July 28, 2004

More Selling Out

Sigh... I thought of a CD-audio copy protection scheme today. This one has at least one advantage to users over the standard "disc-breaking" technique: it allows you to listen to CDs on the PC. There's another flaw in this method: I don't believe it can protect against more than one type of compression at a time. It also may be cripplingly difficult to implement. Anyway, it seems feasible, so I'll say it anyway.

The idea was inspired by the wonderful CodeProject, specifically the latest in Corinna John's series of .NET steganography articles and an interesting article about "selection watermarks" (amusingly, the latter only works if the user is using MSIE).

My thought is this: with close enough study of MP3/etc. compression, it might be possible to "encode" an audio file so that some of the audio contained is removed. Compression tries to remove only inaudible parts of an audio file, so how can this help us?

[I do not guarantee this paragraph - I need to find my sources. Take it with a salt shaker.] Auditory science has shown that in the human ear, through a process we don't quite understand, lower-frequency sounds can be synthesized from high-frequency waveforms. I don't believe it has anything to do with beat frequency between two waves, FWIW. For decades, it was thought that it only worked the other way around, IIRC.

It struck me that if suitable "inaudible noise" were injected into the audio and if MP3 encoders (say, at 160kBps or less) could be made to strip it all out, it might be possible to get some kind of annoying distortion going -- a sawtooth or something. The biggest trick, of course, would be making it truly inaudible when played at full quality. You see why it's a single-scheme solution -- if MP3s are prevented from encoding it, something like Windows Media might work.

Re: The Fed Goes to Hell

Re: Diane's post about the ineffably stupid St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank study of the economics of hell.

The study's chain of reasoning is jaw-droppingly flawed, yes, and half the links seem to be utterly specious. The most offensive is the graph relating belief in hell to corruption. Let's look at it again, shall we?

First: Nowhere on the graph is the all-important caveat PERCEIVED. It's not a graph of actual corruption, just a graph of people's perception of it. That alone deserves a painful smack to the head.

Second: Is a model with a correlation coefficient of |0.34| even reasonable? I realize that economics modeling is an inherently fudgy endeavor, but... but... look at that plot! Do those data points look like a straight line? Or even look like they're correlated at all? Geesh!

Again, I don't have the time to tear the whole thing apart, but why is their theory of causation (belief in hell -> honesty) even reasonable? I find it much more reasonable to believe that cultures that have a strong belief in hard work, honesty, and reward would find religions with strong reward/punishment afterlives attractive.

July 27, 2004

Cf. a recent Cognomen post. Posted by Hello

July 23, 2004

Every wave is new until it breaks

Ah, the craving for vast plains of open water has struck me again. If I were free I'd be looking at Lake Superior from the granite cliffs of the Canadian Shield. We got photos of the last trip developed yesterday, and they have rekindled my desire.

Say... someone has a notebook with a list of the wildlife count from the trip... We didn't find any big mooses, sadly, but we found lots of little ones!

I regret keenly that I did not post to my blog from the Canadian Carver tourist tra^h^h^h attraction.

July 22, 2004


"Sir, why do you seem so startled?"
"A feeling of deja vu. It's as if I've seen this place before."
The explorer and his assistant peered out over the vast landscape of What Live Journal? Oh.
"There's something evil here. I've seen it in my dreams, I feel it in my bones."
The assistant turned visibly whiter. "Sir, perhaps we should turn back?"
"No, Jones," said the brave explorer. "We plunge into this dark land's heart."

Aw hell.

Why not force more poetry on you? My thought matrix isn't projecting too well into prose these days...
        Mr. Eugene Gray, Realtor

Oh those days spent huddled
listening through ducts from the basement--
"Mr. Gray is coming."

The terror we all felt; this sinister
gray man, his gray suit, his felt hat--
My sister whispering:
"Mr. Gray is coming."

That doorbell still rivets me, that old
electromechanical clang. Annunciation:
"Mr. Gray is coming!"

Poor man, we hated him as the devil.
Now he's dead; I hold his card and know this:
Mr. Gray isn't coming.

