Chili and TSP

I always had an aversion to veggie foods. This isn’t because I hate the stuff; it’s more because I admit to quite a lot of ignorance toward going veggie and eating balanced meals at the same time. This doesn’t mean I avoid it altogether, it’s just that I didn’t feel ready to let go of more traditional food sources I’ve had. Until recently, I couldn’t imagine a life without eating meat. The difficulty with vegetarianism is that it seems to me that my food options are far fewer if I arbitrarily make up a rule saying “thou shall not eat meat”. The meat for me is the highlight of the meal. It’s where the flavours go, and is high in protein. And we are genetically programmed to crave fat and carbohydrates. We share the biology and instincts of the carnivore, so there is no sense in living in denial, is there? I think that the fact that I am overweight is reason enough, though. So, save your animal rights activism for someone who will listen, OK?

I had a guest over to my place and in having to divide my attention several ways at once, there may be inaccuracies in the ingredients list, but here is what I recall:

  • 1 cup TSP (Textured soy protein) instead of hamburger
  • 1.25 cups of boiling water to add to the TSP
  • 1 more cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons of Chili mix (or 1 packet)
  • 1 cup of tomato paste (2 tins)
  • 1 large can of kidney beans, strained
  • 1 onion, chopped into cubes
  • BBQ Sauce (I chose honey garlic)

Add the TSP and the hot water into a medium bowl. Mix well, so that the water is evenly distributed. Let it sit while you prepare the rest of the meal.

In a large skillet, add the vegetable oil and chopped onion. Fry under high heat until the onion is mostly soft and beginning to brown, stirring frequently. Then, add the kidney beans, stirring constantly for several minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, then add the tomato paste, followed by the chili mix. Mix well so that all ingredients are evenly distributed, adding the remaining water. Add a dash of BBQ sauce to taste. Finally, turn the heat down to low and add the hydrated TSP to the rest of the chili mix. Stir well.

Verdict: The difference in mouthfeel and odor was noticeable, but the difference was tolerable overall, and it was a satisfying meal. I could do this a second and third time.

Notes:

  • I purchased TSP at a bulk foods store such as The Bulk Barn. It sold for about $0.49 per 100 or so grams. It is sold at Bulk Barn as “TVP”, or “Textured Vegetable Protein”, made from high-protein soy concentrate (50-70% protein by dry mass).
  • TVP is one of a few meat analogs that exist. It is recommended for vegetarians and vegans who have few other ways of obtaining a high protein source in their diet. It is also a good source of fibre. The isoflavones in TSP are a known anticarcinogen.
  • TSP has zero cholesterol and almost no fat, quite unlike hamburger. But like hamburger, TSP, when hydrated has the same protein value, gram for gram.
  • Hydrated TSP also has the appearance of ground beef. While I didn’t do this, if you wanted more of a “meaty” kick to the TSP, you could use beef broth instead of just hot water. TSP requires the flavouring to be added during the hydration step. You don’t need hot water for hydration; you can use cold water. Water was hot for this recipe to save time and energy. Bulk Barn recommends that some vinegar to be added to quicken the hydration, which I would suppose would be more important if you need to have the water cold.
  • The same Bulk Barn page claims that their TVP is 53% protein by dry mass. A serving of 100g dry TVP (I imagine that is over 200g when wet) has 290 calories, providing you with 30% of your daily calcium needs, and more than enough iron.
  • You can be creative with the flavouring. It doesn’t have to be beef broth. This is because TSP doesn’t have any flavour of its own. TSP is to meat what Surimi is to fish. If you add your own flavour, you can use TSP to imitate almost any other meat, or use it to have its own novel flavour of your creation and risk-taking prowess. But if you come up with “bubblegum-flavoured” TSP, you don’t have to invite me over. But seriously, I was thinking of experimenting with red wine with a reduced amount of broth. I suspect that the wine might help in terms of adding another dimension to the flavour. Or what about substituting chicken broth for beef broth? I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that either.
  • My guess is that TSP works best in dishes where the burger flavour won’t matter quite as much, such as in chili, sloppy joes, spaghetti, burritos or tacos. In those cases, you just add it for the texture and nutritive value.

Homage to species that barely existed

It has come to my attention in recent years that we are the stupid ones. Homo sapiens, as we so arrogantly call ourselves, might be the least intelligent of the surviving genii of hominids. Our species won out over Homo neanderthalensis because we were more competitive and selfish than they. Neandethals have larger brains than us, and of course it is a matter of debate as to whether that necessarily makes them smarter. And since we value smarts, we would look on suspicion when calling a species smarter than us, especially if they’re all dead.

But look around you, folks. We may value intelligence, but is it really a distinguishing survival skill? You might need it, but your survival arsenal must also include aggression, competitiveness, and selfishness if you are to claw and kick your way to the top. While I am not a Republican supporter (indeed, I am a socialist), I still must admit that Republican candidate Ron Paul has cornered the market on depth of thought, and committment to traditional conservative values (which includes staying out of foreign conflicts — a position, incidentally, which places him solidly to the left of Obama). When I listen to him, I can’t help but think that he has given his positions on the issues lots of thought. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says, such as eliminating the US Department of Education, eliminating the Federal Reserve, or abolishing income tax, or his other Libertarian views, you have to at least give his views a once-over to see what he is about.

