Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Hit the road Jacques: Virtual walking tour of Switzerland

GraubuendenWalkingTour

Screenshot via webwandern.ch

It’s about 130km (~80 miles) from Thusis to Tirano and the Canton of Graubünden and the Rhaetian Railway have come up with a pip of a way to see it. Hikers walked it while wearing hi-def video cameras and the jaunts are available for the clicking. No joke, this is an algorithm and a treadmill away from a holodeck. Visit webwandern.ch (or click on the image), select any one of ten starting points and let the friendly ibex take you through some breathtaking scenery. All the virtues of travel without the hellish slog through the modern travel industry.  The website is exquisite, in and of itself.

Setting the standard: The music of William Herschel

A lot is made these days about composer/conductors. It is quite interesting how these paragons do such miserable jobs at both yet still collect handsome checks.

On the other hand, here is some music by William Herschel. Born in (now) Germany, studied music, soldiered, fled to England, built telescopes, inferred infrared radiation and Uranus, made other pioneering discoveries many with his sister Caroline, played the organ professionally, while composing over two hundred pieces of music. He even had a space telescope named after him.

Take that ya overpaid patzers.

Here’s his Symphony No. 14, conducted by Matthias Bamert.

William Herschel – Symphony No.14 in D-major (1762)

Watch this video on YouTube.

Yes, that Matthias Bamert.

Zwölftonwerbung – Twelve tone commercial

Watch this video on YouTube.

Can’t go home again – USA vs. Argentina in Men’s Volleyball

USA-ARG-1

USA defeats Argentina to win the FIVB Men’s 2015 World Cup. Click for a shot chart

I followed volleyball very closely up until the early 2000s when wholesale rules changes changed the sport too much for my tastes. I still keep in touch with fans and coaches I met during several years where I watched a lot of men’s and women’s collegiate matches and the occasional international match, posting notes to rec.sport.volleyball of Usenet news. I learned how to take shot charts and do rudimentary statistics while in graduate school and enjoyed doing that at the events I attended in the mid to late 1990s. I looked up some recent international men’s matches at the suggestion of one of my ‘volleygoombas’ and took a shot chart for the first time in fifteen years using Youtube video. I put down some thoughts on USA’s win over Argentina for the 2015 World Cup which qualifies the men for the 2016 Olympics.

Click here to read more and for the Youtube video of the match

A modern day Higgins – The Speech Accent Archive

A side effect of long Internet usage is the sudden recollection for no good reason of a website visited long, long ago.  Sometime in the early-2000s, the Speech Accent Archive at George Mason University made the news.  Prof. Steven Weinberger asked people all over the world to record a carefully constructed paragraph and to provide some demographic information.

The elicitation paragraph:
Please call Stella.  Ask her to bring these things with her from the store:  Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob.  We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids.  She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.

The elicitation paragraph contains most of the consonants, vowels, and clusters of standard American English

The responses were analyzed and tabulated by GMU students in a linguistics class.  I don’t know why this came to mind but it did.   Fortunately, the trove still exists and continues to be maintained.  The Language/Speakers  list may be the easiest way to get started.   Have a look, have a listen, and contribute.

This guy was willing but didn’t follow the directions.

Marlon Brando ~ 'Hey Stella!'~ A Streetcar Named Desire

Watch this video on YouTube.

Building Arts Audiences – Round 8,529,252

Art mirrors society to the extent that a small group of artists do very well and leave the rest to fight for scraps. But, the art wonkery industry is doing all right for itself. Foundations love funding meta discussions and conferences and now the Wallace Foundation is is having a go at it (via ArtsJournal.com). The sneaky sponsored post somehow made it past Adblock.

ThrivingArts.org
Building Audiences to Help Great Arts Organizations Thrive

There’s a panel distinguished panel talking about engagement, partnerships, and why building new audience matters.  I suppose it isn’t obvious that lack of audience, let alone a paying one, would make life for the 99.9% of painters, musicians, sculptors, and playwrights even that much worse. The Foundation, naturally, has a Knowledge Center with a death-grip on the obvious.

Delving deeper, we find:

Our searchable database contains the names and locations of grantees going back some 20 years, and the size and purpose of their grants. You may search by organization name, topic, state or a combination of all three. We suggest filling out at least one field to narrow down your search, because the database is large and can yield thousands of results.

