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What Do You Do When Your Falling,
You've Got 30 Degrees And You're Stalling Out?
And It's 24 Miles To Your Beacon;
There's A Crack In The Sky And The Warning's Out.

Don't Take That Dive Again!
Push Through That Band Of Rain!

Five Miles Out,
Just Hold Your Heading True.
Got To Get Your Finest Out.
You're Number 1, Anticipating You.

Five Miles Out,
Just Hold Your Heading True.
Got To Get Your Finest Out.
Five Miles Out,
You're Number 1, Anticipating You.

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!
Calling All Stations!
This Is Golf-Mike-Oscar-Victor-Juliet
IMC CU.NIMB... icing,
In Great Difficulty, Over.

The Traffic Controller Is Calling,
"Victor-Juliet Your Identity.
I Have You Lost In The Violent Storm!
Communicate Or Squawk 'Emergency'!"

Don't Take That Dive Again!
Push Through That Band Of Rain!

Lost In Static 18,
And The Storm Is Closing In Now.
Automatic 18!
(Got To Push Through!) Trapped In Living Hell!

Your A Prisoner Of The Dark Sky,
The Propeller Blades Are Still!
And The Evil Eye Of The Hurricane's
Coming In Now For The Kill.

Our Hope's With You,
Rider In The Blue.

Welcome's Waiting,
We're Anticipating
You'll Be Celebrating,
When You're Down And Braking.

I still swoon for Maggie Reilly's voice... although I have no frickin' clue about the set and video work they did for it on this ToTPs kind of show. Weird!

Bonus track: a live version of Sheba off QE2! One of the best uses of vocoder effects I know of... ethereal!
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Pro tip: don't listen to the song Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III right before going to sleep or you will have really weird dreams!

Guru tip: listen to the song Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III right before going to sleep and you will have really weird dreams!
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... about standards, is that there's so many to choose from.

I am bashing myself senseless for days on the Timed Text Track API in Javascript/HTML5 in trying to use it dynamically with video playing on a canvas (I'm working on the v0.9 version of the demo for the revived Midnight Stranger... v0.8 introduced support for touch screens). Nothing seems to be working the way the specification indicates it should, so I'm debugging one micro-step at a time now. The only thing that is making it tolerable is that I'm listening to the Samorost 3 game soundtrack (by Floex). Such an evocative collection of music! I got the edition of the game that came with the soundtrack (in MP3 and FLAC formats) and a digital art book from the game :). I also got Samorost 2 and Botanicula to round out my game collection from that group (I have been playing Machinarium for years and still dust it off every once in a while... it's a puzzle game, so it has limited replay value until enough time has passed that I've forgotten the solutions, but the scenery, characters, and music is still great). You can play Samorost 1 online if you are so inclined... the other games also have teaser levels online as well :). Anyway, I haven't actually started playing Samorost 3 yet, but I am listening to the music, which is quite pleasant.

The animation in these kinds of games of reminds me of the animation in the short film Krapooyo by Yannick Puig... and one of my favourite "fan vids" where someone put music from the psychedelic band Schpongle over top of Krapooyo :) ...

Linux QoTD

May. 12th, 2017 12:07 pm
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Every time I log into my server at home, I get a message from the "fortune" program (not "fortune -o", heh). I thought today's was worth sharing:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

It's good to keep in mind.

Today's media makes me gasp every single time I see it (and I've been watching it for over a quarter of a century ... not constantly, mind you)... to me, it's not just concert footage, it's like watching a geological event. There is something surprisingly transcendent about it (your mileage may vary). It also seems relevant to the quote :).


Apr. 28th, 2017 11:08 am
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I get very emotional about cuttlefish.

Cuttlefish, like other cephalopods, have sophisticated eyes. The organogenesis and the final structure of the cephalopod eye fundamentally differ from those of vertebrates such as humans. Superficial similarities between cephalopod and vertebrate eyes are thought to be examples of convergent evolution. The cuttlefish pupil is a smoothly curving W-shape. Although cuttlefish cannot see color, they can perceive the polarization of light, which enhances their perception of contrast. They have two spots of concentrated sensor cells on their retina (known as foveae), one to look more forward, and one to look more backward. The eye changes focus by shifting the position of the entire lens with respect to the retina, instead of reshaping the lens as in mammals. Unlike the vertebrate eye, there is no blind spot, because the optic nerve is positioned behind the retina.

It has been speculated that cuttlefish's eyes are fully developed before birth, and that they start observing their surroundings while still in the egg.

Cephalopods are remarkable for how quickly and diversely they can communicate visually. To produce these signals, cephalopods can vary four types of communication element: chromatic (skin coloration), skin texture (e.g. rough or smooth), posture and locomotion. The common cuttlefish can display 34 chromatic, six textural, eight postural and six locomotor elements, whereas flamboyant cuttlefish use between 42 and 75 chromatic, seven textural, 14 postural, and seven locomotor elements.

While blogging is pretty spiff, and flapping my jaw and flailing my limbs seems to work okay, I am deeply humbled by our cuttlefish friends.

This post was brought to you by the song "Your Attitude Toward Cuttlefish" by the Winnipeg band Paper Moon, off the compilation album "For The Kids Two!" (which I was listening to while trying to learn a 3D solid modelling CAD program so I can do sketches for the projects I'm working on). I really do get emotional listening to that song, and it's one of my favourite pieces of music in the world for some reason (the reason actually eludes me... maybe it's the song... there is a rare innocence about it... maybe it's cuttlefish... if you ever lose me at an aquarium, just find the cuttlefish and I will probably be trying to interact with the denizens in the tank). I can't find a link to the song (Canadian indie music can be hard to find... sigh...), but I think it's on Spotify and other music services, none of which I have.

