Stereo effects

Before I got burglarized and subsequently moved, I kept my stereo on a shelf next to my drums. Great for practice.

Since I’ve moved, my drums are stored offsite. Not that bad of a deal, since I can still bring the laptop to listen & practice. So, now my stereo is back in my office. The left and right speakers are now in opposite corners of the room, roughly equal distance from my head. One is at sitting head level, one is higher up.

Why does this matter? I was listening to some music the other day, and noticed it was easier than normal to hear the panning, and the different mixes between left and right. I thought this was interesting, and did some Googling — stereo effect distance speakers — and a page talking about calibrating in anechoic chambers caught my eye. It was such a cool page, I wanted to share it. I realize it’s from a speaker manufacturer, but it still has good info.

It’s an article called “Stereo Effect” by William R. Dudleston. The section called “The Physiology of Localization” was especially interesting. It talks a bit about how our ears are separated by about 6 inches, which is the exact distance required for the waves hitting each ear to be exactly out of sync at the frequency our ears are sensitive to. This makes it really easy for us to hear which direction something is coming from. Then it describes a bit about how the shape of our ears mask different frequencies so that we can get more info than just left and right, but also up and down, and forward/back. Basically, the location and shape of our ears are tuned perfectly for us to hear in 3 dimensions. Not surprising, but the mechanics of the description are great.

After a while, the article starts selling you a bit on their hardware. But until then, it’s a solid read.

Actually, this reminds me of something I read a while ago; I think it came from a THX engineer. Apparently, when they calibrate their theaters and the speakers — yes they calibrate the theater itself — they don’t sit in the very middle of the room. Sitting slightly to the left or right makes a difference in the stereo effect, making it more pronounced. So, when you go to an action movie, sit slightly off-center. The movie may sound better.

How to eat grains

Our digestive system is designed to handle a high-quality omnivorous diet. By high-quality, I mean one that has a high ratio of calories to indigestible material (fiber). Our species is very good at skimming off the highest quality food in nearly any ecological niche. Animals that are accustomed to high-fiber diets, such as cows and gorillas, have much larger, more robust and more fermentative digestive systems.

I’m unclear about this. Fiber is allegedly good for our bodies.  But this article, called “How to eat grains” claims that the greatest health benefits come from semi-fermented fibers. So, things like soaking beans in water actually improve the amount of nutrients that our digestive systems can absorb from them. This is interesting, because in another post on this site, there’s a claim that whole wheat bread may actually be bad.

Based on my reading, discussions and observations, I believe that rice is the least problematic grain, wheat is the worst, and everything else is somewhere in between. If you want to eat grains, it’s best to soak, sprout or ferment them. This activates enzymes that break down most of the toxins. You can soak rice, barley and other grains overnight before cooking them. Sourdough bread is better than normal white bread. Unfermented, unsprouted whole wheat bread may actually be the worst of all. 

Given the numbef of cultures that eat a lot of rice, I might be digging in a bit more frequently. Good thing I like sourdough, too. 😀

How to sort, Math-style.

Thanks to Corey for this.

This guy, Evan Miller, put together some proper Math to produce a better way for ordering things with positive and negative ratings. You know, things like music lists, movies, products, anything that gets rated.

Also, I see his site says he’s a PhD student in University of Chicago’s Economics program. That’s supposed to be a good school for econ. Seems bright, got some good-looking writings on his homepage.


Astronomy, and the National Radio Quiet Zone

While Chas and I were snowboarding in West Virgina, we visited the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. They have an enormous radio telescope — the largest moving structure on land, they claim. It’s built out of over 2,000 panels, and at the meeting of every 4 panels is a motor so that those panels can be adjusted relative to each other to produce a perfect reflecting surface.

The receiving equipment is mounted above the dish, and is kept around 15 Kelvin all of the time with liquid hydrogen. The electronics are all hand-made on-site, and mounted in brass. Brass is the only metal they have that will not shatter at operating temperatures.

