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Week of 8 February 2010

Latest Update: Sunday, 14 February 2010 09:48 -0500

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Monday, 8 February 2010
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10:08 - Thanks to Norman Yarvin II for solving a problem that's been driving me nuts. With its built-in microphones, my camcorder records stereo audio. But when I connect my wireless mic to the audio input on the camcorder, it records only mono audio on the left track. I didn't notice the problem at first, but several people on YouTube have pointed it out and said that it's annoying. I thought the problem would be easy enough to fix in Cinelarra just by copying the left track to the right track, but I haven't been able to figure that out. Norman posted the following over on the messageboard. I already have ffmpeg installed, so I'll give it a try.

To copy the left audio track on your videos to the right audio track, so that it comes out in stereo, you can use the magic incantation


ffmpeg -i input.flv -ac 1 -acodec aac -ab 128k -vcodec copy output.flv

That only changes the audio track, and leaves the video as-is.  That "128k" is the bitrate to re-encode the audio in; change it as desired.  I've picked the same codec YouTube serves the audio up in (AAC), as output codec, and also have chosen the same container format (FLV) for the output file.  The option "-ac 1" is the one that says to mix the audio down to mono (which, when played on a stereo system, will get duplicated on both speakers).

While you're at it, though, you might as well deinterlace too, to remove the horizontal zebra stripes on moving objects:


ffmpeg -i input.flv -ac 1 -acodec aac -ab 128k -deinterlace -vcodec mpeg4 -b 2000k output.mp4

That's a different video codec from what YouTube serves up, but I figure they'll do the conversion for you.  I tried this on your latest video, downloaded from YouTube, and it worked well.

All this of course requires the ffmpeg package.  Since you're probably working with a different input format, the commands might need a bit of tweaking.  But ffmpeg understands a vast number of formats, so it shouldn't be a big problem.

Thanks! To quote Willow in Buffy, "I knew it! I knew it! Well, not knew it in the sense of having the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know."

Alas, the problem is not yet solved. Using ffmpeg works for Norman, but not for me. I spent an hour or so messing around with it. The first problem was an error message about not being able to find the aac encoder. I tracked down the solution to that, whereupon I got another error message about the audio tracks. I tracked that down and fixed it, whereupon I got an error message about not being able to find the mpeg4 encoder, which is pretty strange. Alas, I'm out of time for now, but I'll continue plugging away at this.


Tuesday, 9 February 2010
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08:19 - We have more winter weather on the way in today, but nothing compared to what's expected in the Washington, DC area. We're supposed to get some more snow, sleet, and freezing rain. They're supposed to get another 20 inches (50 cm) of snow.

The Toyota mess continues to get worse. When it was announced a few days ago that Prius models manufactured since last month could be updated by a software patch, but Toyota was still working on a solution for models produced before last month, I wondered what that meant. Why couldn't earlier models also have software patches applied to fix the sudden acceleration and braking problems? The most likely explanation is that Toyota must have made hardware changes in Prius models produced since last month.

Now, some independent authorities are claiming that the problems with earlier Prius models have nothing to do with software, carpet, or the gas pedals, but are inherent in the older electronics used to control the engine and brakes. Toyota strongly denies this, but if it's true that takes the problem to a whole new level. Rather than a simple software update or a minor mechanical fix, Toyota could be looking at a major physical overhaul of affected vehicles, including replacing some or all of the controlling electronics and wiring harnesses, and possibly engine and remote sensors. Will the service departments at Toyota dealerships really be able to handle these problems on this massive scale? I suspect Toyota dealers will soon be frantically hiring whatever qualified mechanics they can find, if they're not doing so already.

And, of course, it's not just Prius models that are affected by the sudden acceleration problem. Hundreds of thousands or millions of other Toyota and Lexus models are potentially affected. If the independent experts are correct and this is a systemic problem, Toyota is in deep, deep trouble. Not the least of their problems is the loss of trust. Almost literally overnight, Toyota has gone from being one of the most admired and trusted car companies to one of the least admired and trusted, with many Toyota owners now afraid to drive their cars. Toyota isn't going to be selling many new cars until they put this problem behind them. At this point, it's not clear to me that they'll be able to do that.