P.S. Cuttlefish = Aliens = Awesome! Right???
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I have purchased all of FKA Twigs' albums (even imported one from the UK on vinyl because that was the only way I could get it in a physical format). I am quite engaged by her music and videos (much of which is fairly transgressive and unlike most other music). I have sometimes gone looking for live performances to see if she can perform her stuff live (some people are just studio artists, which is fine, I'm just curious). Most of the footage I have run across has been shot by fans in the audience (<flame>put down your fucking phones and experience life through your own senses, and stop shining your accursed screens in my face as you record you self-centered ... umm, dweebs ... and, ummm, get off my damned lawn! ... Seriously, I went to a fireworks competition and over half the crowd were watching it through their phones and I could barely see the night sky because of the blinding glare of hundreds of backlights ... it was one of the saddest, most pathetic things I have ever seen and sure sign we have lost our way as a "civilization"</flame>), and the audio sucked so hard I couldn't bare to listen, much less watch.

Anyway, I ran across this just now (still studying for my exam on Tuesday) and thought I would share. It was fascinating to see and hear how they brought the sounds of the music to life in a live setting. It was also really interesting to hear her talk (I think this is the first time I've heard her speak in an interview).

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I am poking around my music collection (as a DJ, it's sometimes daunting) and I was fixing a few albums that I purchased as FLAC (I use ffmpeg to convert to MP3 if they don't come in both formats because I like having MP3 versions of everything for portability but listen to FLAC if I can)... sometimes the file name formats provided are not the way I keep my collection (<artist>--<album_title>/<track_number>-<artist>-<song_name>.mp3), so I have to change them to the correct format (for i in *.mp3; do mv "$i" `echo "$i" | sed 's/<before>/<after>/'`; done ... thank goodness for regexp ... also one of my favourite quotes: "Some people, when confronted with a problem, think 'I know, I'll use regular expressions.' Now they have two problems" ;-).

Anyway, all to say that I settled on listening to Josie Charlwood's album "Pieces of Me" as I start to study for my final exam in advanced quantum mechanics on April 25th (whether I pass it or not determines if I graduate or not... no pressure O_o). Gods but I love this album! Equal parts evocative, technically brilliant (her live looped covers are stunning), and heart-rendingly beautiful from start to finish. As the description states, "This is the debut solo album from Josie Charlwood, recorded in 2011/12. All songs were recorded live in front of video cameras. No click tracks, no overdubs, no headphones, just solo live performances." You can see videos for all of her songs on this album on her YouTube channel, or listen to the album (and her other stuff) on her Bandcamp site. For all that she was very young when she did this album, her original compositions (all but two tracks are originals) stand out in a field of those with much more experience. Again, the whole damned thing is played live (with loops for some songs for layers... she also uses a TC-Helicon VoiceLive for live vocal harmonies and effects). There are so many turns of both lyrical and musical phrase that I find captivating it's hard to pick favourites, but two that get me every time are "Just One Look" and "Famous Green Eyes" (I have green eyes too fwiw). And yes, the fact I like this music tags me pretty hard as a hopeless romantic, heh. The one song that she does (a live-looped cover) that I wish had been on the album was her cover of Magnetic Man's "I Need Air"... but I present it here for your enjoyment (I hope):

(Most people are blown away by her cover of The Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc.", which is here if you are so inclined: I still like her original stuff the best though)
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Well, I am finally back up to a basic operational level with Verilog coding... only to find out that the project I will be working with has been done in VHDL. While one language versus another is usually no big deal for me (okay, I hate C++, but I've been using it since the 80s when I worked on what was, at the time, the largest C++ project in the world and I'm good at it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it), VHDL has its roots in the Ada programming language D:. Why the grumblings? Ada was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and is one of the most notorious Bondage and Discipline languages in existence. While B&D might be fine, it needs to be consensual and nobody ever asked me if I wanted the flagellations VHDL/Ada will entail ;).

It does remind me of an interesting side path in processor technology development from way back when... the Intel iAPX 432 system. By any measure, this was a complete failure for Intel (and the industry as a whole), but it introduced a number of features that we now see in most modern processors. I'm not going to go into it here, except to say that it supported object oriented data access and security control models at the hardware level, supported explicit hardware fault tolerance and multi-dimensional data busses, had superscalar processing elements, and so many other features that were too far ahead of their time (and thus made the system intolerably slow and cumbersome, and thus uncompetitive). I remember that the instruction set was actually a bitstream read into the processor in 32-bit chunks and parsed, and that instructions could be anywhere from 4 to 111 bits in length! It really was an engineering masterpiece, but I often mused that the people that worked on it must have been locked up in the loony bin afterward en masse (I think one of them went on to be CEO of Intel or something... maybe the same thing? Heh). Anyway, why I bring this up is the 432 was never meant to be programmed in assembly language or even "system" languages like C, but rather was designed such that Ada was essentially its assembly language. Perhaps that is another reason (maybe even moreso) for its demise ;). Sadly, VHDL is widely used in the electronics design sector, so it was inevitable that Ada would eventually catch up with me... I took two textbooks on VHDL out of the Carleton library on Wednesday and have started reading them. I am determined to progress, if equally resigned to my fate.

I'll make sure to leave a tube of lube on my desk as I work... it might make the proceedings a little more comfortable to me ;).

On a completely separate note, I am currently listening the heck out of Floex's album "Zorya" (Floex is the project of Czech composer, musician, artist, producer, etc. Tomáš Dvořák, who also did the gorgeous soundtracks for the delightful games Machinarium, which is where I first heard his work, and Samorost). The music on this album successfully pulls from so many different styles: prog, classical, industrial, pop, etc. and puts them together into what I find a very pleasing whole, blending acoustic instruments/sounds with synthesizers and samples. In particular, on one track (Forget-Me-Not), he plays piano and a clarinet without a mouthpiece that I can listen to over and over again... melancholy and evocative, it really floats my boat right now. The clarinet played like a trumpet has a very distinctive sound (to say the least) that makes that song stand out for me. There are many different moods throughout the album and even within the songs that keeps it interesting all the way through. It also features the best Yes song not by Yes I've heard in a while ("Precious Creature" featuring the vocals of James Rone), heh. You can listen to it free on his Soundcloud page (or listen to and potentially buy it at his Bandcamp site):

(the Soundcloud page is nice because it talks about some of the intruments and credits the other people that performed on the album... just click on "Show more...")