Interesting fact: The area is covered by the National Radio Quiet Zone. It is 13,000-square miles of almost total radio wave silence. This only applies to ground-based transmitters; DirectTV and other satellites still blanket the area with transmissions.

They are absolutely ruthless about limiting interference. They have crews that will trace down any type of oscillating interference in the surrounding areas. They actually repair or replace old appliances for homeowners in the valley. No digital cameras are allowed within a safety zone, but regular film ones are. In fact, they have a large number of old vehicles in their fleet, not because they can’t get new ones, but because new ones are filled with electronics. They can only use diesel vehicles because diesels don’t need spark plugs, which generate RF interference.

When we took the tour, the guide did a physics demo with a Faraday cage, and a digital camera. Way cooler and more informative than any of the Physics classes I took in school.

I wonder if there’s a lower incidence of cancer among people who live in this area. Might be interesting to do a study and settle all the “OMG THERE’S RADIO WAVES IN YOUR HEAD, GIVIN YOU CANCERS”.

Also, you might be interested to know that there is allegedly a large chunk of ECHELON located down the street.

The HTML structure of webmail interfaces: Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail

As part of the Zentact project I’ve been working on, we were asked to integrate with various webmail clients. This makes it easy to manage your contacts while sending email.

Doing this was a bit of a pain. Since all code is minified, and they all use Javascript events differently, there was a good bit of working to figure out the details. I wanted to share this info in a blog post for programmers who come along in the future. If you don’t know/care about HTML, Javascript events, the DOM, YUI, or AJAX, this post is not for you. Please enjoy one of my other fine posts, perhaps this post on military code names.

Before I begin: there was a ton of info learned (and already forgotten) about this process. This is not a complete guide, but is mostly a brain dump from implementing UI integration on three different webmail interfaces.

  • Gmail uses 6-character strings, [A-Za-z0-9] for all its classes. These classes remain the same from load-to-load, but I believe that they may change over time with minification. IDs are not as constant, and many are dynamically assigned. These start with a colon.
  • When you’re working with events, you may get inconsistent results. Some events are not fully propagated, they get captured and you can’t find out about them. If onclick doesn’t work, try listening for onmousedown or onmouseup. One of them may get you notified of the event you want. Same advice goes for onkeydown, onkeyup, and onkeypress. That being said, once you get into these, be sure to realize that these three events will occur in particular orders. Make sure you’ll be getting notified at the right time.
  • All of the webmail UIs use iframes. This lets them keep their code for loading the UI separate from the code to display the UI. I know there’s some cross-site scripting implications in this, but I’m not sure of all the details. Gmail’s loading screen (the loading bar they show you) is a different iframe than the one that shows you the inbox. All of these iframes are at the root of the document, and there’s nothing else in there.
  • You could use Firebug break points to pause the code and examine what’s going on, but nearly all JS is minified. Since breakpoints can only be set by line, and there’s multiple functions defined per line, it ends up not being helpful.
  • For its UI, Yahoo seems to use YUI, plus some other stuff on top of that. There’s some weird results because of this. The body of the email editor is a group of DIVs, some are invisible, some are for border decoration, and others are for the background of the editor.
  • When we inserted elements into Yahoo Mail using regular DOM operations, they would appear behind other page elements, until another part of the UI was interacted with, when the screen would redraw and then they would bump into place. YUI seems to have its own redraw/repaint functionality, and it won’t play nice with DOM manipulations.
  • Hotmail is strangely one of the less-exotic interfaces. They use consistent IDs. I don’t think they’re hand-coded, however, because they submit to a naming scheme that seems too machine-generated. But still, they are there, and you should take advantage of them.
  • When you’re using events, and you get notified of an event, use the event.originalTarget property to find out where in the DOM you are. That’s useful information when you’re dealing with a DOM tree of nonsense class names and IDs.
  • When you’re trying to figure out where in a DOM tree you are, don’t hesitate to go up several levels and check a great grandparent node, or a “cousin” node. Once you get a single point of reference, you can generally work out where everything else is, relative to it.
  • Some UIs open each message in its own iframe, which means that IDs are consistent since they’re in their own namespace.