July 21, 2004

Other People's Problems

Ruminating, scowling, sitting,

"How can I compel his will?"
The chain, the rod, the whisper --
each is examined, each
is discarded.
The ruminant sprawled on her throne,
scowling, a frustrated slaver.

July 20, 2004

One family's meadow

I am grateful to the founder(s?) of the Dibrova Ukrainian Association. They grabbed up some land out in the country fifty years ago and established a wonderful little park for Detroit's Ukrainian-American community. Click here for an aerial photograph.

I've been going there for assorted picnics and other gatherings since I was a very small child. I remember competing (rather unsuccessfully) in the children's olympics when I was five and six and in a pie-eating contest when I was eight (not much more successfully). I remember Mr. C's submarine sandwiches, kept in the refrigerator and cooler long enough that the white cheese practically liquefied (this is not nearly as gross as it sounds); I remember taking the lunchmeat I didn't like, at one time salami and at another ham, down to the fishing dock. I remember most happily that fishing dock, where Allie and TJ and Nick and I would use bread and cheese and meat as bait on bare hooks, and catch little sunfish of various kinds. They were stupid fish, but incredibly pretty, shining in their greens and reds and blues underneath a bright summer sun. I remember the terror I held them in when I was little -- like perch, they had spiny dorsal fins, and if you grabbed them wrong, they'd give you a good painful poke for the inconvenience. Pumpkinseeds and bluegills and red-eared sunfish, swimming under the dock, ducking the algae-slimed snapping turtles, on those blazing blue summer days.

July 19, 2004

And while I'm throwing links at you...

Cosma Shalizi's Notebooks

Cosma Shalizi is my personal favorite web writer. His notebooks are a giant many-dimensional information matrix that one can spend hours and hours poking around. He's also fond of the pragmatists and logical positivists, very useful philosophers to my thinking and unfairly forgotten by modern culture. FOR PEIRCE! FOR JAMES! FOR SANTAYANA!

Veto by the nutjobs

The Salon.com review of Richard Ben Cramer's How Israel Lost

I would very much like to read this book. Ben Cramer seems to be very insightful and humanistic in a way that I appreciate. Israel is possibly the most convoluted and impenatrable moral mess in the world today, and I can never exactly decide how to feel about it and the on-again, off-again "peace process."

July 15, 2004

A man of soul

Hey, didja know that John Ashcroft, in addition to being an untrustworthy Attorney General, is also a singer-songwriter?
John Ashcroft's stirring performance of "Let the Eagle Soar"

It's, uh, a really moving performance. I've transcribed the lyrics below.

Let the Eagle Soar (C) 1997 John Ashcroft
Let the eagle soar

Like she's never soared before
From rocky coast to golden shore
Let the mighty eagle soar

Soar with healing in her wings
As the land beneath her sings
Only God, no other kings
Let the mighty eagle soar

This country's far too young to die
Though she's cried a bit for what we've put her through
She's soared above the lifted lamp that guards sweet freedom's door
In the dews the damps the watchfires of a nation torn by war
She's far too young too die
You can see it in her eye
She's not yet begun to fly
It's time to let the mighty eagle soar
"I am a lonely visitor; I came too late to cause a stir, though I've campaigned all my life towards that goal."
Neil Young said that, or something like that.

July 14, 2004

And now a message from our sponsors...

Caught in the center of a soundless field

While hot inexplicable hours go by
What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?
You seem to ask.
I make a sharp reply,
Then clean my stick. I'm glad I can't explain
Just in what jaws you were to suppurate:
You may have thought things would come right again
If you could only keep quite still and wait.
Myxomatosis, by Philip Larkin

Hungry? Sick? Begging for a break?

Are you tired?
I was sitting at the keyboard five minutes ago, about to go to bed, when I heard a tremendous explosion. "Crap," thought I, "that sounded like thunder... but there's no rain, no lightning. Did that guy next door blow something big up?"

And then, a blinding flash lit the air between the two houses, another crash rang out, and the skies literally opened. Thunder exploded, shaking the ground; lightning lit the surroundings so effectively and so often that moving branches began to strobe; and the rain fell down in such torrents that the air was a grey, palpable thing. These are the moments I live for.