Category Archives: Writings

Throw Away English

THROW AWAY ENGLISH
(written 22/11/1998)
Have you seen “Pop-up Video” on Saturday nights, TV4 at 7pm ?
They play a range of music videos from the 80’s to the present crop. Each video has been “enhanced” by little pop-up messages that display messages about the musician (?), how the video was made and any other useless information deemed necessary. Perfect for the video/computer generation. Pure Rubbish… but is it ?

It’s important in this age of low IQ TV and coke consumerism to distinguish between the current forms of low brow entertainment :
Trash
Rubbish
Junk

Trash is something of low quality, but with that “let me see” quality. Like “white trash” (low income Caucasians ?), its obvious that this form of entertainment is not aimed at the great minds of our time. But it does have a certain quality about it; we want to look just to see how stupid the gnomes at TV think we are. This probably explains the apparant popularity of the “reality based” shows.

Examples
Entertainment This Week
When Animals/People/Trucks etc attack
Shortland St

Rubbish is something that has been thrown out. Its the product of something else and is of absolutely NO value to anyone. The only thing you can do with rubbish is bury it or render it
down to molecular level for use as something else. In TV, it is usually someone else’s idea re-used the fifth time for the New Zealand market. Or it can be just the stuff that other broadcasting organisations throw out.

Examples :
Talk Soup
Holmes
(If you have seen “Frontline”, you will know that this type of program uses stories that have previously been published in the newspapers – or they make them up to satisfy the advertisers.)
Who Dares Wins
All Game Shows
60 Minutes & 20/20
(These have been thrown out by ABC, CNN etc but TVNZ scrapes them out of the bin and broadcasts them)

Junk is something else. As George Carlin said : “What’s my stuff is your junk”. So junk is something that may be of use to you, but not to me. For instance, the religious programs broadcast at 7am Sunday mornings are probably watched by some of the 20 million sheep who think they are people, but not by me. Conversely, there is some poor programmer in TV2 who thinks that Babylon 5 is junk, why else would they broadcast it at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. It may be junk to them, but to the better educated, it is a great story.

Some other examples :
Infocomercials/Home Shopping
All Sports Programs
Medical Dramas
American Sit-coms

So in conclusion, “Pop-up Video” is trash, not rubbish. And we will have to be careful in the future defining our low brow entertainment… after all… there is a lot more of it out there.

 

Genre Delem-nia

 

After several years of music on a server, it is necessary to create genres and create playlists after some variations, I eventually settled on the following:

 

Genre Description
1 Ambient Textured/low dynamics
2 BerlinSchool Electronic Orchestral
3 Chamber Small # Instruments, Mainly Acoustic
4 Space Tranquil, Hypnotic
5 Chill Upbeat, light electronic
6 Synthwave Heavy electronic with reverb
7 Trip-Hop Dynamic electronic
8 Psybient Psychedelic + Electronic
9 Downbeat Relaxed Chill
10 Prog Rock Polyrhythmic Rock
11 Rock Blues based
12 Space Rock Long Form Prog Rock Jams
13 Disco Bass heavy dance
14 Post Rock Textured Guitars
15 Jazz Soloing /Lead Instruments
16 Vocal Focus on vocals
17 Orchestral Sympnonies, Concertos
18 Metal Heavily Distorted Guitars
19 Symphonic Metal Metal + Choir, Soprana

 

Then when I seriously started storing mp3’s on my smartphone, it became apparent that 19 types were too many. This was reduced to just six……..

 

1 Ambient Soft & Relaxing with low dynamics
2 Electronic Keyboard/Computer created (not in an other category)
3 Rock Bass/Drums/Guitar based
4 Vocal Focus on vocals
5 Orchestral Symphonies, Concertos
6 Metal Heavily Distorted Guitars

 

 

 

BC No Go

Following purchasse of a Chromecast Audio, I am trying to make all my collected music available from my smartphone either via streaming or a saved file. This will mean I can listen from work on headphones or at home on speakers.

Music over the years has been purchased on LP, CD and digital download. This has included a number of online shops, including CDBaby, iTunes, 7Digital and Google Play. All these files have been kept in archives on CD, DVD and hard drives.

The most extensive recent purchasing has been from bandcamp. It is clear that there will not be enough space on my 128gig SD card to hold this music. After extensive testing and looking for approprate software I have not been able to get Bandcamp music to stream successfully to Chromecast Audio.

There was an Android app that would stream a URL. This works OK, but there was no way to get the next track to play. Fortunately there are a lot of artists also on Spotify. I can you through all these artists and get Spotify links.

There are requests for Bandcamp to include this feature, but until they do streaming has to be restricted to Spotify.

Due to these limits, the final music model will be:

1. For any music previously purchased and available on Spotify, provide a link on my page.

2. Everything else gets saved on the smartphone SD card.

3. Apply the De-Clutter Ex Test to all MP3s.

The remaining problem is successfully synchronizing music on my PM under jRiver to the smartphone. I tried lots of methods. jRiver can sync, but it is slow and not always successful.