Also, thanks to Nate Koechley for helping me get through some of the Yahoo details.

If you’ve got other questions, shoot me an email. I remember more stuff, but might need a good question to shake it loose.

Thanks Adam Savage

I saw this video of Adam Savage talking at The Last Hope this past year. I recommend it. It’s awesome to see how dedicated he is, and what it takes to produce such great stuff.

Other than getting a preview of (then) new Mythbuster footage and getting  to see a downloaded AVI of The Dark Knight on Adam’s hard drive, I really liked when he showed his projects folder. It was cool seeing that he works on things when he feels like it, and then saves his progress so he can come back later.

I’ve been trying to get more organized lately (what with the Getting Things Done/Agile planning at Cloudspace and all), so it’s something that stuck out for me, that I wanted to share with you.

Obama is a Renegade. No…he’s THE Renegade.

Recently I posted some ideas about the characteristics of codes, specifically the codes used to identify the President. Most of it was theorizing on my part.

“…this code has to be easily spoken via phone. No doubt, you’d like a certain about of uniqueness. Also, it should be something that could be understood when spoken over low-quality audio. You never know when those sat phones will get scratchy-sounding (‘I can’t hear you! I’m in a tunnel!’).”

I was very pleased to come across an article today that actually describes some of the codes used by the military, for identifying the President, Vice President, and their families. This was with respect to the new Secret Service code names being assigned for the Obama and Biden families. It turns out, speakability is a factor in their decision.

“The names are chosen to be easily pronounced and understood when agents use radio communications.

The code names have ‘nothing to do with security’ and more to do with ease in radio communication for those agents whispering into microphones up their sleeves.”

There’s a bit more info, along with a slightly funny story from Al Gore’s daughter.

When 19-year-old Karenna Gore’s father became vice-president in 1993 she had to choose her own name.

In 1997, she wrote: “Ever since four years ago, when I was put on the spot and told ‘two syllables’ and ‘It has to start with an s,’ I have been cringing in the back seat when identified as ‘Smurfette’.”

I find this additional “two syllable” requirement to be interesting. It makes sense, since it’s short, but still manages to provide a small amount of redundancy. [Edit: Chas points out that some of the names mentioned aren’t strictly two syllables, but I counter that if you slur them slightly, the names all have two “strong” sounding syllables — they’re not using “The Lotus Blossom”]

Also, the article mentions that the Obama family is being assigned names that begin with ‘R’ — Barack himself is “Renegade”. Karenna Gore said she was told it had to start with ‘S’. Bush and his wife have ‘T’. I think this might be so that the first sound of the word immediately identifies which family is being discussed. I think this is a clever trick.

And ultimately, it’s consistent. You don’t have agents using “Joe the VP”, “Mr Biden”, “The Vice Prez”, “Biden”, or any other possible name. There’s zero confusion. Day to day life is easy, and if they were ever put under stress, it’s one less thing they have to think about. They handle their thinking up front. Kind of like pre-processing data in a computer system. Good job, Secret Service.

Barack said WHAT?

OK, this is going to be straight to the point.

I got an email from my father this morning, asking me to verify it. It made some amazing claims about Obama, and I couldn’t resist. It was such a shocking bunch of claims, that I decided to write up a reply, and send it to everyone who had an email address listed on the chain. I’ve included the main content of the email I received, as well as my reply. I encourage you to pass this around, I hope more people find this and read it.

Subject:  Wow, if you want to read something that will scare your socks off, read this in its entirety!

