Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Were the results of my AAC Challenge below statistically significant?

Dave has theorized that the sample size was too small. But even with this sample size, it is possible to get numbers that statisticians can use. Of course, a larger sample size will give us greater accuracy... more decimal points.

Eric from Geek Farm - Professional Statistician - has this to say:

"By guessing randomly, you would have gotten 5 out of 10 right. We want to know the odds that if you were guessing randomly, you would have gotten 8 out of 10 right.

The odds of that are about .044 (4.4%), which is statistically significant. Ususally anything less than 5% is considered statistically significant. To give you a perspective, that (5%) is 1:20 odds."

I'm not a betting man, but I like them odds.

MP3, AIFF, AAC, and ME

A while back (somewhere in the posts below, or in one of Jackson's posts, or in a dream I had) Ted and I were going about our usual "We hate MP3's" routine, when Hazmat suggested that AAC (aka m4a) was the real format of choice for digitized music.

I did a bit of research and found this, on Apple's website:

AAC compressed audio at 128 Kbps (stereo) has been judged by expert listeners to be “indistinguishable” from the original uncompressed audio source.*

* Information provided by Dolby Labs

As I said at the time, this is a bold statement.

Ken (aka Hazmat) recommended that we do a blind taste (sound?) test, comparing original AIFF's with AAC's. He was interested to see if I could tell the difference.

Now, I don't consider myself to be an "expert listener." I'm still really an amateur, and I suspect it'll take my whole life to really become an expert, by which time I will likely be deaf. But I decided to Take The Challenge.

So Ted and I took the new Brain Shivers record and converted each track to an AAC (at 128Kbps).

I sat at the back of the room as Ted played me bits of ten songs, each song twice, either the AAC or the AIFF first. I marked down my first impression, my gut feeling. Was I hearing the original, uncompressed audio, or the "indistinguishable" AAC?

I listened to no more than a minute of each, and in some cases made my choice after ten seconds or so. This was through my monitors, at "regular" listening volumes.

The differences were damned subtle, and in every case I made my prediction based more on an overall feel than anything else.

One thing's for certain. AAC is good stuff, and at 128Kbps it's damned impressive.

So after ten tracks Ted checked my results. I got 80% correct.

According to statistician/rocker Eric from Geek Farm, these results are statistically significant. I could hear the difference.

Good thing I don't work for Dolby.

Anyhow, it was good fun. The main difference between the AAC's and the AIFF's was a sense of space and localization, which makes perfect sense since this information is all coded in the high frequencies. These require more data to represent, and are the first things compromised when data is compressed.

As I said, the differences are subtle. And at a higher bit rate (192Kbps) I don't know if I could repeat my performance.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Another example of American jobs being outsourced to other countries.

It's shameful. American companies - like the military - must keep these jobs at home, in the hands of American workers, where they belong!

What will our children think?

Monday, January 23, 2006


I lost my cellphone about a week ago.

As nice as it's been without it, it's clear I needed a new one, so today I headed to the Sprint store and ponied up for a replacement.

I know, it's a cellphone, big deal.

I've only owned 2 different phones in my 7 odd years of cellphone use, and the second was the updated version of the first (both Samsungs).

Well, the LG ain't the old Samsung. Overall it's pretty good, but there are a few annoying things...

When the phone is closed and idle, the little screen on the front does not display the time, missed calls, etc. One thing I liked about the Samsung was that you could always see this info.

The two little volume buttons on the side of the phone aren't in a very convenient place. For some reason these are the most used buttons for me. I like adjusting volumes...

When the phone is in "vibrate" mode, my little custom greeting - which has always read "Don't Panic" - is not shown. Bummer. This is almost worth taking a picture of the words "Don't Panic" and using it as the "desktop" picture. I mean, it's important to me to see this, in "large friendly letters," when I use my phone.

Other than that, I guess it's cool. I don't know. I just don't care much about cellphones, but they're fun for the first couple of hours.


