music in all shapes and forms, and already owned every CD on the list. Considering the scope of music covered by the nominations (everything from hard rock to soft baroque), I found that highly unlikely. Other factors were obviously at play in the judges’ minds; perhaps basing their decisions on chart figures, sales success, or even less relevant and/or less honest means. Whatever the case, I rapidly began to lose interest in the whole thing. And when five engineers won the same award simultaneously, I knew the system was screwed.

Floods and pestilence

2011 has been crazy but I've gotten off lightly so far.



And now mice:

I hate mice. They really stink but I can't decide if their corpses littering the streets are good to see or morbid and disgusting.

Weaver Hawkins' Jitterbugs

While hunting through some old photographs I found this snap of a painting I admired while visiting the NSW Art Gallery.

You can see a scan of the original here.

The Cubist style is put to great use conveying the frantic movement of the dancers.

Deadly desk jobs

According to recent studies, your chair is your enemy as sitting for extended stretches of time may be considered a lethal activity. While the mainstream media has demonised television, the response from internet geeks and bloggers might usher in a new era of standing office furniture.

People who sit too much may be shortening their lives, concluded the author of a study by the American Cancer Society who tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. Epidemiologist Alpa Patel found that men who spend six hours or more per day of their leisuire time sitting have an overall death rate about 20 percent higher than men who sit for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher.

An Australian study published last year looked at nearly 9000 Australians and found that each additional hour of television a person sat and watched, raised their risk of dying by 11 percent. Author David Dunstan analysed a range of unhealthy habits before concluding that “age, sex, education, smoking, hypertension, waist circumference, body-mass index, glucose tolerance status and leisure-time exercise did not significantly modify the associations between television viewing and all-cause...mortality.”

Many bloggers have moved to using standing desks in response to these studies pointing to the dangers of extended time in front of a screen, whether it’s a television or a computer.

Lifehacker.com founding editor Gina Trapani wrote that she uses a standing desk as a way to burn calories and improve her posture:
“When I’m sitting at my desk, even in a fancy ergonomic chair, I tend to slump, with my back curved and shoulders forward, which closes my chest and makes my breathing more shallow. When standing at a desk where my forearms are at a 90 degree angle on the desk surface, my shoulders go back, which makes my spine concave and opens my chest. Besides the initial foot pain and muscle aches of engaged thighs and calves, it feels great.”

Bloggers warn the new desk arrangement includes a brutal first three days as feet and legs grow accustomed to providing extra support. “I have a foot rest rail going around the bottom (of his standing desk) -- this is pretty critical for long term comfort,” wrote Benjamin Palmer on the popular blog boingboing.net. “I also have a stool I sit on for maybe 1/4 of the day, but the rail is really the key thing.”

Palmer also suggests that a very cheap way to get started with a standing desk is to buy a cheap coffee table and put it on top of your desk. “It’s usually just the right height, and you can get them in a wide variety of sizes and finishes to fit your gear and match your existing desk.”

Update: the contents of this blog post served as the subject of a presentation I did for the 2011 Local Government Web Network Conference in Sydney.


Vita-weat launched a rice cracker earlier this year and, being something of a rice cracker connoisseur, I was curious to see how they compare because the different brands all manage to do something different with the format. My favourite rice cracker is Sakata, especially the wholegrain varieties, but sometimes I like the sweeter brands with their fluffier biscuits, like Fantastic and Trident. However, it would be nice if a company would produce a plain cracker that was actually plain and not covered in salt since I usually dip them in something which also has salt in it.

Anyway, the Vita-weat cracker is quite satisfying. The sesame seeds add a nuttiness and the brown rice has a denseness that seems filling and gives them a very crunchy texture.

As the supermarket reduced the biscuits and then heavily discounted them as they passed their use-by date, I wondered if they hadn't connected with shoppers. They were asking more for Vita-weats than the other rice crackers but the "100% natural" branding suggested they were looking for people who want to pay for good quality. So why not promote being GM free or low GI?

Also I was surprised that Arnott's thought to extend the Vita-weat brand into the rice cracker market. They mightn't spell wheat properly and there seems to be only a minuscule amount of wheat in the rice cracker yet it's enough so they aren't free from gluten. In comparison the original Vita-weat crackers are 85% wheat.