But the press seemed to treat him as if he was invisible, ignoring that he came in second in a straw poll. The ones getting the attention are not quite as smart, but are more aggressive and attention-seeking. It mirrors the evolution of Homo sapiens quite nicely. But the Democrats have been equally burned by this media-generated survival of the fittest: anyone remember Larry Agran? In the Democratic convetion of 1992, he was frozen out by the media, though he had early leads in the polls. That convention got us Bill Clinton instead.

The tragic flaw may be that both Agran and Paul were anti-war; but of course to be anti-war, at least in the traditional sense of the U.S. staying out of foreign conflicts, that takes thought that is at least deep enough to see past the media-generated rhetoric. If you are a brainless and agressive opportunist, you don’t need to trouble yourself with thoughts of peace. Ron Paul dies that the Sarah Palins of the world may live.

My writing about politics here is more than just a digression. I am trying to point out here that on a grand scale, our culture, and maybe all cultures and our species generally, seems to shun altruism. Politicians, for example, who hold policies on the far right (such as Ron Paul), yet who have policies that are lock-step in line with the most leftists (Paul’s anti-war stance) are seen as altruistic and unelectable. People who stay within the party platform and adhere unthinkingly to a formula for “what is conservative” make themselves more electable and get themselves less media flak. This is a kind of selecting out of “less selfish” people in favour of the “more selfish” people of the kind we seem to be attracted to as a species. It is possible that Neanderthal Man is … us.

The Max Planck Institute sequenced the neanderthal genome in 2010 or so, and found differences on the order of only a few thousand base pairs per chromosome. and only 200 or so in mitochondrial DNA. One begins to think that perhaps Neanderthals are not even a separate species, but reflect a genetic diversity between humans, and that the genetic lineages that made Neanderthan Man different from the rest of us are simply lost. The stereotype that Neanderthals are lesser beings than us, somehow have now come under question.

Cambridge Diary II

2:11 PM Tuesday 16 August

  • I am sitting in the Catherine Stratton Lounge inside the Stratton Student Centre at MIT. At one end, a soap opera plays in a room where about 20 armchairs and couches are arranged on one end, theatre-style, around a 50-inch flat-screen TV. Only two students are lying there viewing the latest episode of “The Bold and the Beautiful”. To the side is an empty black glass case reaching to the ceiling. Two large, wobbly single-pedestal circular wooden tables surrounded by chairs behind the armchairs and couches.
  • At the end opposite the TV a young man lies across a couch, his empty sneakers placed in front of it, and his tattooed arms folded across his chest and the visor of his baseball cap is shading his eyes.
  • I lost the paper stating where in the Stratton Student Centre my meeting with Alex is supposed to take place. I decide to take out my laptop and hunt around for the Student Information Processing Board (SIPB) office.
  • I have the choice of four different wireless networks to log on to in the Stratton Centre, and I choose the Wireless N-Unsecured (since I’m not a student), and soon I’m on the air. To no surprise, the UNIX logins are lightning-fast, and MIT’s copy of XEmacs takes a fraction of a second to load up. But that’s a distraction right now. On my web browser, I find that SIPB is on the 5th floor. I write down the room number on a sheet of paper. I couldn’t see from the outside that this building actually had 5 floors.
  • I meet Alex, and we enter the SIPB office. It’s a bit of a messy office; but it is the kind of mess that you sense that at least everyone knows where everything is. Senator-bedfellow is still posting to the USENET’s *.answers groups; bloom-picayune has been decommissioned and is now the name of a new machine that has new functions; and our good buddy rtfm, also known as penguin-lust, is now home to the canonical FAQ archive.
  • That, and a host of other niggly technical stuff, is what came out of our 90-minute conversation today.

MATH MISTAKES I’VE SEEN AT MIT:

  • I gave a cashier 28.00 for a $27.92 purchase, and she rung up $280.00 for which she would have needed to provide $252.02 in change. But she worked it out in her head anyway. Bully for her.
  • We were among the nerdy T-shirts at the MIT Co-op bookstore, and someone saw PV/nR printed on a T-shirt. This was part of the code for: E/c2 -1 PV/nR, which ends up being “MIT”. The person looking at the phrase guessed it, but called PV/nR a Tensor expression. But it is part of the Universal Gas Law: PV = nRT, solving for T. T is thus temperature. The “m” is mass from the Einstein equation E = mc2, solving for mass, while i is the imaginary number: √ -1 .

More on the HP 35s Calculator

I have kept some notes as I was performing an stats operation on a list of numbers. Most of the time the interface on most calculators is intuitive enough that you don’t really need the manual to do things like stats or common operations on the scientific calculator. The Sharp calculator has data entry for stats refined to the point where you can return to any list member and correct the entry.

Stats on the HP35s is of the “old school” variety, with an important change: the calculator is always in single variable stats mode. Hitting the “Sigma+” key on the bottom of the keypad is enough to begin your entry, and this means you can interrupt your data entry at any point and to any other calculation that you need to do. This is true in both RPN and Algebra mode.

One annoying feature I found is that if you have a syntax error, there is no “clear error” or “clear” button that will instantly remedy it. All attempts to clear the display have to be done through a “clear” button that is made as a second function to the backspace key (the backspace key is the other way to clear your error, one character at a time, using the arrow keys to help you). To clear everything (“clear/all”) requires you to go through 2 layers of menus.