It's not often that I'll click on an ad on my Hotmai Inbox, but this is pretty cool.

Yep, that's my house.

Update - apparently you have to click the "Bird's Eye View" button on the upper left to see the image correctly.


The Steelers are lookin' good.

Always happy to see Carolina lose.

Guitar overdubs on the "House of Blondes" tracks are done (I think), and the Orange continues to be the kick-ass amp of '06.

Receiving copies of Choir CD's you've worked on is super cool, even when they misprint the studio's phone #.

Too little sleep makes me tired. Too much sleep makes me tired.

My dog is cute.

Friday, January 20, 2006


I was originally going to post this as a comment to the entry below, but I decided it was worth it's own post.

My freshman year in college I shared a suite with a herpetologist.

You know what that means.

There were 2 ball pythons, a black snake, and some kind of giant poisonous frog that never moved (except to swallow chicken from the dining hall) sharing the suite with us. The pythons took baths in the tub (that's a creepy thing to watch).

They pretty just ate mice from the mall pet store. At some point - I think it was sophomore year - one of the pythons stopped eating, and my friend was reduced to force feeding it dead mice lubed up with KY.

Also creepy.

That same year, one of the pythons made a break for it and was MIA in Cascadilla Hall for a few weeks. It turned up in a student lounge.

By senior year the guy was living off campus (thank God) with a monitor lizard (what was called a "Komodo Dragon" in the movie "The Freshman") that was last seen roaming the streets of Ithaca (there were calls to the police about an "alligator" heading for Lake Cayuga).

This guy once smuggled some baby snakes hidden in a pillowcase on a flight from Florida to Ithaca.

All true.

Anyhow, it's better than living with an entomologist. I knew one who kept a hidden stash of hissing cockroaches in his room. His apartmentmates never found out...

Thursday, January 19, 2006


TOKYO (AP) - Gohan and Aochan make strange bedfellows: one's a 3.5-inch dwarf hamster; the other is a four-foot rat snake. Zookeepers at Tokyo's Mutsugoro Okoku zoo presented the hamster — whose name means "meal" in Japanese — to Aochan as a tasty morsel in October, after the snake refused to eat frozen mice.

But instead of indulging, Aochan decided to make friends with the furry rodent, according to keeper Kazuya Yamamoto. The pair have shared a cage since.


Looks like we're winning the war on terror.

Who should we bomb now?

Seriously, are we safer? Is anyone scared about this warning?


I mentioned in a post below that I would have to do some serious meditation to improve my karma after being loaned a kick ass amp.

Jackson responded that you can't pay back karma with meditation, but that you pay into it with deeds.

As all of my fellow Zen enthusiasts know, this is partly true.

For me, my deeds are my deeds, and they're usually the simple result of cause and effect. Situations often make it impossible to base one's actions solely on the effect they will have on one's karma.

Merely doing more "good" deeds will only improve my karma if my intentions are pure. So my point was that through serious meditation I could improve my state of mind, my intentions, and by extension my karma.


"Indeed, karmic causation depends more on our intentions than on our mere actions. If you do a good deed by accident, you don't create as much good karma as if you do it intentionally, mainly because the action does not reflect a meritorious or wholesome process in your mind-stream. Similarly, if you harm someone by accident, you don't engender the same negative karma as if you do it on purpose.
Buddhist texts attribute this to the fact that karma has four parts: the intention or impulse; the actual action, thought/attitude or words; the accomplishing of the action, thought or deed; and rejoicing in the completion of that activity. If any of these parts are missing, the karma is considered incomplete and the results less profound and powerful."

So fully half of the karmic force is not dependent on the action itself, but rather the intention and the rejoicing in the completion of that action.

It's interesting to me that rejoicing in the action is so important - you really need to know that you've done good and you need to be joyful for it. If you do something cynically (but with the intent to "improve your karma") you've missed the point - and the karma.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program, ie boobies.