Edit: I started reading Douglas L. Perry's book "VHDL Programming by Example", Fourth Edition, McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-140070-2. It bills itself as "the hands-down favourite user's guide to VHDL"; but good lard, what a disaster! I made it as far as page 4 and had already picked out typos and plain wrong information... the cruftiness was continued on page 5... and I have given up and tossed the book aside (gently, it's a library book). On page 4, they refer to the "counter device described earlier", but the only thing described earlier is a multiplexer (there's nothing else earlier in the book, this is the start of the book!). On page 5, it reprints a fragment of code from page 4 and says it's from the "architecture behave" code, but the code it is referring to is clearly "architecture dataflow". What a crock of shit (and it hasn't helped my opinion of VHDL any either, I might add, ugh). There does not appear to be any errata for this hunka-hunka-burning-turds. Let's try the other book I got from the library, sigh.

Second edit: I am now digging in to Peter J. Ashenden's book "The Student's Guide to VHDL", Second Edition, Morgan Kaufmann, ISBN 978-1-55860-865-8. I now know one of the reasons why VHDL has always seemed somehow wrong to me (while Verilog seemed a sensible approach in contrast). Quoting from the Preface: one pervasive theme running through the presentation of this book is that modeling a system using a hardware description language is essentially a software design exercise. And there you have it... VHDL became popular because it views hardware design as an exercise in software design. Since there are so many programmers in the world (thousands per hardware designer), it is a seductive statement that anyone who can write a program can design an integrated circuit. However, that is like saying that giving someone a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) will allow them to effectively compose good music. Yeah, anyone using looping composition software can create something quite pleasing and often interesting, but it is not crafted in a way a trained composer or musician can do it. It is also much harder to innovate (music or hardware design) without deep training in the art in question. I find it interesting as well to note that there are thousands of folk musicians for every trained musician (I consider most rock, etc. kinds of folk music... and before you think I'm being snooty, I only do "folk" music myself in one form or another, and I have no pretentions about where my music fits into the spectrum of musical sophistication). I have done both serious hardware and software development (and I can do me a mess o' software... I've been programming complex and sometimes mission critical software for decades and I'm very good at it), but the two skillsets are radically different. Anyone with a VHDL compiler in one hand and an FPGA in the other can probably get something to work that'll do the job, but it is going to be sub-optimal in many potentially important ways (if not subtly buggy). This explains a lot of what I have seen lately with a number of ASICs, hmmm. The medium (VHDL) is the message.

I am starting to regret that I wasn't telling the truth when I said I'd keep lube by my side as I worked...
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While much in the way of "music videos" are purely promotional, lack any form of imagination, and remain utterly forgetable; they are sometimes masterworks of visual engagement and storytelling — poetry in and of themselves on top of the music they were produced to live alongside. I have been interested in music videos my whole life (I used to watch the show "The Monkees" when I was young, which featured what can only be called music videos each episode), but for the most part, I saw them as a curiosity rather than a medium for short stories or as a means to engage with the watcher on an emotional level.

Back in the 1980s, I used to go to a club called Barrymore's in Ottawa, Canada that brought in some of the best acts of the day (from Rough Trade to Dread Zeppelin to Gwar... I even saw Hawkwind perform there, and that's another story in itself). At the time, they were one of the only places in Canada that showed music videos on a gorgeous and glorious huge screen with a state of the art (for the time) video projection system. It was revolutionary at the time and while waiting for concerts, I got to see the best videos available (they were curated for merit rather than for commercial purpose). I later made friends with Jeff Green and found out (years after we started hanging out) that he was the one responsible for this presentation that was so ahead of its time (years before MTV or Much Music or such), as he often is. Two videos in particular really changed my view of music videos and what they are capable of: "Age of Loneliness" by the German music project Enigma, and "Shock the Monkey" by UK artist Peter Gabriel.

"Age of Loneliness" took my breath away the first time I saw it, and opened my eyes to the potential of what became an artform to me in that moment. I still watch it often today, and it makes me feel the same way now as it did then. It tells a slice-of-life (death?) story, but more impressively it visually conveys emotion in a way that I associated more with poetry than film or video. For some reason when I see it, it reminds me of one of my favourite movies: "Wings of Desire", probably for its emotional tone. As for "Shock the Monkey", again it tells a story of sorts of spiritual awakening (a more violent and disruptive echo of the same message conveyed in his beautiful and powerful song "Solsbury Hill") as a deadly battle between Gabriel's conscious and unconsious minds. What is particularly interesting about Gabriel's video is that I hated, hated, hated the song! It has been overkilled on the radio and it sounded like so much more pop-infused claptrap to me after about the millionth time hearing it. But... when I saw the video, my mind was officially blown and I had to re-evaluate the song in light of what the video said about the song (that it had meaning that had been inaccessible to me the way I had been exposed to it by that point). I love the song now and consider the album with that song on it one of Gabriel's best (so fsck'ing intense!). I have since gone on to gather collections of innovative music videos — sometimes by musician, sometimes by director — and rummage YouTube and such looking for innovative music videos as time and patience allows (so. much. crap. ugh.). If you have any suggestions for stuff I should look at, please slide it my way :).

And... here they are. Note, the Enigma one is probably a bit NSFW due to near nudity; and the Gabriel one is probably the same due to extreme paganism and psychology, lol ;).

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Nothing to say except "blub, blub, blub...".