Wednesday, 10 February 2010
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08:49 - Nothing is ever easy. Ray Thompson over on the messageboard suggested a quick fix for my left-channel-only audio problem. My wireless mike is a mono source, and plugging it into my camcorder results in audio being only on the left channel. Ray suggested stopping by Radio Shack and picking up an adapter to split the mono signal over both audio channels. There's a Radio Shack in a strip mall a mile or so from our house, so I called them Monday to see if they had such a thing in stock.

The guy knew exactly what I was talking about; he uses the same adapter I need on his own camcorder for the same purpose. He looked and said there weren't any on the shelves but that they'd just gotten a delivery that morning and there should be some in that box. So I waited while he looked for the packing list, which someone had made off with. He couldn't find it, so I told him I'd call back the next morning. When I called yesterday morning, there was still no sign of the packing list and they hadn't had a chance to unpack the box yet. Also, they had another delivery arriving, and he said he was sure that if there weren't any in the first box there'd be some in today's box. I was going to call back to check, but I finally decided just to drive over there and see if I could get some action face-to-face. I arrived there at a few minutes before 4:00 p.m. and he was busy with another customer. He said they still hadn't unpacked either box because they were short-staffed, and he was due to leave at 4:00. So I drove home without the adapter.

I asked Barbara if she'd mind stopping by on her way home to pick up the adapter, assuming that when I call after lunch they tell me they really do have it. I'll ask them to put one aside behind the counter for Barbara. A lot of effort to go to for a $2.69 part. But if it solves the problem it'll be worth the effort.

Here's an important video from Pat Condell about the heresy trial in the Netherlands that may eventually impact all of us.

Incidentally, don't mistake Mr. Condell for a conservative; politically, he's definitely liberal. However, he's an honest liberal, not afraid to speak the truth. With the increasing Islamization of Europe, he may eventually find himself in the United States as a political refugee. If Muslims don't assassinate him first.


Thursday, 11 February 2010
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09:11 - The left-channel-only audio problem with my camcorder is fixed, thanks to the $2.69 adapter that Barbara picked up at Radio Shack on her way home from work yesterday. That breaks the logjam, so I can get some more videos shot and posted. Here are the ones I have in progress:

016 - Synthesize Copper(II) Acetate and Copper(II) Chloride
017 - Progressive (or Serial) Recrystallization
018 - Forensic Presumptive Drug Testing - Part I
019 - Testing for Boron with a Kitchen Spice
020 - Black Powder

I'll be shooting, editing, and posting these over the next couple of weeks. I seriously thought about not doing the one on black powder, since it seems that everyone does it. But I made lots of black powder as a teenager, 40 years ago and more, and I learned a couple of tricks that yield a better grade of powder. In case you're curious, the kitchen spice in 019 is turmeric, which contains a compound called curcumin. Curcumin forms an intensely colored complex with boron compounds (such as borax, sodium tetraborate) that can be used for colorimetric determination of boron level. The curcumin test is still used professionally, primarily for testing water and soil for boron levels, because it's fast, cheap, and has threshold sensitivity below the one part per million level, which is nearly as good as instrumental analysis.

I'm going to shoot the intro and trailer talking head segments for two or three videos today, but before I do that I need to clean up my lab. As I've shot the earlier videos, I've just been rinsing and stacking used glassware, and the pile is getting too high.


Friday, 12 February 2010
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10:57 - More snow in the forecast for today and tomorrow, although we're expecting only an inch or two. We're fortunate compared both to those in the DC/Philadelphia area and those to our south, who are currently getting record snowfalls. Since December, all-time winter weather records have been set at numerous cities throughout the South, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast regions.

Incredibly, the AGW alarmists are claiming that this is a manifestation of global warming. Uh-huh. If we have warm weather, it's AGW. If we have record winter weather, it's also AGW. They can't lose. No matter what happens, it's AGW, or so they claim. Only in retrospect, of course. It'd be nice if they'd make some actual falsifiable predictions, but of course they haven't done that, even once. Perhaps the billions in taxpayer funding they've received isn't enough to produce predictions.