I don't know how this is going to affect my mixing strategies, but apparently our ears are gills.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


We've finished cutting guitars for the Strikes Again! demo/EP. The final tracks were laid down last night, by singer/guitarist John Van Atta, who played Ted's Explorer through the Orange.

The sounds were big. The band was on.

We owe some karmic debt to the Unnamed Engineer who's loaned us the Orange. His karma was already good, now it's even better, and I'll have to do a LOT of meditation to start paying this back. The Orange is one of the true greats.

One of the Strikes tunes, "The Human Cannonball," has a lot of guitar work we've been sifting through. Guitarist Jeff cut all of his parts before leaving for an acting gig in Indy (he's playing an Orthodox Jew, and as Mikedot said, "You shoulda seen the bris.") and none of his bandmates have heard the entirety of his work yet. But last night we made some serious progress, getting rid of stuff we definitely don't want and organizing what's left. It's amazing how quickly tracks add up... yes, we really DO need 7 takes of ambience and feedback to get the perfect moment.

Now it's just the final vocals and mixing. I'm anticipating a very simple mix where everything just comes together...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Quite often, bloggers and commentors tell us to talk to the men and women who are fighting (or have fought) in Iraq to get a sense of whether we should really be there.

Well, the Lexington Herald-Reader did.

Blake Miller, 21, was a marine for three years, and was at the battle of Fallujah.

He returned from Iraq early last year, and on November 10th was discharged - early, but honorably - after it was determined he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (He had gotten into an altercation with a sailor aboard the USS Iwo Jima while on Hurricane Katrina duty).

Here's what he has to say:

"When I was in the service, my opinion was whatever the commander in chief's opinion was. But after I got out, I really started thinking about it. ... The biggest question I have is how you can make war on an entire country, when a certain group from that country is practicing terrorism against you. It's as if a gang from New York went to Iraq and blew up some stuff, and Iraq started a war against us because of that. I agree with taking care of terrorism. But after terrorism was dealt with, the way it was after Fallujah, maybe that was the time for us to pull out. That's just my opinion. It blows my mind that we've continued to drag this out."

Here's the whole article.


From a junk email entitled "Eliminate All Weakness and Become the King!"

"No matter your age and actual performance, you can always do better. And the great news is that now you don't have to wait. The soft tab gets into bloodstream, including your buddy, in just 15-20 minutes. Down the little thing and start pleasing her in the foreplay, because minutes later you will win her very personal First Prize. Now you can be up for the entire night, reaching heavens of pleasure for both of you. You can now become the king of the bed (or wherever you use it). Fast, safe and easy!"

I guess my "buddy" would be my genitals.

Winning her very personal First Prize, and being up all night? Sounds like heaven to me.


Friday night we did some more work with Strikes Again!, cutting guitars. The Orange amp made its first appearance on the Strikes record and lived up to expectations.

Saturday my sister and brother-in-law came down from beautiful Connecticut to see my new home in dirty Brooklyn. I never realize how much garbage is around until I'm walking with people from The Country and feeling self conscious about all the crap on the ground. And that's just in my apartment!

Sunday we finished the Koichi Band record, which was then mastered by George. I'm happy with the way it came out, considering how quickly (and cheaply) it got done. What these guys need is a few years on the road (or toughing it out in crappy NYC clubs) to reach their potential, which is high.

Yesterday I took the day off from work (floating Holiday) and did some tracking on a song called "Aunt Bea" that we wrote and recorded a while back. Machold cut drums on it for us, so now we're rerecording everything. Fortunately, the reason the song is called "Aunt Bea" is because the chords are B-E-A, so it's easy to remember. There is a trick chord in there... but we won't worry about that right now.

We dropped the new Celestion Vintage 30 into the Randall Isolation Box. It's sounding pretty good, although we've only tried it with the Bandmaster thus far. Cut 2 guitar tracks using it and they sound pretty good... a little EQ helps the (expectedly) boxed-in sound that results from recording a guitar amp in a box.

Tonight, more Strikes Again!

Friday, January 13, 2006


Ever seen (or heard) one of these?