I tried Wi-Fi methods, none that good and the one I did get to work was just too slow and put files on the wrong place. Most of these work OK synching to the main memory but have problems connecting to the SD card. I managed to get Total Commander to link to the SD card, but it’s sync feature would not work with the SD card.

Most of the problems relate to the MTP drive used in modern Smartphones. My older Samsung S3 would open as the next available drive letter. This made syncing easy, this new method has disadvantages.

Eventually I found a solution in FreeFileSync.

 

 

 

 

CD Death


Death of the CD
 

After using Chromecast, I decided to eliminate all the CD’s on my PC that were available from Spotify. When this was done, the MP3 copies of the CDs dropped by 90%. Remarkable.

What I found during this process was that there were a lot of albums (mainly from well known artists) that have been re-issued. Some have been remastered, some have additional tracks and sometimes new cover artwork. It’s also a good way to discover new albums by old bands.

It looks like the CD is dissapearing in favour of online digital distribution, as this graph shows.

Other articles on the same subject:

Rolling Stone

Guardian

Tech Insider

 

 

 

 

Chrome Audio


Chromecast Audio
Chromecast Audio has been out for a few years. I decided to try using it at home to stream music from my PC to speakers in the bedroom (and possibly the lounge). Currently these are wired connections and jRiver is the server that streams the music.

The Chromecast device was installed and setup easily. It’s immediately apparent that Spotify can stream music. So can Google Play Music.

Running Spotify from the PC works, but the immediate problem is that when streaming, output to the PC speaker stops. Not a problem at night when just the bedroom speakers are needed, but when at home and moving around it is annoying.

Google Play Music works OK, but the immediate problem is that it will only play music purchased on the app. You can upload 10,000 songs and play them everywhere. I tried three albums and that took a good 10 minutes, so that’s not going to happen.

Running Spotify from the Smartphone in bed is the best improvement. I get access to all the catalog. The only problem is that the app doesn’t have a timer, so it can’t be set to shut-down the music after an hour. And I can’t get the music on the hard-drive to play. Another problem is that if you have saved an album to your device, this cannot be sent to Chromecast. Playing music by the album will fix this problem as the music stops when the album ends.

The best discovery is that my favorite Android music player PlayerPro works with Chromecast. Providing the album is on the device, it can be streamed to the speakers. Even better, the app has a timer. If I put the albums not available on Spotify on my 128gig, I would have access to my entire music collection from my Smartphone…. (see next post).

Overlord List

The Top 100 Things I’d Do
If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

From the list, my top picks:

I will not wear black. Uniforms and attire will be bright and cheery colors.

I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable super-weapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.

My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.

Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.

Shooting is not too good for my enemies.

The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, “Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?” I’ll say, “No.” and shoot him.

I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary.

I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.

All slain enemies will be cremated, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff.

The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other  request.

Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter.

I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use.

No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.

No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me.

I will never build only one of anything important.

My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.

All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death.

I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.

I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out
copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.

If my trusted lieutenant tells me my Legions of Terror are losing a battle, I will believe him. After all, he’s my trusted lieutenant.

If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring anywhere, I will find them and have them killed immediately, instead of waiting for them to grow up harboring feelings of vengeance towards me in my old age.

If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army.

When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.

Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

 

One Year On…

It’s been one year since my 2 Jan 2016 resolution to get a website online in 2016. Then on Jan 3 resolved to one post every day.

Now….. 369 posts later (there must be some duplication)  .. Done
It’s used up all my odd bits of text, reviews and images hanging around to get there. Including reviews of every episode of Lexx.

So this years resolutions……
No post per day (I’m turning off the calendar) but to review books, music,  movies and significant events in 2017 as they come.

Also… STOP buying short story collections. They have infested by Calibre Library by the thousands. Had a good clean out over the holiday.

And IGNORE book reviews and awards. Most of the books read due to some recommendation I have not completed.

 

 

 

6 Unpopular Policies

The Planet Money re-broadcast this episode on 27 October 2016.

This show presented the common-sense, no-nonsense Planet Money economic plan — backed by economists of all stripes, but probably toxic to any candidate that might endorse it.

The proposals:

One: Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction, which lets homeowners deduct the interest they pay on their mortgages. Gone. After all, big houses get bigger tax breaks, driving up prices for everyone. Why distort the housing market and subsidize people buying expensive houses?

Two: End the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees. Neither employees nor employers pay taxes on workplace health insurance benefits. That encourages fancier insurance coverage, driving up usage and, therefore, health costs overall. Eliminating the deduction will drive up costs for people with workplace healthcare, but makes the health-care market fairer.

Three: Eliminate the corporate income tax. Completely. If companies reinvest the money into their businesses, that’s good. Don’t tax companies in an effort to tax rich people.