It's an insult to science to call the AGW idea a scientific theory. It's not a theory. It's not even a hypothesis. In science, to qualify as a hypothesis, a statement must be falsifiable by experiment. In other words, it must be possible to generate falsifiable predictions from that statement. And I don't mean predictions about what will happen in a thousand years, or even a hundred. Nor do "predictions" of past events qualify. Monday-morning quarterbacking isn't science.

So, the AGW crowd has so-called models that don't predict anything successfully. Worse than that, if one inputs past observed data and rolls the models forward, their output bears no relation to observed reality. Computer scientists who look at their code are horrified at its bugs and poorly-constructed algorithms. These models are essentially black boxes. You put data (or, more likely, estimates) in, and numbers come out. No one, including the people who wrote the code, have much of a clue about how those numbers were arrived at. Much of the motley assortment of "data" being input is actually estimates or "proxies" rather than actual data in the scientific sense, and the remainder has error bars larger than the changes they're claiming have occurred. And even the "hard" data have been intentionally corrupted to the point that they're worthless. There's a famous saying in computer science: Garbage In, Garbage Out. In this case, the input data is definitely garbage. Process that garbage through garbage code, and you get garbage squared as the output.

I've never considered "climate science" to qualify as a real science. For a long time, I thought it might, eventually, qualify as a protoscience, but it's certainly not reached that level yet and may never do so. For now, "climate science" is pure pseudoscience, akin to astrology or numerology. AGW alarmists exhibit all the characteristics pseudoscience nutters, including the doomsday scenario predictions and the demands to take extreme action and spend massive amounts of money in the absence of any evidence that a problem actually exists. AGW isn't a scientific concept; it's left-wing religious concept.

Fortunately, the AGW fantasy appears to be collapsing like a poorly-built house of cards, at least among real scientists, more and more of whom are realizing that they've been the victims of intentional deception and (although a scientist is always hesitant to use the phrase) scientific misconduct. Scientists trust other scientists and give credence to their statements. It's the way science works. For a chemist, for example, it would be extraordinary to question statements by biologists about biology or physicists about physics, just as it would be extraordinary for them to question statements made by chemists about chemistry. The assumption is always that any mistakes, let alone intentional distortions, will be caught and corrected by other scientists in that field. But that assumes that there are many independent scientists in the field in question, and that's simply not the case for climate "science".

I expect the AGW fantasy to collapse within five to ten years, but that may not be soon enough. In most scientific fields, there's little outside interest in their disputes, which are essentially tempests in teacups. Alas, climate "science" is highly politicized, and neither politicians nor the general public are well known for changing their minds based on evidence. Much of the damage may already be done or unavoidable. And we'll all be a lot poorer for it.


Saturday, 13 February 2010
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00:00 -


Sunday, 14 February 2010
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09:48 - Happy Valentine's Day. This year, once again, Barbara has agreed to be my Valentine. I never take that for granted. Each year, she thinks about it for at least a few seconds before she agrees.

I just realized yesterday that I was pursuing something I didn't want to catch: a YouTube partnership. I was reading Pat Condell's FAQ, and one of the questions was why he wasn't a YouTube partner. (Condell has more than 100,000 subscribers and millions of video views, so he seems a prime candidate.) Condell's reply was that he didn't want ads to appear with his videos. Urk.

I don't want ads to appear with my videos, either, but until that moment I had just been assuming that I didn't have a choice and that there were already ads appearing with my videos. I run Adblock Plus, so I see zero ads. All this time, I was assuming that Adblock was blocking the ads on my videos, but apparently they don't have any ads to kill. I was pursuing a YouTube partnership because I figured if they were making money by selling ads on my videos I might as well get some of that revenue, since my viewers were being subjected to ads anyway. But instead it appears that YouTube doesn't put ads on the videos unless one becomes a partner. So I'm obviously not going to become a partner.

That doesn't mean I don't want tens of thousands of subscribers and millions of video views for my channel. I do. Things are still proceeding nicely. In about a month, I'm up to 16 videos posted, about 1,600 subscribers, roughly 35,000 video views, and 10,000 channel views. Still small numbers, but growing constantly.


Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.