'Cause there's now an Orange 2 x 12 combo (I think it's an Overdrive) at Smoke and Mirrors, courtesy of a friend and fellow engineer.

This amp is a MONSTER. We used it last night for solos on the Koichi Band's EP, and it kicks butt.

I believe I prefer it to the AC30, even.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Several weeks ago, we got a gift from The Misanthrope.

The gift was a Randall Isolation Box, which is a nifty contraption that allows you to crank up your guitar amp and not blast your neighbors, bandmates, or cat through the wall. Even better, it allows you to cut basic tracks at the same time as you do your drums without the amp bleeding all over the other mics.

Dave advised that the speaker was likely shot, and upon plugging a few different amps into the cab Jackson and I had to concur. There's definitely some kind of gnarly fuzz in there.

Well, today I went down to Guitar Center on 14th Street and picked up a nice new Celestion Vintage 30 to drop in. Rated at 60 watts, we'll have to be careful not to blow it out with the big Marshall (this may be what happened to the original speaker), but everything I've read says these speakers are sweet.

I'll do the install, perhaps tonight if I get a chance, and let y'all know the results.


I'm all for dramatic hearings for Supreme Court Nominees, especially when they're Republicans.

I've missed all of Alito's hearings - gotta make money for the bosses - but the "uproar" over the Dem's repeated questioning regarding Alito's membership in CAP is a bit absurd. This is politics, my friends, and if someone was involved in a group whose motives are questionable, they should be prepared to face the music. It's ridiculous to think the Dems wouldn't harp on this.

Of course, Alito didn't realize what CAP stood for. Why he'd put it on a job application when he supposedly had no idea what it was about remains unanswered.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"His claimed lack of recollection of his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton -- which he highlighted in a 1985 job application with the Reagan administration -- defies credibility. This was not an obscure club, but a group that was attracting national attention with its assertion that the university was lowering its standards in admitting more women and minorities -- and fewer children of alumni. Does anyone really believe that an alumnus as astute as Alito would be oblivious to its activities, or the message its inclusion on a job application might send?"

Why was this the line of questioning that caused Alito's wife to break down and leave the hearings?

Does she know something we don't know?

I don't trust him. But I don't trust any of them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Another lawsuit over a school teaching "Intelligent Design":

AP - Fresno, CA - A rural high school teaching a religion-based alternative to evolution was sued Tuesday by a group of parents who said the class should be stopped because it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Frazier Mountain High in Lebec violated the separation of church and state while attempting to legitimize the theory of "intelligent design" by introducing it as a philosophy class, according to the federal lawsuit.

The class is taught by social studies teacher Sharon Lemburg, whose husband is an Assembly of God pastor...

An initial course description sent to parents in December said it would examine "evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and Biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid."

Classes started...with a class plan that relied solely on videos.

The Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State said that with one exception the course "relies exclusively on videos that advocate religious perspectives and present religious theories as scientific ones."

Well, that sounds like a heck of a class - for a Sunday school. Sitting around watching religious (do you think they might be Christian?) videos "explaining" why evolution isn't legitimate, while a Pastor's wife (and social studies teacher) runs the VCR.

This is scary. Taxpayers dollars are funding this.

However, I do like the course description - they'll be using science and biology! And here I thought Biology was science the whole time. Guess I should take this class.


Dave has revealed that he spent some time in Vancouver, a truly beautiful and unique city.

With its gorgeous forests, thriving heroin trade, and Canadian sensibility, Vancouver is one of those places everyone should visit at least once.

Over at Dave's blog I mentioned my only trip to Vancouver, which was to shoot a story about Tanis Helliwell (I spelled it wrong at Dave's), who knew Leprechauns, Gnomes, Elves, and other Magical Beings.

Here's the book that started it all.

You'll notice it's subtitled "A True Story," which back in the day was the main qualification for doing such a story on the Daily Show. To Tanis, it was real.

I have to say, if there are Leprechauns anywhere, they're in Vancouver.


