A Tempering Experience

At the Whitewater Early Music Festival the first weekend in June, I bought some second hand instruments, a bass cornamuse and an alto recorder at A=415.  I took my good tuner (Korg OT-120 ) with me to check the instruments before buying.

The cornamuse was first up.  I turned the tuner on, noted it was set on a mean tone temperament at A=440, and thought I’d just try it.  Wow, I was impressed — almost every note, right on pitch.  I went up and down the scale, played arpeggios, bits of tunes and stopped occasionally to check the tuning.  Every time, very close to perfectly on pitch in mean tone!  Cool!

Then the alto recorder.  I had my expectations, but for grins and giggles, left the tuner in mean tone temperament, tuned it down to A=415, and started playing and checking.  Not nearly as good, most notes off a bit, some off a lot.  Then I shifted the tuner to equal temperament, and tried again.  Bingo, most notes came into tune according to the meter easily, and as I ran bits of tunes stopping occasionally to check notes, they were pretty much right in place.

None of this is particularly surprising, but it was quite interesting to see it in action.

Travel Notes – Hang up the cell phone!

Yes, I know the airline rules allow cell phone use until the cabin door is closed.

I don’t care, hang up while you’re boarding.

You can’t pay attention to getting to the right seat while chatting to your stock broker.  The cell phone makes you too stupid to get A-B-C-D-E-F in the right order.   And when you’re “on an important call” and can’t be bothered to get to your assigned seat, you make the special meal assignments difficult for the cabin crew to manage for the entire 14 hour flight.  If you’d been listening to the crew when you boarded the plane, maybe you’d have gone down the right aisle.  But now, talking about that potential big deal right then was way too important to you.  Never mind that its midnight.

You also can’t see that you’re blocking the aisle for the cabin attendant behind you that is trying to get forward and help the mother with two kids put their bags in the overhead.  And you can’t hear the attendant saying “excuse me” because the inane “well, I’m on the airplane now” is filling your empty head with noise.

And you don’t notice that there are people trying to get past you into their seats, and the entire boarding process is waiting for you to get out of the way so they can be seated.  It is your fault we are late leaving the gate.

Cell phones are tremendously useful devices.  But use a little consideration before endlessly blathering on it.  Think about where you are, who’s around you, and what you should be paying attention to instead.

Audiobook Complete: The Valley of Fear

Title: The Valley of Fear
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Source: Librivox
URL: http://librivox.org/the-valley-of-fear-by-sir-arthur-conan-doyle/

This was a real treat – two mystery stories in one!  Holmes solves the first, then we get the back story as the second.   They are tied together, but each could stand alone.  I thought I’d read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon, but either I’m mistaken, or it has been too many years, since this story was unfamiliar to me.  I quite enjoyed it.  The reader is competent, other than a few words here and there coming across as unfamiliar in her mouth.  I’ll probably listen to this one again.

Audiobook Complete: The Dueling Machine

Title: The Dueling Machine
Author: Ben Bova
Source: Librivox
URL: http://librivox.org/the-dueling-machine-by-ben-bova/

This is a long short story, or maybe novelette in length.  Its a story of good technology used for evil in ways the inventor never considered.  Reasonably interesting, but I found it fairly predictable.  It might have had more of a surprise to it when written (1963), but the intervening years have had numerous treatments of this kind of thing.

Audiobook Complete: Manners, Customs and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period

Title: Manners, Customs and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period
Author: Paul Lacroix (1806-1884)
Source: Librivox
URL: http://librivox.org/manners-customs-and-dress-during-the-middle-ages-and-during-the-renaissance-period-by-paul-lacroix/

This is an entertaining and enjoyable book, as long as you don’t take it too seriously as an authoritative resource.  In the areas where I have detailed knowledge, there isn’t much that I can point at and say definitively the author is wrong, but there is a lot that isn’t exactly right either.  The primary problem is that the author provides an anecdote about a topic or behavior at a certain time and place, then extends that by implication further than he should.  That makes this work less useful as a resource, but it is still interesting and enjoyable, and he does mention references for many anecdotes that could be further researched if one were interested.

