There Is No Cat

A huge orangupoid, which no man can conquer

Friday, October 31, 2003


Kathryn Cramer posts about her father, a physicist at the University of Washington, creating a simulation of what the Big Bang sounded like. I gather it's been Slashdotted and everyone's talking about it and everything. Cool stuff. But what I haven't seen mentioned is that you can also hear what the remains of the Big Bang sound like. Robert Wilson discovered the background radiation left over from the Big Bang in 1963 along with Arno Penzias, both of Bell Labs. There's an audio recording on the Bell Labs web site of a lecture Wilson gave some years ago that includes the actual sound of the background radiation left over from the Big Bang all these years later.

Posted at 9:38 AM
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Thursday, October 30, 2003

Knifing the baby

Back in March, I wrote about Global Sound, a web site being put together in Seattle by the Smithsonian Institute that would eventually be providing access to some fascinating recordings of indigenous music, in particular the holdings of the International Library of African Music, repository of a staggering collection of recordings by South African musicologist Hugh Tracey. Much of the music he recorded in the 1950s and 60s has vanished as live art forms, making the collection an invaluable window into a disappeared world. Most of the music has never been easily accessible to the public, having been published mainly on records that were made available only to libraries.

Today comes the sad news that a funding crisis has strangled this baby in the crib. The site was apparently finished, but whoever controls the purse strings apparently decided that enough was enough. Global Sound sent out a message to the members of its mailing list pointing to their beta site, where you can listen to samples of the music (sadly, the ability to download entire tracks has been removed). The soon-to-disappear site shows a lot of promise, and I can see that I would have been spending way too much money there. I suppose I should be grateful to an administration that considers no garbage truck too expensive for Iraq but can't find the money for this project; my wallet will be fuller as a result and I'll be able to spend more money on home improvements. There's a possibility that Smithsonian Folkways Records may resurrect the site in some form. I hope so.


Posted at 10:43 PM
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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

There would be a Peter Blegvad quote here if my LPs weren't still in boxes

I keep close tabs on the solar weather most of the time, as things like sunspots, solar flux, and geomagnetic storms have a tremendous impact on my shortwave radio hobby. Sadly, in the wake of our move, my radios are still in boxes and I have no outdoor antennas erected, meaning I'm missing the impact of one of the largest solar flares in history on radio propagation. It's probably going to be a few months before I get the shack set up again. In the meantime, I just took a walk outside to see if perhaps maybe I might get lucky and be able to see an aurora for the second time in my life. Not to be; I don't know if it's just not reaching this far south, or if it's the high horizon from the trees in our neighborhood keeping me from seeing it. Oh well. Maybe another time. I feel lucky that I saw it once. I understand that only five percent of humanity has ever seen an aurora.

In lieu of seeing one myself this time, NASA's Aurora Gallery is probably the best place to see photographs of the Northern Lights. They've got some pretty spectacular shots up now.

Posted at 11:15 PM
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Monday, October 27, 2003

The autumn leaves

Some leaves just don't want to hit the ground.

[ Photograph of a yellow leaf against a dark red-brown cement wall near a green drainspout ]

Posted at 12:56 AM
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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Slowly I turned

A man from Michigan believed he could go over Niagara Falls without any protection (such as from a barrel) and live. He proved himself right, making him the only adult to ever go over the falls in such circumstances and live. The New York Times article about his wet stunt includes the following incredibly dry paragraph about the repercussions:

The plunge defied the laws of physics and Canada.

Physics gave him a break; we'll see about Canada.

Posted at 11:39 AM
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Justifiable homicide

Does anyone else out there suffer an onslaught of mysterious overnight fax calls on their telephone? We used to get them at our old place, and we hoped they would end when we moved, but they seem to have followed us. It's really frigging annoying to be awakened by the phone ringing at 3:30 in the morning. I'd like to strangle the sons of bitches responsible, because I'd really rather be sleeping than writing this. And, just my luck, now that I've set the fax modem on the computer to pick up the phone on one ring so I can find out who this is, the calls seem to have stopped for tonight.

Posted at 4:00 AM
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Friday, October 17, 2003

Let there be light!

I took my new toy to the beach yesterday after work. I didn't get the gorgeous late-afternoon sunlight I was looking for thanks to a solid wall of clouds that rolled in as a I rolled in to Sandy Hook, but I think I got some pretty nice pictures anyway.

Sandy Hook lighthouse

Posted at 11:45 PM
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Thursday, October 16, 2003

Get well soon, Anita

One of my favorite bloggers, Anita Rowland, is in the hospital for surgery today. It sounds pretty serious. Go wish her a speedy and complete recovery.

Posted at 3:38 PM
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Sunday, October 12, 2003

New Toy

I got a new toy. I've had two years of holding off on buying new toys. Either I was unemployed, or I was working for a company that considered paying its people optional, or I was clamping down on expenditures to make sure we had enough money to buy our new house, so for a variety of reasons, there's a backlog of desire that's just been waiting to burst out. There was a minor outbreak just after I got my current job when I bought an iPod, which I use constantly. Now I've gotten the next most wanted item on my list, a new digital camera.