I've said it before and I'll say it again.

Nanotechnology is the future.

We're talking about the ability to create and manipulate structures on the atomic level, where the real work is done. Once this technology has matured - just a bit - the world will change, quickly. The ability to work on an atomic and subatomic level will lead to the most efficient machines known to man, and considering the rather interesting behavior of subatomic particles, it may just alter the fundamental ways we interact with the world.

It's going to have a huge impact on medicine and computing, but it'll change everything from how food is grown to how we listen to music.

The microchip will be old news. The nanochip will rule.

Today there's an article on Yahoo! News about a report released by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (that's where the link above takes you) stating that laws meant to safeguard the public against this emerging technology are not being drafted quickly enough. Maybe it's because most people don't even realize what nanotechnology is, or how profound its impact will be.

What do our resident investors think?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Now that the Brain Shivers record, "Santiago Love Songs," is in the final mastering stages, I've started thinking about the next step.

Of course, that's packaging, which we've talked about a bit below.

So I guess I'm thinking about the next next step, which is playing this stuff live.

I haven't been in a regular band since Mister Littlejeans/Bob, who hung up their guitars a few years ago after a couple of gigs. Before that it was Happy Boy, which was the first band I regularly gigged with in New York, and which was as much a learning experience as something you'd want to see live.

Last night George and I got to talking about how to present Brain Shivers live. It's kind of difficult, since many (but not all) of the tunes have synth parts, and a few of them are heavily reliant on cello. I don't know if we'll be able to find a cellist who's willing to deal with live gigs (especially if we end up in shitty bars, which is likely), so we may need to rely on synths even more.

I'm not very keen on having a 6 piece band anyhow... rehearsing would be a pain in the ass and it's far too much gear to lug around. Plus we'd constantly be buying cello strings, and I don't even know where to get them.

George suggested that I play keys, leaving him on guitar, Ted on guitar, Machold on drums, and a bassist TBD. That's already five people... crowded rehearsals, to be sure. But a bigger issue is that I'm not much of a live keyboardist; my comfort level, especially when I'm singing, is a lot higher on guitar. Plus I'd have to give up my solos... well, some of them.

I thought about playing guitar and synths, kind of an Alex Lifeson deal, which would be more complicated than singing and playing keys live. Plus I'm not even Canadian. I suggested to George that we have several synth setups that could be used by any one of us. Also complex.

There's the option of ditching the synth and cello parts entirely, and just playing the songs with a few guitars and drums. Certainly simple, but not really an accurate representation of the Brain Shivers sound.

So that's where my brain is in terms of the Brain. I guess the easiest thing to do is just to put on a CD and lip synch.


I'm thinking perhaps it's time to remove the "Tedstock" ad from the sidebar.

What do you guys think?

Monday, January 09, 2006


If you're looking for that perfect Birthday gift for someone special, look no further.

Although I do think He should wear cleats.


We can't stop time passing, although we can slow it down.

But even if we approach the speed of light, our time doesn't seem to get slower, since our whole frame of reference is being slowed as well.

So, now matter how fast I'm going, I'm still getting older.

Today I turn 32.

Here's what Sally Brompton has to say.

"Mercury, planet of the mind, is so strong on your birthday that a change, maybe even a transformation, in your thinking is sure to occur over the next 12 months. If you find yourself in a position where you must choose between the future and the past you must choose the future."

Seems to make sense.

I wonder what Mercury has in store for Jimmy Page.


Which world leader is being described below?

"He has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest."

One thing's for sure - he better have health insurance!

Friday, January 06, 2006


Seriously, this kind of shit is taking up time in the courts.

What a complete and utter waste of time, money, and effort. These people, rolling in cash, have nothing better to do with their lives.

When the Revolution comes, I'll be right there in front.


Hue pointed this out on his blog, and I want to point it out here as well.

I love Pat Robertson.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


A while back, Mikedot told me about how he enjoyed reading Rivers Cuomo's blog on MySpace. I had forgotten about it, until I randomly found a link to it in an article on (the source for ALL of my news).