The book is read by several different readers.  Most are quite good, a few are not up to the quality of the others, but are still understandable.  There is an e-text version available from Project Gutenberg (follow the link above) that includes the original woodcuts.

I enjoyed this book, and may listen to select chapters again, as a starting point to get a little context before starting serious research.

Tax Reform I’d Like To See

I filed my taxes on time again this year.  Same as every year since I started earning an income.  Every year, it is a bigger and bigger pain.  I used to do it by hand, and very early on started using a computer program that would do the calculations for me.  Years ago I switched to TurboTax, primarily because it integrates nicely with Quicken.  Even though it has that nice integration, and now downloads all kinds of information from my employer, mutual funds, and so on automatically, all that automation is just lipstick on the pig.

Could we please make the tax system easier?

I don’t want to try to define easier right now, because I know that everyone won’t agree on what that is.  But I do want to propose how to get there, with one (and only one) change to the tax laws:

All elected officials are required to prepare their own tax forms by hand.

That’s it, the only change we need to make.  If you’re elected to public office, you must do your own tax forms, and you may not use a computer program to assist.

If we could get that passed into law, you can bet the tax laws would get simpler to manage every legislative session.

Mineral Rights Conversation

Notes on “Mineral Rights Conversation”, a listening technique from “Fierce Conversations” by way of a WorkingLeadership training course.  I’m not explicating anything here, simply putting notes in a place where I can find them easily for later use.  Want to learn more?  Follow the links above…

1.  Interrogate reality
2.  Provoke learning
3.  Tackle tough challenges
4.  Enrich relationships

Question Matrix:

Locale Interests Job / Career Groups Family Future

Probe for a topic that will engage your conversational partner.  When one is found, dig deeper, listen carefully, looking for influences.  When they are found, dig deeper yet, find core beliefs and values on the topic.  Develop a real relationship with your conversational partner.

How A Computer Works from Steve Gibson

The Security Now podcast by Steve Gibson with Leo Laporte is doing a wonderful series on how a computer works.  Every other week (or so, depending on security news) Steve takes the listeners through a discussion of how a computer works, beginning with first principles, i.e. logic gates.  Steve has a talent for making technical topics easy to understand, even without visuals.  I think this series is great, and well worth the time for anyone to listen to.

Computer professionals will enjoy the presentation, and find snippets they’ll use when trying to explain to other people what it is they do for a living.

Technical hobbyists will find themselves saying “Oh, so that’s why it does that!”

Non-technical users will learn that it isn’t really a mysterious black box, there are some very simple principles below everything you see.

Episode List

  1. 233: Let’s Design A Computer (Part 1)
  2. 235: Machine Language
  3. 237: Indirection: The Power of Pointers
  4. 239: Stacks, Registers & Recursion
  5. 241: Hardware Interrupts
  6. 247: The Multi verse
  7. 250: Operating Systems
  8. …(more to come ?)…

Audiobook Complete: Short Science Fiction 21

Title: Short Science Fiction Collection 21
Author: various
Source: Librivox
URL: http://librivox.org/short-science-fiction-collection-21/

This is a collection of science fiction short stories, by various authors and read by a variety of readers.  As to be expected, the quality also varies.  None of the stories in this collection struck me as anything I’m likely to reread, and several were so uninteresting I skipped ahead without finishing them.    The collection (like all the other Librivox SF collections I’ve heard so far) has no particular theme or plan I can detect, it is just a set of stories that were ready to be released at the same time.  SF fans will appreciate some of the themes, as these stories are going to be among the first that bring them up, but if you’re uncertain about science fiction in the first place, this collection isn’t where to start.

Audiobook Complete: Tom Sawyer Abroad

Title: Tom Sawyer Abroad
Author: Mark Twain
Source: Librivox
URL: http://librivox.org/tom-sawyer-abroad-by-mark-twain/

Tom, Huck, and Jim find themselves on a Jules Verne like adventure in a balloon, travelling the world.  Huck is the narrator, and highly entertaining as the fish out of water much of the time.  Tom seems to just know all kinds of things, some of them with a glancing similarity to reality.  Its a fun read (listen), especially if you don’t let yourself get distracted by the currently non-PC vocabulary.