Perhaps there are SOME out there who are beginning to get ‘the picture’.  The following is a narrative taken from Sunday Morning’s televised ‘Meet The Press’. and the author is employed by none other than the Washington Post!!  Yeah……the Washington Post of New York and Los Angeles Times fame!!  Must say that I’m dually impressed………………

From Sunday’s Televised ‘Meet the Press’ Senator Obama was asked

about his stance on the American Flag.  Obama Explains National Anthem Stance Sun, 07 Sept. 2008 11:48:04 EST, General Bill Ginn’ USAF (ret.) asked Obama to explain why he doesn’t  follow protocol when the National Anthem is played.

The General also stated to the Senator that according to the United States Code,

Title 36, Chapter 10, Sec. 171… During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform are expected to stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. At the very least, ‘Stand and Face It’

Senator Obama Live on Sunday states, ‘As I’ve said about the flag pin, I don’t want to be perceived as taking sides, Obama said. ‘There are a lot of people in the world to whom the American flag is a symbol of oppression. And the anthem itself conveys a war-like message. You know, the bombs bursting in air and all. It should be swapped for something less parochial and less bellicose. I like the song ‘I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing.’ If that were our anthem, then I might salute it.’We should consider to reinvent our National Anthem as well as to redesign our Flag to better offer our enemies hope and love. It’s my intention, if elected, to disarm America to the level of acceptance to our Middle East Brethren. If we as a Nation of warring people, should conduct ourselves as the nations of Islam, whereas peace prevails. Perhaps a state or period of mutual concord between our governments. When I become President, I will seek a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity, and a freedom from disquieting oppressive thoughts. We as a Nation have placed upon the nations of Islam an unfair injustice. My wife disrespects the Flag for many personal reasons. Together she and I have attended several flag burning ceremonies in the past, many years ago. She has her views and I have mine’. Of course now, I have found myself about to become the President of the United States and I have put aside my hatred. I will use my power to bring CHANGE to this Nation, and offer the people a new path of hope. My wife and I look forward to becoming our Country’s First Family. Indeed, CHANGE is about to overwhelm the United States of America.

WHAAAAAAAT the Hell !!!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard it right. This could possibly be our next President.

I, for one, am speechless.

And, my reply


My name is Tim Rosenblatt, and although you probably don’t know me, I received an email about Barack Obama which had your email address listed on it. So, you’ve probably recently seen an email about Barack having appeared on Meet the Press, and discussing why he doesn’t pledge allegiance to the flag, why he thinks our National Anthem should change, and a few other shocking comments.

My father sent this email to me, asking me about it. I am personally a Barack supporter, but after reading it, I thought the claims were outrageous. Since I think everyone should be given a fair shot, I looked into it.

This original email seems to have been sent on Oct 9, and talks about “last Sunday”, which I can only assume is Oct 5. It also mentions Sept 7. Obama wasn’t on that show on either of those dates. Neither was Bill Ginn.

According to the website for Meet the Press (the following links), the last time Obama was on Meet the Press was July 27, 2008. Bill Ginn wasn’t on the show. You can even read the transcripts of all of their shows with these links. – The full transcript of Barack’s last appearance on Meet the Press

I’m sending this out because I think that making a good decision is hard enough with all of the truthful information out there. We don’t need fake rumors clogging up our brains.

Also, I know we’re close to Election Day, but I’d like to ask you to send me any other claims you’ve gotten in your email. I’d appreciate the opportunity to look at some of these emails and find out if there’s any truth to them.

Here’s the extra links. – This is a very similar email to the one you’ve received – An official campaign site set up to deal with rumors – A large collection of Barack rumors

Thanks for taking your time to give this a second thought.

— Tim

Please pass this around. I think most people would rather have their opinions lose to the truth, than to win with lies.

Fun Food Fact of the Fortnight

Q. Why is it when you steam or wilt fresh spinach you get that iron-tinny taste? How do you prevent it?

A. We’re guessing you have been cooking your spinach in an aluminum or unlined copper pan. Pans made of aluminum or unlined copper react with the sulfur compounds in green vegetables to create unpleasant odors and flavors, and destroy vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin E. You should cook greens in stainless steel, enamel, or glass pans.

Gratuitously stolen from OChef