Since there's a new Goldfrapp album on the way (March apparently), I'm listening to their stuff as I work (a brand new audio track from the upcoming album has been officially released here in case you are a fan/interested). And in case you haven't seen this particular Goldfrapp video... here you go. I love short films, and this succeeds so well in telling a story — but also in leaving so many questions unanswered to ponder.

It reminds me of this video from the band Árstíðir, based on an Icelandic folklore. Note: like many folk tales, this is creepy as fuck and more than a little gory, so be warned if you watch.

If you aren't completely breathless from that one (presuming you watched it), you had better get lots of oxygen into your system before watching this one (if you decide to go for the full triple bill). I'm going to go so far as to call trigger warning on this one... what trigger? No idea what your triggers might be, but there's probably one in here for you that you might not even know about (it is a brilliant video, but I can't say it's a particularly pleasant video). You have been double warned. From New Zealand, Sheep, Dog & Wolf (actually the solo project of Daniel McBride... written, performed, and produced by said same):

Need a palate cleanser or just want to skip to something less intense? Here's some Computer Magic (aka Danz aka Danielle Johnson... from Brooklyn, NY). She's a youngin' but has a great grasp of synthesizers and minimalist electronics/composition (that I'm a huge fan of in general, but she does it very well). Side note: she's big in Japan... the song is "Grand Junction". Lastly, the Árstíðir song/video above is not typical of the band, so here's another side of them (their more typical side), covering Simon and Garfunkel's version of "Scarborough Fair" live at Fríkirkjan. Beautiful stuff.
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Three quick (ya, I know, I'm not into posting short messages) updates:

Most pressing is that yesterday me and a good friend finally launched a Kickstarter campaign. Check it out, and if you think it's a good idea and have the means, please consider supporting it: "The 2016 Reboot of a Legendary Interactive Drama and the Inception of a New Media Genre"!

Also, I'm one step closer to being published as a physicist in a peer-reviewed journal (Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research)... the accepted pre-press manuscript has been made available. I'm not sure what issue it will be finally published in (it needs to go through the final editing and production phases), but you can bet I'll post when it happens :). Anyway, here's the link for that (it'll be there forever, so if you only have 5 minute, go poke your nose at the Kickstarter instead):

Finally, the new format for my radio show is finally starting to become workable for me. In case this is news, the show is an hour of feminism, science, and music (after 5 years I got good at the music part and don't want to give it up now). Yesterday I did my first interview: a Master's student in Women's and Gender Studies who is going to do their thesis on Batgirl from the comics (Barbara Gordon, and Oracle, and the controversies surrounding her on again/off again status as a person with disabilities and the tropes that surround it). I'll be trying to alternate between interviewing on science and feminism/social issues topics. The particular show is here (available "on demand" 24/7 for the next year or so):

The general show link is here, again it's available to listen to "on demand": The Passionate Friar...
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If you ever get tired of the same ol', same ol' ... well, it's good to have some go-to artists that never fail to engage with something a little different than what everyone else is up to. I have a bit of a weakness for music videos that include some sort of dance element, and aren't your usual "lip sync adverts" for bands. One of those artists for me is most assuredly Juana Molina from Argentina. She was an early adopter of live-loop technologies and has built a career around performing and recording her unique style of compositions. I absolutely love her song "Micael" off her album Son. However, here is something a little more recent that I had not seen before today (I go through phases... apparently I need to buy her supposed latest album as well, Wed 21... I have her four middle albums). Here is the video for her song "Eras"... there's a charming creepiness about it ;).

(here's your bonus video: up-and-coming youngster from the UK, Josie Charlwood and her cover of the Gorillaz's song "Feel Good" ... live-looped, she layers guitar, keyboards, beatboxing, and vocals while wrangling the electronics to make it all happen live... as a bonus bonus, there's a camera on the electronics pedals as well so you can see her put it all together, it's quite the performance).
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Welcome to 2016, and Happy New Year! Out with the old and in with the new: after 5 years (!!!) on the radio, The Dollar Bin and my follow-on attempt at a show Doing It On The Cheap are no more, but please welcome The Passionate Friar to CKCU’s airwaves. Same host, same timeslot, but a (hopefully) very different show. Sandwiched as it is between talk programming (The Tic Show... err, Wednesday Morning Special Blend, and Hans’ CKCU Literary News) and music programming (Permanent Waves with Erik Stolpmann), the show aims to make that transition over its hour. It will start with a chat, some news, and sometimes interviews on the twin (and generally, but not entirely, exclusive) topics of feminism (and social issues and social justice) and science (the backbone of our civilization, with an emphasis on physics, the most fundamental science) — both of which are the subjects of undergraduate honours degrees that I am working on at the moment (a year and a half to go, ugh). There will be some music between the talk segments at the start, and the show will transition to just music by the end... found music mostly, where I will play music that I did not specifically set out to find, but have wandered across anyway (in that regard, The Dollar Bin lives on). P.S. I’m looking for correspondents on all three topics (feminism, science, and music) going forward, drop me a message if you are interested!

From the show’s new home page (this will be the blog associated with it, that was easy):

A gently curving corridor full of pipes and cables -- a photo of the decommissioned HERA accelerator ring at DESY in Hamburg, Germany

An hour of feminism/social issues, physics/science, and music...
News, reviews, interviews, ideas, engaging audio, and the Oxford comma!

This is a show for everyone who is passionate about more than one thing, and anyone that loves the simple, small joys of forever encountering new ideas, and having new experiences. While specific passions are going to be presented — simply because it is what moves this Friar in the moment, oh and time limitations, let’s not forget that — the intent is to do so in a way that is accessible to all, to get your creative juices flowing, to make your day more varied, and hopefully even provide inspiration for whatever your particular passions might be.