Four: Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. For everyone. Taxes discourage whatever you’re taxing, but we like income, so why tax it? Payroll taxes discourage creating jobs. Not such a good idea. Instead, impose a consumption tax, designed to be progressive to protect lower-income households.

Five: Tax carbon emissions. Yes, that means higher gasoline prices. It’s a kind of consumption tax, and can be structured to make sure it doesn’t disproportionately harm lower-income Americans. More, it’s taxing something that’s bad, which gives people an incentive to stop polluting.

Six: Legalize marijuana. Stop spending so much trying to put pot users and dealers in jail — it costs a lot of money to catch them, prosecute them, and then put them up in jail. Criminalizing drugs also drives drug prices up, making gang leaders rich.

There you have it, six major proposals that have broad agreement, at least among economists. Though we should note that there were some pretty significant quibbles about just how to implement the income-tax and carbon-tax proposals.

The economists

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and widely published blog “You could probably describe me as left of center. It’d be fair.”

Russ Roberts, George Mason University economics professor. “In the grand spectrum of economic policy, I’m a pretty hard core free market guy. I’m probably called a libertarian.”

Katherine Baicker, professor of health economics at Harvard University’s Department of Health Policy and Management. We simply called her a centrist on the show.

Luigi Zingales, professor of entrepreneurship and finance and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “What I like to say is that I’m pro-market, but not necessarily pro-business.”

Robert Frank, professor of management and economics at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. “I’m a registered Democrat. I think of myself as a radical pragmatist.”

Note: This post was updated to make clear that the income tax would be replaced with a consumption tax. That’s in the original show, but was inadvertently omitted from the summary above. Sorry for the confusion!

Tobacco & Taxes

Smoking Can Help the Economy

I heard about this study in a podcast some years ago. A quick search reveals the following:

Philip Morris – Little Report Says Cigarette Smokers’ Frequent Early Deaths Offset Federal Medical Costs, Study Finds
By GORDON FAIRCLOUGH Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal (July 16, 2001)

Philip Morris Cos. officials in the Czech Republic have been distributing an economic analysis concluding that cigarette consumption isn’t a drag on the country’s budget, in part because smokers’ early deaths help offset medical expenses.

The report, commissioned by the cigarette maker and produced by consulting firm Arthur D. Little International, totes up smoking’s “positive effects” on national finances, including revenue from excise and other taxes on cigarettes and “health-care cost savings due to early mortality.”

The premature demise of smokers saved the Czech government between 943 million koruna and 1.19 billion koruna (between $23.8 million and $30.1 million or between 20.3 million euros and 25.7 million euros) on health care, pensions and housing for the elderly in 1999, according to the report.

The report also calculates the costs of smoking, such as the expense of caring for sick smokers and people made ill by second-hand smoke as well as income taxes lost when smokers die. Weighing the costs and benefits, the report concludes that in 1999 the government had a net gain of 5.82 billion koruna ($147.1 million) from smoking.

Philip Morris said it received the Little report late last year and handed it out recently after complaints from Czech officials that the tobacco industry was saddling the country with huge health-care expenses. “This is an economic-impact study, no more, no less,” said Robert Kaplan, a spokesman for Philip Morris’s international tobacco unit in Rye Brook, N.Y. “We’re not trying to suggest that there would be a benefit to society from the diseases related to smoking.”

Philip Morris manufactures about 80% of the cigarettes smoked in the Czech Republic. The New York company, which owns a 77.5% stake in a formerly state-owned Czech tobacco enterprise, sells its flagship Marlboro smokes as well as local brands.

Measuring the net costs of smoking to societies and governments long has been controversial and difficult. Studies measuring the lifetime health-care costs of smokers, who die sooner but have higher annual medical expenses, have reached conflicting conclusions. Some find that, over their lives, smokers have similar costs to nonsmokers. Others have found that smokers’ health-care costs are higher.

Gauging the real level of such costs is very difficult, and hard-to-quantify expenses aren’t captured in many estimates. Smokers, for example, recover more slowly and are more likely to have complications after surgery for unrelated problems, increasing the cost of caring for them.

Tobacco-control experts attacked the Czech report. “Is there any other company that would boast about making money for the public treasury by killing its customers? I can’t think of one,” said Kenneth Warner, an economist at the University of Michigan’s school of public health. Dr. Warner said the study appeared to be seriously flawed because, among other things, it fails to consider what the economic impact would be if smokers stopped buying cigarettes and spent their money on other goods instead.

Eva Kralikova, a physician and epidemiologist at Charles University in Prague, said the report also “very much underestimated” the costs of medical care for people suffering from smoking-related diseases. Dr. Kralikova said lung cancer and other illnesses caused by tobacco use account for about 20% of all deaths in the Czech Republic, killing about 23,000 people a year. And she said the number of illnesses and deaths is expected to mount, as is the expense of medical treatment, as smokers age.