Critical Section

Archive: August 19, 2003

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Tuesday,  08/19/03  08:55 PM

Robert Scheer wants A higher tax on all your houses.  "An amazing thing happened on the way to the California recall: Someone spoke the truth about the state's financial predicament.  Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, ballyhooed as a top economic advisor to Arnold Schwarzenegger, told the Wall Street Journal that property taxes in California are ridiculously low.  He's right.You bet.  Not only was Warren named Fortune Magazine's "most powerful person in business", but he's a plain talking California homeowner.

By the way, in the same article Robert says "we don't need to recall Davis", so I don't agree with all of it.  I actually disagree with Robert on most things most of the time.  <soapbox> But Prop 13 is a big problem for California, and must be repealed. </soapbox>

James Dunnigan: The Great Blackout of 2003 and the Situation in North Korea.  Yeah, these subjects do have something to do with each other; read James' post.  It does appear that the situation in North Korea is unstable and coming to a head.

(click for larger pic)
Mazda RX-8

There is a lot of buzz around Mazda's new RX-8.  Paul Boutin raves about it in Slate.  Warren Brown in the WP calls it "transcendental".  And I drive a twelve-year old Lexus coupe which may need replacing someday.  Hmmm....

You know how I always say "anytime you read about something you know, they get it wrong"? Well here's another example.  Intuit just announced their fourth quarter results (their fiscal year end is July), and every headline said "Intuit reports lower fourth-quarter loss".  Not one of these reporters got the real story, which is that Intuit had a killer quarter to cap a killer year.  Intuit always loses money in the fourth quarter, they have some very cyclical businesses like tax preparation.  What matters is their numbers relative to last year's quarter, and the full-year results.  You would think at least one of these reporters would get this, but sadly, no.

Interesting article in Canada's National Post about Lifting the veil on gender apartheid.  I didn't know this, but apparently the Islam jihab (headgear) which women wear is a recent invention, circa 1970, and has nothing to do with Islam as a religion.  Fascinating...

David Hornik discusses The Summer Slowdown, and has "a feeling that this fall is going to be an excellent time for startups to raise money."  So be it :)

Now this is special; movie executives are blaming teenagers' text messaging for this summer's flops.  "In Hollywood, 2003 is rapidly becoming known as the year of the failed blockbuster, and the industry now thinks it knows why...  The problem, they say, is teenagers who instant message their friends with their verdict on new films - sometimes while they are still in the cinema watching - and so scupper carefully crafted marketing campaigns designed to lure audiences out to a big movie on its opening weekend."  What BS.  The problem is that the movies are no good.  Period.  Watch what happens at the end of the year when Matrix Revolutions comes out, or Harry Potter III, or LOTR Return of the King.

football trophiesAre you ready for some football?  Nah, I'm not ready yet, either.  But the 48th Carnival of the Vanities has a football theme; check it out.  This is a great way to meet some new blogs.

My discovery of the week is Little Miss Attila, who likes Arnold, hates the "obesity is society's fault" bandwagon, and loves Siggraph.

Pito Salas wonders Can your mother use RSS?  Which is a great thing to wonder, because as he points out it isn't necessary to understand something in order to use it.  Many people use email every day without the slightest knowledge of POP, SMTP, IMAP, MIME, or any of the other underlying protocols.  So the real question is "Can your mother use an RSS reader"?  In my case the answer is yes, your mileage may vary :)

And if you haven't taken my survey: Do you use an RSS reader?, please do so!


Rock 'n Roll

Tuesday,  08/19/03  11:15 PM

I'm mountain biking with my good friends Bill and Jim, and one of the highlights has been Bill's incredible Rock 'n Roll collection.  1700 terrific songs on one little MP3 player.  Wow!  One great song after another.

Some reflections:

  • Isn't it amazing how much information the human brain can store?  As we're listening, the three of us recognize virtually every song and band, and know almost every note.  That is a lot of information.
    • And it can be random accessed so well: 
      "Remember Argent?" 
      "Oh, yeah, 'Hold Your Head Up'". 
      "Yeah, that was cool." 
      And we all have Argent's "Hold Your Head Up" playing in our heads... 
      (You probably do, too, right now, huh?)
    • And it can be cross-referenced so well:
      "Hey, doesn't Eric Johnson sound like Joe Satriani?"
      "Yeah, he does!"
    • And it is so tied in.  Sometimes you hear a song, and you associate it immediately and exactly with a particular place and time (and even sights and sounds and smells...)
    • And the indexing is so efficient.  We compete to see who can identify a song first, and usually the first few notes are sufficient.   I can pick off Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" or Supertramp's "School" on the first note.  Try writing a computer program to do that kind of search!
  • Music triggers emotions in an amazing way.  Who can say why Trower's "Day of the Eagle" makes me feel good?  But it does...
  • The human hearing system is incredible.  It can pattern recognize sounds across a wide range of frequencies and amplitudes (including VERY LOUD :), and can parse rhythm from harmony from melody effortlessly.
    • Even if we're talking about the rhythm section of Bad Company, buried behind vocals and guitar, or the drumbeat of Rush, or the guitarwork in Deep Purple's wall of sound.
  • The music industry is so very very dead.  We carry around all this music at $0 and listen to whatever we want whenever we want.  Too bad for them.
    • Best line, from Jim, in regards to a particular album: "I have the hardcopy".
      Meaning the CD. 
      I love it!
    • Let's hope there is some way to go back to the original days, when artists were performers and people paid them for the enjoyment of their performances.  With online distribution the record companies are superfluous.  But right now they are in the way.
  • Finally and least importantly:
    What the heck does "TVC15" mean?
    (Or was Bowie just, like, on drugs when he wrote it...)
    • Update: Hey, we figured it out!  TVC15 means "Television Channel 15".  TVC15 was a company in New York which was working on holographs.  The song is about a TV which sucks in a girl and displays her as a holograph.  Oh, and yeah, the Duke was probably on drugs when he wrote it :)  [ thanks to the Davie Bowie FAQ (and Google) ]

It's better to burn out, than to fade away...  Rock 'n Roll is here to stay...

mountain biking!


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