While what is presented here will truly be only the tip of the iceberg for this Friar’s passions, and the passions of those whose voices and works and actions are featured, the topics are sufficiently broad that it will take years to even get started exploring them. Specifically, this show will be focusing on three primary subjects: feminism and social issues, physics and science, and music and more music. Where, along with a foundation in feminist studies, comes the more general topics of social justice, aboriginal issues, issues of migration and human rights, intersectional identities (don’t worry, terms will be explained as we go), LGBTQ+ issues, globalism and neoliberalism, accessibility and disability issues... the list goes on — in short, social issues in general will be covered. And then way over here, we have the so-called natural sciences, which study the natural processes of the world around us and provides the underpinnings needed for the successful development and deployment of technologies, which then forms the functional backbone of our many societies. There will be an emphasis on physics because it is the most foundational of the natural sciences, but not a single field of science does not touch us somehow in our day to day lives: biology, chemistry, Earth sciences (geology, meteorology, ecology, oceanography, etc.), space sciences, and again the list goes on.

Why feminism and physics? Well, the simple answer is that I am in my last year and a half of independent honours degrees in both of those subjects: officially, I’m working on a B.Sc. Honours Physics (Theory Stream) degree, but I have also been collecting all the credits I need for a B.A. Honours Women’s and Gender Studies degree (I should be done that process this year, where I will not be done with physics until 2017, sigh). I came to Carleton as a “mature” student to finally study physics after a career designing and building electronics and software, and doing international project management on technical projects, while raising my children as a mostly single parent (by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever done... they are adults now, which is why I was finally able to go to university for the first time). Decades ago, I had a flash of inspiration/realization that synthesized much of what I read about the nature of the universe. I assumed I was wrong because I was ignorant in some critical way about it, but the more I read, the more it looked like I might be onto something, and the more evidence there was that there was value in the approach I had envisioned. I further assumed that someone else would come up with the same approach, but that apparently didn’t happen either, thus when my offspring were old enough, I quit my (very well paying, waaaah) day job and became a full-time student (mmmm, Kraft Dinner, sure I’ll have another bowl). The summer after my first year I took a course that aligned with several of my other passions: Feminist Disability Studies. I was hooked. Badly hooked. I have always been a social activist, and this wasn’t my grandmother’s feminism: it was new and exciting and inclusive and raw and full of dangerous pitfalls and irreconcilable differences. I took all manner of feminist studies, indigenous studies, language courses, and political science courses, and one day went into the Women’s and Gender Studies Department where they stared at me like I had two heads and announced that I was, randomly, most of the way to a minor in the subject. By taking the remaining courses for the minor and one more core course, all I needed to do was chip away at getting qualifying feminist studies credits in parallel with taking my physics degree (which was taking me longer than I had planned... that stuff is hard!), and I ended up with enough credits for a full major, and then an honours degree. I can assure you that nobody is more surprised than me! Due to university regulations, I need to graduate from my physics program before I can apply to the women’s and gender studies program, but I will just need to sit around with my thumbs up my butt and wait for the end of that semester because I will have all the credits I need already (okay, I won’t be sitting around, I’ll probably be doing physics research, but I won’t need to take courses).

Music? Well, if there is one language that is shared by all people, it is the language of music. Music is also at the core of everything I do (yes, including physics). Over the course of five years of doing The Dollar Bin on CKCU, I have learned much about how to find and present found music. For the most part, the music I played on the show was on CDs I had purchased for $3 or less in “dollar bins” wherever I travelled, and were by artists that I had never heard of before. Every show was the presentation of the outcome of the series of adventures I had listening to these previously unknown-to-me artists. I blissfully ignored genre boundaries and mixed music of all styles and origin and time period to create (what I have been told by others) was a challenging and engaging hour of music. Some of the songs I will be playing will be specific to topics I will cover, but I will continue the strong tradition of bringing intriguing found music to the airwaves (without the limitations I imposed on myself with The Dollar Bin — it’s all fair game now!).

Feedback is always welcome, along with music and topic ideas (especially if I can interview you or you can suggest someone to interview). I am also looking for correspondents (every/anywhere, and every/anywho) to do research, interviews, and produced segments on the topics covered by this show. You can reach me at

Don’t Let A Label Silence You ... a feminist activism project at Carleton University

Photo credits... Top: “In The Body Of A Dragon”, a view of the curving tunnel of the decommissioned HERA superconducting particle accelerator/synchrotron at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg, Germany. Photo by me, 2014. Bottom: “Don’t Let A Label Silence You”, a student group feminist activism project I participated in on ways to destigmatize mental health issues done as part of the Activism, Feminisms & Social Justice (WGST2801) course at Carleton. Photo by me, 2013. As a note, the radio segment done with my classmates as part of that campaign (we took over The Dollar Bin that week to do it) ended up with the, now defunct, CKCU feminist radio show Femme Fatale being created by one of the participants, Lilith (they had never heard of CKCU before then).
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It has been a long and twisty road to get to this point — it was a journey that began almost 40 years ago when a nerdy young teenager read an advertisement in Radio Electronics magazine talking about the über cool (and surprisingly affordable) modular synthesizer gear made by this upstart company called PAiA Electronics. I sent away for the catalogue (which I still have in a box of keepsakes in the basement as I have grown up to be a nerdy old man). I drooled over the stuff in that booklet for years, but could neither afford to buy nor justify purchasing anything from them.

Years came and went, and during the 80s, analogue synthesizers and related equipment fell out of favour to most (not to me, but I was otherwise occupied at the time). Through the 90s, the limitations of digital technologies were slowly being charted out, and there was a revival of analogue electronics for certain tasks. In particular, it was the nearly unlimited flexibility of digital synthesizers that presented the problem: the capabilities exceeded the abilities of anyone to master. Another problem with digital synthesizers was, ironically, limitations with their interface and of control. With an analogue system, you could (had to, really) "tune" the experience in microscopic increments; but with a digital system, by necessity, there were only certain discrete values that you could set a control to, and that limited the possibilities for subtleties in the sound. The advantage of digital systems was (and remains) that once you had a setting you liked, you could call it back (presuming you were smart enough to have saved it...) at whim and it would be exactly like the last time you used it — exactly like the last time, and the next time. And that was another limitation of digital: life is change and a digital patch was static and unchaging... it mimicked life, but was not alive. Analogue synthesizers and equipment are never the same way twice and will generally even drift a bit during a single performance (like a guitar going out of tune as the humidity or temperature changes)... it really has a life of its own and that's where it is an instrument that can be part of a performance instead of being a computer that just cranks out a sound at command. I have a lot of digital equipment, and I love the heck out of it, but there is something to be said for having organic components (in the metaphorical as well as literal sense) in a performance.