The Foundation may want to drop a few cents into its own web development. Its grantee search engine needs work – Select a state, search, and then try to see pages beyond the first – the settings change and irrelevant results pop up. Judging from the Annual Reports, the real mission is to use disadvantaged children as test subjects and take the data forward to justify more grants managers. They also don’t seem to have gotten the message about Big Data. Their database, whatever its size, is small compared to storage and processing power available these days.

I can’t stand musicals but this tolerable clip from The Music Man is appropriate.

Must be nice to be that good

I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I’d used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime. — Prof. D.E. Knuth

In the current hypertasking climate, people take excessive pride in the fact of being busy. To manage all that busy-ness, they grab the latest, hottest tool and immediately start adding to the job jar because, whaddya whaddya, the latest, hottest tool lets them do it. The results, unsurprisingly, are a bunch of hypertasked, ultraorganized goobers who can’t get anything of value done and whatever does get done isn’t worth looking at.

There are a few who manage to buck the trend. Stanford’s Donald Knuth is a transdisciplinary legend. He’s one of the founders of what we now call Computer Science. He creates tools to solve ostensibly academic problems and their impact defies measurement. For all that, he stopped using email in 1990. Stopped. Long before most people had even heard of it.

Here’s his lovely essay on why.

Big Data – The next fad to hit the arts?

Every few years, artists beleaguered by perennial lack of funding, audiences, and the time to create get hit with the Next Big Thing that will fix all three. Listservs, email blasts, podcasting, Web x.0, individual and group blogging, social media, and crowdfunding have all had their time in the spotlight just in the past ten years. After an initial rumble, prognosticators issue vaguely worded statements on how something is all the rage, that artists are behind the curve, and should be devoting more of their time to the something if they know what’s good for them. Initial experiments are conducted, advocacy groups organize seminars, there’s a flurry of interest, and in time some artists hook onto one or more of these somethings as a career before the curve flattens and disappointment sets in.

But what’s next now that everyone is sharing everything on dozens of different platforms – so much so that websites (remember them?) are 75% icons, 23% whitespace, and 2% content that hasn’t been updated since 2011?

My prediction: Big Data/Analytics

It will start with one of the usual wonks bemoaning how artists and arts organizations aren’t mining the tens of kilobytes lying untapped in their addressbooks, subscriber, and donor lists. This will be denounced as a bad thing. After all, Google, Facebook, and other major corporations are doing it and making a pile. Any who don’t or won’t will be left even farther behind. Dancers must become graph theorists, playwrights must Hadoop, and violinists must become Bayesians. All will be required to expound their data mining strategy in the application for a $250 municipal or foundation grant. Because you can’t do outreach without metrics to determine ROI.

This is the year it begins. The problems of no money, audience, or time will still be there. But, by golly, they’ll be able to measure it.

Making LinkedIn readable if not actually useful

LinkedIn is one of those products whose success bewilders. The site is poorly designed, the firm is openly contemptuous of its customers, and its algorithms are guaranteed to generate comically useless suggestions. It is an advertising racket currently enjoying 1990s Microsoft-style adoption among the hail-fellow-well-met crowd. It’s convenient to have a free profile on it and it is worth the price to squat on one’s own name along with one’s namesakes.

But the cruft… When one does check in (through the website and not its privacy-ripping mobile app) there is a barrage of infuriating junk with which to contend. The Babbitty boosterism of Pulse “influencers,” the suggestions for content-free discussion groups, the teasers for extra-cost “analytics,” and the inducements to amp up one’s profile – just to name a few. Search for how to turn these off and find that it is not possible. LinkedIn relies on its own members to provide technical support and many of these stalwarts are adept at telling fellow users to lump it, saving the company the cost and trouble of doing so itself.

Mercifully, Firefox and Chrome users have the invaluable AdBlock Plus extension and the associated Element Hiding Helper to keep the stench at bay. Through some trial and error, I’ve found these filters to make my occasional LinkedIn visits mildly tolerable. Add them via AdBlock Plus icon –> Filter Preferences –> Custom Filter –> Add Filter and perhaps they’ll enhance your visits as well.

linkedin.com##.todal-carousel-header
linkedin.com##.today-list-headlines.enable-large-cta
linkedin.com###today-news-wrapper
linkedin.com##.feed-item.linkedin-sponsor
linkedin.com###companiesForYou
linkedin.com###groupsForYou
linkedin.com###jobsForYou
linkedin.com###recGroups-content
linkedin.com###companiesForYou
linkedin.com###share-stats-widget
linkedin.com###control_gen_15
linkedin.com###recent-activities-widget
linkedin.com##.upsell
linkedin.com###pymk
latimes.com##.trb_socialize