My old Kodak DC-260 was a decent camera in its day, but it was already getting a little long-in-tooth when I bought it from my friend Tom, who is a talented photographer. It was great for static shots, like sunsets, which I love shooting, but the delay between button press and shutter click meant that it did a lousy job at catching quickly changing action, like my lovely wife dancing on the boardwalk during the summer, or our niece and nephews tearing around the beach house like maniacs. Plus, I wanted a camera with a decent zoom so I could capture some of the abundant wildlife in our new backyard. I was lusting after the Sony DC-F717, which has an excellent Zeiss lens and a not-too-shabby 5x optical zoom. Tom, my friend who replaces his digital cameras every couple of years, has its predecessor, the 707, and I could see that it took gorgeous pictures. One of his pictures taken with that camera is hanging in our dining room right now, in fact. If I had bought a camera a few months ago, I would have gotten the 717. But the delay enforced by the then-impending house purchase changed my mind. In the interim, Canon came out with a camera that was just perfect for what I wanted.

I've had a Canon EOS Elan SLR 35mm camera for about ten years. I love the camera, but the price and inconvenience of developing film meant I didn't use it as much as I would have liked to, and as a result, didn't develop my skills as much as I want to. I have a couple of lenses for the camera. So when Canon introduced their new EOS Digital Rebel (a.k.a. EOS 300D), which takes the same lenses as my Elan, I was intrigued. The more I looked into it, the better it seemed. For under $1000, I could get a camera that would do everything I wanted and be flexible enough for me to keep for a very long time. With the help of my lovely wife and some internal justification of it as a belated 40th birthday present, I jumped at it.

The camera came on Friday. I haven't had a lot of time to shoot with it yet, but I can tell already that it's everything I wanted. The limitations that some of the reviewers talk about aren't that big a deal; I didn't use those functions on the Elan, and I don't miss them on the Digital Rebel. Not yet, anyway. I could use one more lens to complement the ones I have. I've got three that fall into the wide-angle to medium range, but no telephoto lenses. But hey, that's why I bought the camera; if I need a new lens to do what I want, I can get one.

[ The babbling brook in back of our house ]

I can tell I'm going to have a lot of fun with this. It's nice to have such a great tool that's at the leading edge of what's available.

Posted at 10:06 AM
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Thursday, October 9, 2003

Nosiree Bob, it wasn't me

Help Mr. Bush track down the traitors who exposed the name of a covert CIA operative. Declare in a legally-binding affidavit that it wasn't you. If enough of these are filled out, a simple process of elimination should point to the culprits. (via Talking Points Memo.)

Posted at 9:59 PM
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Tuesday, October 7, 2003

In the middle of our street

It's a funny thing. You walk into a lawyer's office with a couple of slips of paper with a few too many zeroes on them, zeroes that represent a lot of work over a lot of time. You stick around for a little over an hour, chatting pleasantly about the Penn State tchotchkes on the bookshelf and the intelligence of left-handers while signing your name maybe thirty or forty times. You walk out lighter by the slips of paper you brought in, but heavier by a stack of paper that barely fits into the briefcase you brought and the crushing burden of debt that extends for most of the rest of your lifespan. Along with that extra weight, you get the exhilirating feeling of escaping the renter class.

We bought a house today.

Posted at 8:25 PM
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Sunday, October 5, 2003

Office view

view from the office

This is why I wanted to buy this house....

Posted at 11:04 PM
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Thursday, October 2, 2003

Sun sets on the Devil

He was talking through a bimbo
But don't
Touch that dial
Or that hateful smile
Kate said
"The flowers of intolerance and hatred
Are blooming kind of early
This year
-- Someone's been watering them"

We was listening
Ah, we was listening to the Devil's radio
We was listening
Yeah, we was listening to the Devil's radio
And it went na na na na na no
I'm not the Devil's radio
Na na na na na no
I'm the Devil's radio

- Robyn Hitchcock, "The Devil's Radio"

Posted at 3:35 AM
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My turn

You may want to note this: this week, it's my turn to deal with all the incompetent people in the world. It started with our lawyer's office, where the secretary sent the title work (which came in later than expected) to our mortgage bank rather than to the bank's lawyers as requested. Not that big a deal, since they're in the same building, but still. The secretary sent the paperwork via FedEx for next day AM delivery (by 10:30) so we could have a chance of closing on the house this week while my dad is in town. FedEx, according to its tracking listing for the package, took the package and proceeded to send it to the wrong distribution center. FedEx works all around the world, so it must have been before 10:30 somewhere, but it was after 5 pm in Long Island by the time the papers arrived at the bank's office. Would you expect the receptionist who received the package to know to forward it to the lawyers in the same building to whom it was addressed? Nooooo, of course not. I'm still not sure who has the papers, although our (very competent) mortgage banker was trying to track them down when I explained what happened today.

At the car dealer where we took our car for servicing on Wednesday when the "Engine Check" light blinked on, incompetence reared its ugly head again. The repairs seemed to be okay, but when we paid for them, the cashier gave us an unfamiliar key. I told her I didn't think this was mine, then proceeded to check it against my car and prove that it wasn't. Seems the mechanic mixed things up, and my keys were nowhere to be found. The mechanic who worked on our car had gone home, but the (very competent and sympathetic) mechanic who listened to our tale of woe and helped us out eventually figured out that they gave our keys to another customer, who was clearly not competent enough to figure out that they had the wrong keys. Grrrrr! The helpful mechanic promised that they would be strangling the guy who did this in the morning when he came in. I asked for video proof. I'll be watching the back of my car carefully in the next few days to make sure parts don't start to drop off.

I'll be glad when this week is over and it becomes someone else's responsibility to handle all these incompetents.

Posted at 2:17 AM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2024, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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