In late August of 2014, I was finally able to "justify" the purchase of a piece of equipment I have wanted for a long time by the simple virtue that I had (barely) enough money to do so, and had decided unilaterally that I had displayed sufficiently notable restraint thus far — thirty-six years is a long time to wait, and enough was enough! I ordered a PAiA model 6710 Vocoder kit (with the optional front panel cutout, but no power supply... a detail that will become important later in the story). Last year was pretty much absolute hell for me and was a non-linear slide into full burnout by the end of it. I did a lot of really cool stuff related to physics and my academics, but my actual academics definitely suffered as a result and I ended up getting extremely ill in April and through much of May (picked up some nasty flu virus or something and it laid me flat for six weeks... might even have been viral pneumonia, but the doctors I saw never really figured out what was going on with me [but that was one wild-ass guess they made]... gave me antibiotics that did nothing, thus my supposition that it was viral whatever it was). I actually failed a critical class and I now don't know whether it's going to take me one year or two to finish my degree(s)... not a great feeling, but I'll make the best of it either way, just like I always do. All that to say that it should come as no surprise that I didn't finish assembling the kit until my break from school in December 2014. It was a pretty gnarly assembly job (there were so many wires!) but I only made one assembly mistake (a polarized capacitor put in backwards), and I caught it with a close visual inspection as part of the assembly process. Overall, it was good to be soldering stuff again, I truly enjoy doing that sort of thing with my hands!

Now remember that power supply thing I was mentioning earlier? Yeah... that. I have spent much of my life around electronics and power supplies and whatnot, so I didn't bother ordering PAiA's power supply kit. To be honest, I just don't like the looks of it with its wall barnacle and open board (and $50US price tag). I figured I would just go out and buy a nice little +/–15VDC power linear supply locally, or just pick up the parts and do it myself. Let me rephrase that, I mistakenly figured I would just buy one or the parts. A lot has changed since I last made a +/–15VDC power supply... like everything has changed and it's literally impossible to get the parts locally anymore to do that sort of thing. There are companies like Digikey that will ship components to Canada, and they are quite reasonably priced, so there was always that to fall back on (the shipping will kill you though... I remain convinced the package delivery service in Canada is run by the mob, or at least some sort of monopolistic, price fixing, conspiracy... when it's cheaper to ship something from Bangalore, India to here than from Toronto (Canada), you know there's a problem... but that's another story I guess). I went to one of the few remaining "electronics" stores in the city (Active Electronics) and discovered that they didn't really sell electronics anymore, or at least not any of the components I needed. What they did do was sell Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards and their ilk and related kits and shields (which they do very well, for what it's worth). I did manage to pick up a little hobby box from them though and decided that I would just recycle an old +/–15VDC power supply that I had designed and built many decades ago (if it still worked).

Well, that job took me forever to get to and even after I found it in my boxes and boxes of boxes of boxes in my basement, I just didn't have the energy or willpower to actually sit down and test it until sometime in May 2015. Long story short, it did work just fine still, and would fit nicely in the box I bought. Short story long? Anything by Dickens. The problems of moving forward and actually putting the power supply properly into the box were legion though, and involved many dozens of hours sorting through things in my basement to find the tools and parts I needed to complete the job. This is something I'm working on anyway, so the work is all part of a longer project, but it does mean that I was not ready to actually start the assembly of the power supply until about mid-June. Sigh. The good news is that most of my tools and bits of hardware are now in known locations to me instead of being spread around in dozens of hidey-holes and boxes and chests and cabinets and rooms. It still probably took me 40 hours of effort to actually machine the enclosure, wire and assemble the electronics into it, and finally test it... which is too long for a job like that, imho. Did you know that the LM7815's case is ground, but the LM7915's case is input so if you don't have thermally conductive but electrically insulative pads and hardware with which to mount them to the chassis for heat dissipation you short the output of the transformer to the electrical ground and fry everything? Uh, huh... I was wondering why I had used those pads on the original design... good thing I double checked and repeated the procedure, and triple checked with an ohm-meter before turning anything on (I'm pretty good, and very careful, at this stuff and most of what I build works the first time). I finally got it all together two days ago and solved one little stability issue with the negative supply output yesterday (all it needed was a 10µF tantalum capacitor on the output) and it was the most beautiful and quiet (from an electrical perspective) linear power supply you'll ever set eyes or oscilloscope on (very low electrical noise is critical for analogue electronics because any power supply noise will usually appear as a signal on its output... which is why I could not [or at least would not] just pick up a switching +/–15VDC power supply... they're just too noisy electrically).

Once the power supply was assembled and tested, I finally added power wires to the assembled vocoder and installed the integrated circuits into their sockets on it (I had kept them safe in a bag until I was ready to do the testing). It's funny how little techniques learned decades ago and not practiced in many, many years come back to mind. Here, in specific, I'm referring to the technique of pressing the sides of the integrated circuits onto a flat surface to bend the pins from the angle they are shipped with to the straight up and down position that is needed to insert them into sockets. I guess it's like falling off a bicycle: you never forget how. I powered on the vocoder and no smoke poured out of anything, so far so good! Since there are no indicators or anything on the unit, the only way to test it was to actually hook it up and give it a whirl. To get a good effect, you need a raspy/grumbly sound as the "instrument" and I hooked up the little Yamaha digital synthesizer I have (it has many, many preset sounds that would serve perfectly). I also got out one of my crappy microphones and hooked that in as the control signal (the power envelope of the control modulates the sound of the instrument being used, and that's how you get the "vocoder" effect). The output went into a little guitar amp I have and with a little tweaking of the knobs... it worked! I finally have my very own vocoder and I am very, very happy (and now I sound really cool too)!