Check it out. It's interesting to read the thoughts of a 35 year old guy who just happens to be a big rock star.

He's even posted his application essays to Harvard. They're OK, but I thought my essays were better... and I didn't even mention the Foo Fighters.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Why were so many early Blues musicians blind?

Was it simply because, if you were afflicted with blindness in the Depression-Era US, there weren't many ways other than music to make some money?

Or does being blind make you that much more "in touch" with what the Blues is all about?

Or is it the fact that people who lose one sense often compensate with other senses, meaning these blind musicians had particularly good ears?

I don't know, but here are a few of the more famous Blind Blues Musicians:

Blind Willie Johnson - blinded when his stepmother threw a pot of boiling lye in his face.

Blind Blake - the "King of Ragtime Guitar." Recorded some 80 odd tracks for Paramount Records in the 20's and 30's. Probably blind at birth. Nothing is known about his death.

Blind Gary Davis - partially blind since birth, he lost his sight completely in his late 20's. Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder were influenced by this Baptist minister.

Blind Lemon Jefferson - originator of Texas Blues. Also recorded for Paramount; one of the most popular Blues musicians of the 20's. Blind Melon (you know, the ones with the bee in their video) is a play on his name. Blind from childhood, maybe even from birth.

Blind Willie McTell - lost his sight in early childhood. His songs have been covered by the Allman brothers and Taj Mahal. As immortalized by Dylan:

"Seen the arrow on the door post saying 'This land is condemned'
All the way from New Orleans to Jerusalem.
I traveled through East Texas where many martyrs fell
And I know one thing, nobody can sing them blues like Blind Willie McTell."

(Incidentally, this song was covered by the Dream Syndicate, one of my favorite Paisley Underground bands.)

Blind Joe Taggart - also recorded under the names Blind Joe Amos, Blind Jeremiah Taylor, Blind Tim Russell, and Blind Joe Donnel. Known for being mean and nasty; largely undiscovered until the 60's. Not entirely blind - had cataracts and could "see a little."

Blind John Davis - piano player. First pianist to do a European Blues tour (with Big Bill Broonzy in 1952).

Blind Boy Fuller - lost his sight at age 19, was "discovered" and started recording in 1935.

Many of the details of these musicians' lives and deaths are sketchy - very little is known about some of them, which is odd considering they sold a lot of records and influenced a lot of people. But Blues was called "Race Music" in the early days, and the artists weren't given much thought or respect by those writing history.

If you're interested in influential Bluesmen, check this out. Also suitable for R. Crumb fans.




The Slash signature Marshall is actually a 2555 Silver Jubilee 50W/100W head. Of course, it's not silver.

Here's the schematic of the power supply, showing two fuses - labeled F1 and F2. I believe we need a T2A fuse, but we'll double check tonight.


Oh yeah, it's 2006.

Saturday day was a session with John (vocals, guitars) from Strikes Again!, who are moving along on their 5 song EP. There are a few more bass tracks to do, a few guitars, and a few vocals. It seems to be moving along pretty smoothly, although we did blow a fuse in the Marshall. Too much rock and roll, I guess.

I'm enjoying working on the Strikes Again! recordings. I wish I had more time to just chill and mix.

I rung in the New Year in Greenpoint at our friend Rachel's house. There were 2 dogs present (Buck and Lola, the 98 pound Rottweiler) and they were alternately sleepy and excited, much like me.

Sunday - slept till about 2pm, ate an omelette, went back to bed. Slept 'till 5. Did some rough Strikes mixes that night and emailed them to the boys.

Yesterday was an all day affair with Koichi's band (see posts below) - their 5 song demo is also progressing nicely. Koichi is a good guitar player and I like the tunes. I wish they'd been recorded to a click - I imagine this band being super tight. But if you haven't rehearsed to click it's pretty hard to jump into. Maybe next time.

So it's back to the day job and more sleep deprivation.