The Obfuscation of Electronics: The Behringer Xenyx 502

This is more like a meta-review. I have gone to Canada Computes where nearly the entire Behringer line is sold, and was impressed by the specs. But does it do what I want, the way I want it?

I face a number of obstacles, being a fuddy-duddy former college DJ. For one thing many of the commonplace terms have changed, obfuscating what I think they’re saying, versus the actual intent when I purchase the stuff and find out for myself. It’s a Wittgenstein thing. Sussing out the exigetical intent of the interface, even as explained by the user manual available online, is an essay in near-futility only to be appreciated by interpreters of ancient Hebrew texts or Egyptian hieroglyphs. That is, knowing the words on the labels and diagrams isn’t enough: what is the meaning?

Watching the audio reviewers on You Tube try and tackle this interface (and there were a surprising number of them, and we’re only talking about this particular product, the Xenyx 502, made by Behringer) revealed a litany of awkward hesitations and skipping of knobs and jacks they knew nothing about. This was even true of the professional reviews. The YouTube review on the Behringer site, done by a kid who looks and acts not a day older than 15, is an embarassment and should be taken down. The only good parts occured when he was reading from the manual.

Indeed, what do they mean? And I am going beyond the obvious: no-one needs to tell me about the function of the phone pot or the main mix pot; I think I can figure out the RCA ins and outs on the middle right of the unit; nor about the LED level meter; nor about the balance or panorama (Pan) settings. I also managed to figure out that the PA-system style mike connectors are called XLR connectors. That’s that 3-pin jack on the top lefto corner of the photo. Then there are 8 of what used to be called “quarter-inch jacks” across the top of the unit, but are today called TRS jacks (for tip/ring/sleeve). Fair enough.

But what puzzles me to no end is the TRS jack just below the XLR jack. This is where the exegiesis comes in, and all that Wittgenstein stuff. And the reason it drives me crazy is because, really, I don’t have XLR plugs on my microphones. Instead, I have a pair of mikes with TRS plugs. These plugs are the most common in existence. We even used quarter-inch plugs when I worked as a college DJ. XLRs were something you hooked up to a PA system at your local school. XLRs often suffered from not being sealed all that well, resulting in a low-frequency electronic “buzz” that would have made them unsuitable for recording.

On one of the You Tube demos, a guy on the video (HobbitAssassin08) says that the “Line In” for Channel 1 (that is the TRS jack in question) can be used with TRS-style mikes with their own battery (and therefore have no need for the “phantom power” feature that Behrninger brags about). This is almost perfect. However, my mikes (TRS in my case probably means Tandy/Radio Shack, with the requisite quarter inch mono jacks) have no power of their own. They are basic professional mikes with a magnet and a diaphragm, which produces the current and the signal for my voice. It needs an amp or a recorder to process the signal. The specs say the mixer jack has a minimum of 10,000 ohms impedance. My mike is rated at 500 ohms (30% tolerance — depends on the frequency).

The power supply is proprietary. Also, channel 1 only works with line or mike inputs but not both. The other four channels are part of two stereo channels. If you plug a source into the left channel only, you get mono.  5 channels in, 3 out: the three are for two separate stereo outputs and one headphone output. The whole mixer board is slightly larger than your hand.

Will I buy it? That’s the question that has been driving me batty this past week. Looks like this mixer board is not compatable with my existing mics, and that I will have to purchase yet another mike or a pair of them if I am to buy this one. Looks like I will have to look elsewhere for a mixer board.

Acquiescing in Today’s “Connected” World

An image from the Slippery Brick blog. Click on the image to go to the article.Look. I don’t believe I am the only one who thinks that all this new communications technology, particularly cell phones, are necessarily a good thing. I embrace technology, and I think mankind should embrace it generally. However, I think humans ought to be able to choose what they embrace. One man’s convenient communications tool is another man’s anchor and millstone. Cell phones are the latter to me.

Let’s see. I ride to work and it is unsafe to drive and use a cell phone. I am at my teaching job where cell phones are considered a rude intrusion to one’s learning experience and disruptive to everyone else, especially when I am giving a lesson. I don’t need it at home, since there are land lines there anyway; why bother? If I am out at a nice restaurant with my wife, I hate the intrusion, and people can leave a message on my answering machine at home. I don’t see a problem, and I don’t see why I ought to waste money on a technology that seems to be a nest of contracts that differ with every provider. I have owned cell phones that are also useless while being recharged.