Here's the assembled vocoder kit itself (ugly as sin inside with all those wires):

Picture of my assembled PAiA 6710 Vocoder kit

Here's the guts of the power supply I designed, built, redesigned, and rebuilt:

Picture of my custom assembled +/–15VDC power supply

And here's a photo of my test setup for the vocoder, it works like a charm!

Picture of my little test setup for the vocoder

I will be playing with it a little more today (and into the evening), but then it and all the related equipment, tools, parts, and such will be moved into the basement to wait for when I am ready to set it up in the recording studio space I'm setting up in the basement (that's part of that longer-term project I mentioned above). I am so looking forward to getting my dining room table back, and I know Beep and Happy can't wait to see my shit gone from there as well! Going forward, I will eventually have room in the basement to do this kind of work and won't need to repeat the "middle of the main living area workspace" experience again (or at least not as often or as drawn out timewise... but sometimes working on stuff in a social environment is better than putting away in a cave). Anyway, I'm off to make more cool noises and learn some of the techniques needed to get optimal and interesting sounds out of the thing (the one page operations description that came with the kit suggested a week or so of farting around with it should provide a sufficient basis to use it competently as a real instrument... the secret, apparently, is the sounds you feed it (both as instrument and control... using synth drums as control instead of voice was one thing suggested that sounds really, really cool), and learning how to play with the various levels to get the effect that's right for what you want). It also has an effects send/receive loop that I can use to add other effects on the control (e.g. my voice) to the mix, so I will be playing with that as well eventually.

Now, back to working on my differential equations homework (I have a test on Wednesday) and studying vocabulary words and grammar (last Thursday, I started my class on the Anishinaabewin [Eastern Ojibwe] language for beginners I'm taking as well this summer).
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I have taken to going to the occasional concert after my radio show is over. There has been a weekly concert series called "Doors Open For Music at Southminster" at noon every Wednesday. It's a "freewill donation" scenario, so I can chip in what I can afford (which is sadly sometimes very little) to support the musician(s) of the day and the concert series in general. It's usually piano, but sometimes they fire up the pipe organ or have other instruments as well (i.e. vocals, cello, vibraphone, recorder, harpsichord, etc.). The primary grand piano is a piece of Canadian history: it is 110 years old and was the main concert piano at Massey Hall for most of its existence (having been played by the likes of Gould, etc. ... it's featured in many, many classic (and classical or otherwise) recordings). It also needs a major overhaul, so the director of the concert series has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $20,000 to have it professionally restored (there are a few world-class piano craftsfolk in Canada... this particular shop is in Quebec City). I have very little to contribute, but I certainly will give something. Anyway, for posterity's sake, here's the link:

Historic Heintzman Restoration

Also, I'm putting my show together for tomorrow with all industrial music in memoriam of DJ Leslie. I don't get to play as much punk, industrial, noise, etc. as I would like to given the timeslot of the show, but I'm going to pull out the stops with what little material I have.
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I just got back from former East Germany where I was learning how to make the silicon strip detector assemblies that are part of the proposed Phase II inner detector upgrade (ITk) for the ATLAS experiment at the LHC (scheduled for the 2025 long maintenance window). I have so underposted, but I have been so overbusy. In honour of my trip, and without any details (there are many) or pictures (there are many), here is an East German icon to enjoy (?) until I have the time to post. This is truly the music of my youth and certainly continues to exert a strong influence on what I consider to be enjoyable and engaging music.

And your bonus if you want a more produced video that I think really highlights why I have always appreciated her work (that voice, oh that voice!), here ya go...

Nina Hagen - Zarah
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Jeff Plewman, aka, Nash the Slash, March 1948 - May 2014, gone to the great gig in the sky.

Still so far ahead of his time, we have decades to catch up to where he was decades ago.

He will be sorely missed.

Nash the Slash, Toronto rock violinist, dead at 66

(and don't forget he is over 60 at this concert...)

And, well, I think this guy makes a fine spokesperson for Nash...

And this, this is pure Nash... he did one man concerts that were and will remain unparalled and awe inspiring! The sounds he got from his violin and his understated but obvious virtuosity gave me chills every time I saw him perform, and still every time I listen to his albums (some of which, it would be fair to say, I have listened to hundreds of times).


Apr. 13th, 2014 01:31 pm
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An odd sort of thing is happening right now. I'm studying for my Modern Physics II exam on Monday and I'm using some old playlists I sort of randomly saved (it was not not consistent) as I put my radio show together over the past year and a bit. I am really enjoying my mixes. This comes as something of a surprise to me, believe it or not, because when I'm putting the shows together I am pulling from such an insanely diverse pool of musical genres and styles and sounds. I do my best to make an engaging show that holds together musically (whether through common themes or by bouncing/clashing songs off each other), but at times it seems a fairly desperate effort. However, listening to these mixes I have found myself thinking, "this is the sort of radio I've loved to hear", and that makes me feel really good.