There was a time when owning two cell phones for my wife and I, plus a land line set us back about $200 per month or more. Am I the only one who considers this an obscene money grab on the part of the telecoms? I am not saying they’re corrupt. What I am saying is that perhaps their marketing worked too well, and they were allowed to do too much by the CRTC. I noticed for example that concomitant with the cell phones’ emergence was that outdoor payphones occurred less and less in actual phone booths, and more and more often on these outdoor posts, open to both the elements and eavesdroppers. They even disappeared altogether in some places. It definitely makes using payphones unattractive, and in comparison cell phones seem more attractive. I once read one of those “You know it’s the modern age when –” articles, which had, among its many signs:

  • you have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three
    • Sad but true for many families, although realistically it might not be that high. But it’s still sad. When I was young, we had one telephone number, and nobody died, nobody got neglected, nobody how old do you have to be to buy viagra joined a gang or got kidnapped. I know that’s hard to believe, but a normal, comfortable life was possible with one phone number. If your kid was in a friend’s house, you called his friend! Problem is nowadays, I looked at my phone bill recently and little did I know that my land line now has three phone numbers on it. I didn’t ask for the other two, and when I asked them, Bell Canada said: enjoy it! It’s on us!
  • you pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries
    • There once was a secret us older folks had to get around this limitation with only one phone number and no cell phone. It was known as “walking inside the house to see if anyone was inside to help out with the groceries.” It darn near killed us. Oh, the hardships we faced! But we must have been a clever bunch, since people don’t think of that these days.
  • leaving home without your cell phone is now a cause for panic
    • You need to think positive. What you call a time for panic, I call a time for freedom! Panic is the wrong thing to feel. But it’s a symptom of having too much riding on your cell phone number. Unless the company you work for is paying for your cell phone, I would resist the urge to use my cell phone number for work-related reasons. After all, they’re not paying for your airtime. Once you start on the slippery slope of using your own private cell phone for work, I can see why people stress themselves out.

What annoys me the most about these quotations is that they are all premised on the idea that cell phones are some kind of necessity. Their importance is way overblown. Most of us will just get back to the caller sooner or later. The immediacy of most calls is almost never a life-and-death matter, and an immediate response is usually never necessary. Personally, I much prefer talking to people face-to-face.

Oh, yeah. I guess you may be wondering about the image I used for the phone. It is a Nokia prototype back in 2008. Doesn’t look like Nokia will be around much anymore, so why not spread the humor? Click on the image to get to the originating blog.

Why it doesn’t suck: Music from the seventies I

This new series is inspired by another blog where writers Wes Clark and Bob Hargus just list out a raft of seventies songs that “suck”, with some subjective criteria included, not to mention the odd bit of commentary. Among those listed are, of course, the music we all think about when we think of tacky songs of that period: a good chunk of ABBA, “Feelings” by Morris Albert, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor (I once saw this single nailed to a pillar in front of a Toronto used record store on Yonge Street, south of Bloor — rotate that!), Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”, and most things found in any K-Tel catalogue.

You probably expect me to list those things, along with the predictable tut-tutting of what we all listened to, and how it makes us feel foolish. But you know what? I won’t. And that’s because what passes for a monster musical hit these days is worse than the worst seventies song. Yes, there are exceptions, there are always exceptions, but there are many good reasons that songs these days suck so much, mostly having to do with the changes in the music industry. It seems to me, that in an attempt to become a predictable source of revenue to its shareholders, the hit songs of today have to sound like previously existing hit songs. Punk rock also saved the major labels a load of money in not having to book so much studio time so that the band could get its act together. This was because not rehearsing or even checking to see if their instruments are in tune is the whole point of punk rock. But as music fans started to understand the political statement behind being a punk, they probably started to discover that they can take control of their lives and improve their communities without needing to listen to such shitty music while they’re doing it. It also doesn’t seem quite as necessary as it used to be to dye your hair purple, wear a mohawk, or stick a clothes pin through your nostril to rebel against vanity and fashion. Although, that kind of fashion idiocy has been replaced by another form of fashion idiocy, inspired by Rap and Hip-Hop. I have already previously commented on the similarities in tastes in clothing and how it is worn, to that of rednecks. What goes around comes around.

So, for my first instalment in this series, I present to you my reasons for why Diana Ross, and “Touch Me In the Morning”, does not suck. I think this song is actually a good song, foremost because of the fact that it is better than any torch song or ballad sung these days. But even on its own merit, it is classic motown, and the song reached number 1 and charted on Billboard for nearly 6 months. Most motown artists worked through the sixties making hit records, but it wasn’t until the seventies that the craft of artists like Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, The Supremes, and Marvin Gaye was perfected, and we heard the best motown could offer. The part I like best in this song is the beginning, as it builds up. When it does build up, I imagine that people might say it sounds too much like disco. But remember, this was 1973, and disco did not become big until much later. Maybe disco was trying to sound too much like Diana Ross.

[mp3t track=”Diana_Ross_-_Touch_Me_In_The_Morning.mp3″]

 

[Audio] The Difficult Listening Moment: Doing Dylan worse than Dylan III

This mini-series is more challenging than I thought. I have visited blogs which commented that Avril Lavigne did a blah version of Knocking on Heaven’s Door. I can’t see the problem, except that she was born decades after the whole folk subculture that caused the song to happen came and went, but that’s life, isn’t it? I was born after the Beatnik generation, so does that mean I can’t understand Allen Ginsburg or William Burroughs enough to recite them? Knocking suited Avril’s vocal style, and she seems to do a good job. Of course, you should expect a different musical interpretation from someone so young. What’s the problem? Hear for yourself. Knocking was also performed by Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Grateful Dead, Warren Zevon, Eric Clapton, U2, and countless others.

Another artist I have heard being knocked about is Madeleine Peyroux, who did a cover version of Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. Peyroux is a jazz singer, and it is a complement to Dylan’s writing and composing that his songs can adapt so well in any genre. Again, I don’t see a problem here. Shawn Colvin and Elvis Costello also did this song, albeit is wildly different musical stylings. It has also become something of a “Lounge Lizard” standard. Here is Peyroux doing Dylan.

But few people would say that Ministry’s version of “Lay Lady Lay” was better than the original. Here is a live recording from 1996:

Watching the election

On Monday night/Tuesday morning, I watched the Canadian Federal election, covered as it was non-stop on CBC Newsworld. I watched history unfold; how the NDP’s Jack Layton will occupy Stornaway as the leader of the opposition; how the Liberals are in third place, at about the level of Ed Broadbent in his mediocre days; or how the BQ is wiped off the map but for one candidate (which under our rules robs them of official party status, effectively wiping them off the map). As Chantal Hebert said on CBC, we are witnessing the “Social Creditization” of the Bloc Quebequois. All of this is historic (except for the part about the PC victory).

And, didn’t Osama bin Laden die earlier that Monday or something? Oh, whatever.

The “Orange wave” was impressive. I was listening to a CBC reporter take one NDP campaign organizer to task for the idea that the NDP split the vote. They did, too. In riding after riding, we were shown how the Conservatives won a riding where there was an even battle for second place between the NDP and Liberals.

The debate went in circles, and frankly, the organizer where to buy tramadol for dogs should have borrowed the line from Ralph Nader’s book: Screw the liberals. Igantieff’s loss is Igantieff’s fault. Ignatieff seemed to work with diligence to make absolutely sure to ignore every one of Harper’s gaffes, or to under-react to Harper’s attempts to subvert parliamentary protocol as he had done several times in the past 3 years; and to not react to attack ads attacking his ethnicity, all while Harper canvassed the “very ethnic” ridings of Toronto picking up Conservative converts in traditional Liberal ridings. It takes a disciplined mind to miss stuff like that. You really have to work very hard to not see the Republicn-style double dealing that is inherent in attacking ethnicity on the one hand and courting it with the other, whenever it suits you. You can’t blame the Conservative’s publicity machine for this; the fault lies squarely on Liberal turf.

It satisfies my pet political theory that the two best things to happen to the Conservatives are: Stephane Dion, and Michael Ignatieff after him. They helped Harper attain power for the longest-running minority government on record, followed by handing him a majority.

Keeping time

I found my watch, and thought I had lost it. At the time, after not finding the watch for several days, I bought what I knew was a cheap watch to get me by the next couple of weeks or so while I was looking for it, and settled for a el-cheapo watch (called Orlando, if I recall) that a faceless, nameless kiosk in Square One Mall was selling for 10 bucks. It was able to tell time, for that evening. After that, it would fail to tell time at unpredictable intervals. That wouldn’t be so bad, but when I attempted to reset it the next day, the crown came off in my hand, and I was thenceforth unable to set the time. It had a large face with three “play toy”, pretend little dials that I could tell the day I purchased it were pure decoration.

That next day, I went to Streetsville for a reason un-related to watches, but while I was there, I stopped at a Salvation Army store and picked up another ten-dollar watch. A Levi’s, with date and a stainless steel back, case, and strap.

Getting a battery in the Levi’s watch was also a story in Streetsville Jewellery store corporate culture. I first go to Alexander Jeweller’s, which has a chalkboard sign inside the front window saying “knock before entering”. There are people inside and the door is locked. I knock, I hear the key turn, a rather tall lady opens the door and lets me inside. I ask if they can put a battery in my watch. A bespectacled man behind a desk looks at the watch and says he doesn’t know how to open it, and I would have to leave it with him for three buy cheapest tramadol online days at a charge of fifteen bucks. This meant to me that he is incapable of using a pen knife to open the back (I guess he was afraid of cutting himself). He recommends some outfit in the Erin Mills Town Centre, miles away, and we part company.

I go to Starbucks, and I am able to google a place just down the street near the Streetsville library, called Miro’s Jewellers. I was faintly surprised as to why Alexander Jewellers didn’t recommend this person, unless they were new to Streetsville, and didn’t know their competition only blocks away. But anyway, I go there, and while the guy there was giving a recount of Polish history under Stalin, he was able to use a pen knife to flip off the back of my watch, put in a Maxell battery, and set the time for 8 bucks, in a space of 3 minutes. Service, albeit with an impromptu history lesson, but still service. The watch still works, and I am happy. I showed the Miro guy my Orlando watch, and he thought the watch was hilarious. He takes the back off out of curiosity and sees that while the watch had a 2-inch face, the guts inside measured about half a centimetre. I was glad I could make him laugh. I said he could keep that watch.

The Levi’s watch is not my style, but it worked, and still works. Moral of the story: if you’re going to cheap out on a temporary watch, go to Salvation Army or Goodwill, since the money goes to a worthy cause, and the stuff has half a chance of actually working, in most cases.

I also found my old watch.

[Audio] The Difficult Listening Moment: Doing Dylan worse than Dylan II

I have heard comments that hearing Dylan’s voice is “worse than cancer”. I believe such comments are un-necessarily harsh. Remember “Lay Lady Lay”? Didn’t that border on melodic? OK, I rest my case. He was terrible most of the time, not all of the time.