The show is fundamentally problematic in that it is built around musical diversity (the only theme is that I found what I play for sale in a retail establishment for $3 or less, everything else is anarchy... most of the time I've never heard of the artist(s) and have no idea what to expect when I finally listen to it). All the shows I know that are very successful and have dedicated listeners are narrowly focused on a particular type of music or some identifiable community. As the saying goes "jack of all trades, master of none". That's me (in general... and I might add, is a deliberate decision on my part on how to lead my life) and my show right there. I have often wondered who would want to listen to a show that is industrial themed one week and disco the next? (Heh, just listened to a playlist that ended with Primus' whacked-out "De Anza Jig" from their album "Tales From The Punchbowl" followed immediately by Sarah Brightman's musical/operatic retelling of the Spanish folk tale "Hijo De La Luna" off her album "La Luna"... lol, I still think I'm going to radio hell for that one, but it still somehow managed to work, go figure). Well, I had my answer to that question when I invited two listeners who contributed to CKCU's funding drive to join us as co-hosts on the show for a day. The first one to come, Derek, says he had been listening to my show pretty much for the entire time it has been on the air... it blew me away. To be honest, I'm told that there are always listeners, but other than a few people that I know personally commenting on the interactive web site during the show (which I really, really appreciate, fyi), I have no indication that there is anyone out there to hear. Well, Derek said that he happened to be in his car at the time my show runs and loved tuning in to find out what I'd be doing that day. He, in fact, said he tuned in because he loved the diversity... it was never the same thing twice and it was as much of an adventure for him to listen to the show as it always is for me to put the show together each week based on the new and old "dollar bin" stuff I have picked up.

I need to decide whether I want to invest any more effort in building a more tangible audience and maybe trying to pick up a sponsor or something (surely some record store would be willing to let me announce that "The Dollar Bin has been brought to you by ..."). If so, I really want to "up my game" with regard to the way the non music parts of the show are presented. I have been told I do okay with my banter (especially since I've had a regular co-host), but I am not personally satisfied with the show's presentation (I find it a little more haphazard than I think it should be, but only a little... I had the opposite problem before in that it was far too scripted... I really need to find a professional sounding balance: a mix of the fun/improvised and the informational). One thing that would probably help is to get off my ass and get my show's blog running (I have the domain name already, I just need to implement the site on my server). I probably also need to have Twitter and Facebook presences for it as well (I've never had Twitter and I deleted my personal Facebook account and took the show's page with it... this is the only social media I'm still running at the moment). I also know that to reach any more of an audience, I would have to get out into the community and run some live remotes... preferably from record stores or music related events (e.g. places where people go to buy music, maybe even neighbourhood garage sales, some of which are huge when it comes to finding music). But... do I want to invest the time and effort to become a really good radio host? That is the question. Philosophically I do, but I need to be practical as well because I need to focus on my studies first and foremost. If I think the show is going to run for a few more years, it's probably worth it, so I'm going to go talk to our new Program Director and maybe chat with him about the direction I should take and whether there is any support for me if I decide to go further.

As a note, all the shows for the last year are available "on demand" via the above link if you want to listen to some great music (your mileage many vary with regard to the banter). If you do listen, do feel free to comment here (anonymous comments are enabled I believe even). I know what I do is far from top knotch, but I need to know if I'm bottom drawer as well (is that even a thing that can be said? lol).


Apr. 12th, 2014 12:08 pm
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
"Before you play two notes learn how to play one note – and don't play one note unless you've got a reason to play it." — Mark Hollis

And some music to listen to if you are in a music listening mood...

If you are looking for a song to pick, the Depeche Mode cover is pretty sweet!
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
An open letter to the orchestras of the world.

I have actually sent it to one specific orchestra, whose name I don't mention (but shouldn't require any expenditure of brain energy to figure out), and thought I would post my sentiments here for posterity's sake... my experience has shown that ideas have a strange way of coming to life when shared with the universe, no matter how abstract that sharing is.

There are few, if any other, Canadian bands that have achieved the critical praise garnered by Klaatu. They released five albums between 1976 and 1981, two of which are considered masterpieces of progressive and symphonic pop, and all but one (where they were forced to record in a certain style by their record company) of the remaining three are considered superior examples of the genre. In particular, their second album "Hope" was a concept album that featured the London Symphony Orchestra in a daring and epic interstellar tale of tragedy and the cost of totalitarianism. It is quite an emotional and musical tour de force to have been written and produced by a small Canadian trio with only one previous studio album under their belt.

Klaatu disbanded in 1982 and have only played two very small pseudo-reunions since then. All of the members (John Woloschuk, Dee Long, and Terry Draper) are quite busy with their own careers and have indicated that a proper reunion is not something they foresee. However, the former members are also on record as indicating that a reunion with orchestral backing would be "tantalizing". I should mention that Dee Long and Terry Draper are still extremely active musically and releasing new recordings, but I am not sure about Woloschuk. Also, I am not in any way associated with the band, nor am I even an acquaintance of any member, but I believe that this unique Canadian music should be given one more chance while there is still time, thus the reason for my shouting out to orchestras all over the world in hopes that one of them might also consider the merits of such a reunion. If you are not familiar with their work, I would obviously recommend "Hope" for its use of an orchestra, but would also suggest the song "Little Neutrino" off their album "3:45 EST" (which also includes the song "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" which was covered by The Carpenters and became an international top 40 hit by them, and also has the soaring musical vistas that would make a live orchestral performance magical).

If you are interested at all, I would be more than happy to facilitate connecting with the band members (in short, provide publicly available email addresses, but it would save time at least), or providing recordings of their music to listen to (it can be somewhat hard to find these days, although most of it has been re-released on CD with the support of the members). The music of Klaatu has been influential to me musically and, it would be fair to say, has inspired me in other parts of my life as well. I would love to see their music performed properly, by and with an orchestra, while the members are still able to perform, and think it qualifies as an important part of Canada's musical heritage that should not remain a thing of the past.

Yours sincerely,

Phelonius Friar
Unsurprisingly, a fan of Klaatu

And to wrap up this post, the sole "official" video ever released for a Klaatu song, "A Routine Day" off their third album "Sir Army Suit" (1978). The video itself is part of an incomplete animated special that has never been released called "Happy New Year Planet Earth" by Al Guest and Jean Mathieson. The uncompleted work was shown only once, at KlaatuKon in Toronto in 2005. A fine example of rotoscoped animation...


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