On the other hand, Willliam Shatner has no business deviating his acting day job. If God hands us only one great talent in our lives, be it singing, song writing, playing an instrument, acting, writing, and so on, we ought to make the most of it and count our blessings, since it is these limited talents alone that place us already above the crowd. It is rare that people are successful in more than one talent, and when it is usually attempted, the result is often, uh, humbling for the performer. And unintentionally amusing for the audience.

To illustrate the over-reaching kind of talent, here is William Shatner talking over “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man”.

Credit card Coca-Cola

Yes, I finally did it. I went in debt for a bottle of coke. I finally succumbed to the capitalist idea that nothing should ever come between my desires and whether I actually had the money to purchase what I desire. Where I work, I ate take-out Chinese food, but had no beverage, and not enough money for the Coke machine. I was thirsty, and usually use Diet Coke to wash down the food. I swiped a credit card on one of those Wi-Fi Coke machines, pushed Diet Coke, and out came what I “desired,” and soon my thirst was quenched.

I think in our culture, we are so mired in debt that we can’t really buy tramadol online without prior prescription afford to do any serious borrowing these days. Instead, we are encouraged, through much advertising, to put smaller and smaller purchases on credit. It wasn’t too long ago, if I had no money for Coke, I just did without until later, or drank water from the cooler. It doesn’t help that our water cooler is on the fritz, and hasn’t been maintained since this past summer.

I am still looking at this Coke I bought. I finally have to agree: we live in an age where some things are way too easy to get. It was too easy to get this Coke. I can’t undo it now. I guess I just have to drink up.

Moped Season

‘Tis moped season (and motorcycle season I suppose), and the weather has been fair enough that I used my moped for my personal transportation since mid-March (while covered in warm, dry gear of course). It was great. My moped started on the first kick, but I still sent it for a tune-up two weeks ago anyway.

Since I bought my moped used, I didn’t know that the handlebars had been previously replaced. When the throttle assembly was loose (almost falling off, in fact), it was because there was nowhere for the locking screw to go on the handlebar. That’s how I found out that it must not have been a factory handlebar. The repair folks had to remove the assembly, disconnect the cables leading to it, then drill a hole in the handlebar. That way, the locking screw was able to screw into something, and things have been great since.

The 1.1 gallon tank has a range of about 150 kilometers (93 miles), which seems a bit low. This means that my fuel economy is about 85 miles per gallon (it is advertised as 100 mi/gal). This converts to 2.78  L/100 km.  I am suspecting that, because the motorcycle shop recently changed the gearbox oil to something that might not have been to spec.  I used ATF (type F) oil before, and I think these people used something else, which was still OK for two-stroke. They’re a motorcycle shop, and probably have less experience with mopeds. The recommendation from the spec manual, according to Moped Army, is Type A, but I’ve had trouble finding it in Toronto.

What is old is new: RPN on the HP 35s Scientific Calculator

The print-edition of the HP 35s manual

For those of you lucky enough to purchase the calculator back in 2007, you more than likely had the full 200-page print edition of the user manual. HP discontinued the print edition, possibly later that same year. It has been replaced by a smaller 40-page mini manual whose only real useful purpose has been to help me review the main points of RPN. If you are a beginner, then you need to access the full manual which is now stored on CD. My CD, which I bought less than a week ago, appears to have been last updated in 2009. The same CD also has the same manual in 15 other languages.

You would have had the ability to review the book at your leisure, rather than on a laptop screen the way I have to view it. It is a bit of a deterrent and is tiring on my eyes, but I guess it beats having no book. I have discovered that you can purchase copies on E-Bay if you feel desparate enough for a print copy. You will probably shuck out your dollars for a print copy if you want to program, or if you want to have a more through mastery of its system of menus.

However, if you program, it must be stated quickly that much of the programming language is printed on the keyboard above the keys, and are active in program mode. It is definitely a caclulator that had its keyboard laid out with the programmer in mind, and with their needs as the higher priority. A look at the keypad shows a lot of programming commands rather than statistics, summations, or clearing the stack, all of which require menus. The “STO” function requires the blue shift key to be pressed first; and the functions for x2, log, ln all require a shift key to be pressed first. For whatever reason that perplexes me, there seemed to be a need to cram a good fraction of the interface of the calculator with various conversions: metric to imperial, fraction to floating point, degrees to radians, signed to absolute value. It takes up 10 of the 43 keys. Since none but grade-school calculators have these conversions, I am not sure of the motive. It is likely that it helps in the programming to save coding effort.

It seems to be all about the programming. Programming takes up 5 chapters or 100 pages of the 382-page booklet. Plenty to learn for the HP 35s programming enthusiast.

What is old is new: RPN on the HP 35s Scientific Calculator

I saw the 35s for the first time in a Staples store just this year, though the calculator has been around in University bookstores since 2007. I bought mine on sale, being listed at $99.00 full price. When it came out in 2007, I heard that it came with a zippered pouch to store the calculator in. Mine, supposedly the 2011 model, came with a vinyl pouch that was open, with rather stiff elasticized cloth bands on the sides, making the calculator difficult to actually place in its pouch, especially the first time it was used.  Once in the pouch, it was difficult to take back out of its pouch. The calculator feels light when held in one’s hand. I’m not sure why I noticed that. Somehow I thought it would feel more substantial, given all of the functions and programmability, and the 800 or so memories that it boasts of.

2012 will be the 40th anniversary of the scientific calculator. HP made the world’s first scientific calculator in 1972, and it was an RPN calculator with no algebraic mode. Anyone who has tried to program in a serious way would appreciate that RPN is easier to program for (from the manufacturer’s point of view), because of its reliance on a memory model called “stacks”, which most computer science undergraduates know about, by second year at the latest. While the act of doing things algebraically might seem easier to us humans, programming a calculator to think in terms of human algebra is more difficult than you would think. It takes a computer many more steps, and thus it is much slower than RPN in terms of processor time. It was probably not until the early 1990s that calculators were capable of anything close to human-style algebra, and only recently have processors become so small and fast that the speed of the algorithm is not really as important as it used to be. But human speed might be. To those who take the time to understand how RPN works, and how the 35s implements stacks, RPN is still faster for humans to perform calculations.

Many of the features on the 35s are common on much cheaper calculators: statistics, regression, vectors, mixed fractions, complex numbers, numberical integration, numerical differentiation, a linear tramadol buy online usa solver, and there are much cheaper calculators that can solve single-variable polynomials up to order 3. I own a $5.00 calculator that can solve linear systems in up to 3 unknowns. Also, there are too many features on the “new” HP 35s that are tied up in menus, which is something that turned me off from using TI calculators. The only tangible attraction I can think of for this calculator is likely to be its programming mode. The 35s is among the very few non-graphical calculators around today that one can write programs in.

Playing with it a bit, I find that scientific notation seems to work up to 10500, meaning the computation of factorials can go to unheard-of extremes, even going beyond the capacity of an Excel spreadsheet. I was able to find, to several sig figs, the value of 253!, wheras Excel 2007 craps out past 125!. This means that this calculator is particularly powerful for performing permutations (nPr) and combinations (nCr).

I have lost my touch with the use of stacks from my programming days, but it looks like the calculator does a lot of pushing and popping, even in the middle of the stack. In addition, it only seems to perform calculations on the stack 2 at a time, even though the stack can accomodate 4 numbers. When you enter numbers, it’s like “pushing” numbers on to the bottom of the stack. You enter a number, and the stack moves up. If  you enter two numbers then add them, the stack moves down and the result of the addition is entered in the immediate register in the stack, called “x”.  The true implemtnation of this is that, for the registers t, z, y, and x, t gets its number copied to z, z copies to y, and y copies to x. This results in a duplication of t in the stack. If a “+” is pressed when a stack contains the numbers “1 2 3 4”, it adds only 3 and4, then the top 2 registers shift down and the result of adding 3 and 4 is placed in “x”: “1 1 2 7” becomes the resulting stack. The “1” and “2” shift down, but in reality, the memopry register values are just copied.

Microphones Part 2: The war of silence

With the levels down so low, my test recording needed post-processing. I used Adobe Audition 1.5. In most of these audio-doctoring softwares, all you need to do is to normalize the levels, so that “0” is the highest your levels should go. Audition had a “Normalize” setting, and of course that also boosted the background and electronic noise, along with my voice.

Now I needed noise reduction. Adobe has a fancy dancy noise reduction interface which is useable for the brave of heart. The main idea is to highlight “silence” (a moment of pure background noise) somewhere on your waveform, in order for Adobe to get a snapshot of the frequencies that need to be attenuated with the noise reduction. When I tried it, the noise was virtually eliminated when there was only noise, especially at the start, but the noise seems to have a reverberation, since if the noise is at the end, it fades in a stepwise fashion. The noise in the middle is reduced substantially, but not enough to compare with other noise reduction that I know about, like Dolby or ANRS. DBX would have been good, if they could have licensed it.

Audacity won the war of silence, in making the background noise pretty much inaudible, with its noise reduction scheme, which had a far simpler interface. The noise reduction was equally effective in the silent bits and the parts with talking. I used the same strategy in giving it a sample of pure background noise to its noise reduction profile. I found that only the very lowest setting on their “Less/More” slider would not make me sound like I’m living in a tin can, or even disappear altogether.

To be fair, I was using Audition 1.5, against the latest version of Audacity. I hear that Audition is somewhere around version 3.0. But I am happy with Audacity, since Adobe charges a pretty penny for its sound editing software.

Microphones

I had decided to do my little contribution to society, and join LibriVox.org, and record a free audio file for them. My biggest problem so far has been microphones. I have an Optimus mike that was purchased 5 years ago, and had hardly been used. I had decided to use it for LibriVox, but my first problem was in finding an adaptor, since the Optimus uses a quarter inch plug, and my sound card has only eighth-inch jacks.

I went to The Source (which used to be Radio Shack), and got two adaptors, one mono and one stereo. The stereo adaptor I purchased fell apart inside the jack, and I almost took the front end of the computer off trying to dislodge it. First, the sheath came off, leaving the bare plug, stripped of its barrel with its bare contacts hanging in the air. With a pair of pliers, I managed to remove the rest of the plug. But when that happened, I noticed that one of the insulators on the plug was stripped off. I checked the package. Made in China. !@*#$ free trade agreements! @!#@$$#$@!! global economy!

I took a chance on the Chinese-made mono plug, and Buddha smiled on me for that one, for it seemed to work fine. Trouble was Windows didn’t know it was there, so I tried the back. That was fine, but the levels were too quiet, even with the Windows levels turned all the way up.

Kudos to the 1050 CHUM Memorial Blog

Recently, I’ve been hit (my website that is) by someone possibly checking his plethora of links from his/her website, and when I back-traced it, I find this cool blog which acts as a convincing historical shrine to the late great 1050 CHUM Radio in Toronto. I’ve written about it before, and had mourned the reduction of a once-powerful music station to nothing more than an on-air feed for an all-news cable TV station.

There are some bugs to iron out with this blog.  While the content is excellent, and is a great cross-section of its 50-year history, there is little need to cram everything on to one nearly interminable page. I would go for short pages. Many short pages. Dozens. Hundreds of short pages. Yes, we know its history is long and illustrious. It was the home of The Chum Charts, and, was the place where countless celebrities made their appearance. Even spending part of my childhood in rural Saskatchewan was not enough to escape the annual Top 100 countdown piped to a local station in town from that seminal station near Yonge St. and Eglinton and DJ’ed by people like Bob MacAdorey. And we know there is a lot to archive: 50 years of sound checks, CHUM charts, and paraphernalia can do that, to say nothing of links to other sites which have articles possibly written by other CHUM fans, making their own contribution.

The Psychology Contrarian II: The Obsession with IQ

At best, these websites present these people as numbers first, people second. To what extent does saying that Marie Curie has an IQ of 190 or so add to or take away from her discovery of radioactivity or her other contributions to Chemistry and Physics to which she literally paid for with her life, all the while fleeing the Nazis? To what extent does Shakespeare’s assigned IQ of 210 add to or take away from his being the most quoted writer in the English Language? And finally, just who is this guy “William Sidis”, and who in the h-e-double-sticks gave him an IQ of 250 to 300?

William Sidis (1898-1944), was an American who had an undergraduate degree at MIT, and then a studied for a law degree at Harvard before he reached 18. By that time he had given occasional lectures to professors. He was portrayed as Will Hunting in the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting. But Will Hunting was portrayed more as a thug first, intellectual second (it was the reverse in real life). In real life, the psychologist he was to see was his father, Boris Sidis. Now, isn’t that a tad, shall we say, unethical? Exactly what was to be the outcome here? The only way you can be clinically objective about your own son is to not have feelings for your son at all, and doesn’t that defeat the purpose of therapy in a rather deep and profound way? I guess one way to become screwed up is to have issues with your father; and one way to be really screwed up is to have that same father for your therapist. NOOOOOOOO!, I can hear him screaming. Ah, but I digress.

No one doubts that Sidis was a prodigy. But what of the number given to him: 250 – 300, which pretty much isolates him from the rest of humanity (even going back to the dawn of antiquity)  as an intellectual? Is this number even meaningful? Is it legitimate? An IQ like that would make him “smarter” than Leonardo da Vinci, or Michelangelo. Even Albert Einstein had to give the world his special and general relativity theories while chugging along with his meagre 205 IQ.  On this scale, Isaac Newton was an also-ran; and Galileo could be arrogant to the Pope, but like John The Baptist, he should not feel himself fit to tie the sandals of someone on the scale of Good Will Sidis, apparently.

Will Sidis, as far as history can tell, is just known for being smart; he didn’t contribute anything, except for this “human thermodynamics/entropy reversal” stuff, which few have heard of. His contribution doesn’t seem as all-encompassing as Einstein or Michelangelo, so having the IQ score alone is nothing to be envious about. Nearly all of those slowpokes who meandered to their historical achievements had to do so while galumphing along with the humble 190-210 IQs that God gave them, if we are to believe the posthumous IQ scores given to them.

The Psychology Contrarian I: The obsession with IQ

When there are no serious researchers that would place any relevance on IQ and what it measures (indeed, what exactly is it measuring is itself a mystery: does intelligence even have a definition, or am I missing out on something?), I wonder why there are web sites which even go so far as to go back in history, centuries before there were IQ tests or even a field of psychology as we know it, and begin to assign IQs to people like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle, Hypatia, Isaac Newton, and so on, as if we were handing passing out candies, albeit to dead people.

I think it IQ is the last bastion of that age where math was taken too seriously, and secret societies were formed out of assigning numbers to strange and abstruse things. The IQ, much like saying “chair = 5”, was and is the last of these to fall. The same care and attention given to assigning numbers to daffodils and planets is being given to historical figures who had never seen, heard of, or taken these tests. It forms an easy method by which we can feel we understand the world without having to go through all the bother of reading of people’s biographies or accomplishments, or knowing anything about them at all. Their entire intellectual and scholastic oeuvre can be summarized in a three-digit number, and that’s all that matters to those of us who are IQ-obsessed.

One such person who was IQ obsessed was Rick Rosner, whose first IQ test was about 150, but repeatedly took more tests such that his IQ was inflated to 170 to 190. He said in an interview that 150 was OK for being the smartest in your high school, but not OK for being the smartest person at a place like Harvard. A 150 IQ just sort of blends in.

Of course, this logic fails because it confuses IQ scores with achievement. There is more to life than smarts; of course we can all do with more of it. The main ingredient, and possibly the most important ingredient leading to achievement and success in life is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the ability to make manifest the goals you set. Self-efficacy takes focus, determination, and discipline. These are things well within the reach of any average person.