Sunday, 4 December 2011

09:55 – We’re back in stock on the chemistry kits, or at least we will be after Barbara finishes building the final subassembly this afternoon. We’ll start shipping backorders this week.

I finished up the lab session on mosses and ferns yesterday except for a few end-of-session questions, which I’ll do today. Then I’ll get started with a lab session or two on seed plants, probably leading off with gymnosperms and then segueing into angiosperms and monocot versus dicot structures. I hope to finish up plants this week or early next, and then move along to invertebrates (which is where I was thinking about dissecting a politician). By around the 26th I should be getting started on chordates.

And I see that there’s another failed EU summit scheduled for later this week. As usual, Merkozy are talking past each other. Sarkozy honestly believes that Merkel is going to open the German coffers and accept Eurobonds and an interventionist ECB, which she isn’t going to do. Merkel honestly believes that Sarkozy is going to yield French sovereignty over taxing and spending to German control, which he isn’t going to do. So the outcome is predictable. They’ll meet, argue, make zero significant progress, and then announce that they’ve agreed a comprehensive solution, when in fact they’ve agreed on nothing that matters. The markets will rejoice for a few days, believing that a real solution has been reached, until they realize that it’s the same-old-same-old. Eventually, Germany will probably announce that it intends to invade France, and France will surrender. Same-old-same-old.

21 Comments and discussion on "Sunday, 4 December 2011"

  1. OFD says:

    Is that old railroad car still available for signing papers?

  2. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I guess this is called ‘grasping at straws’…

    That, or putting lipstick on the pig. Trad publishers are getting increasingly desperate. 2012 is not going to be a good year for them. I’m sure they’re sitting around with their fingers crossed, hoping that B&N and Amazon don’t sell many e-readers this month. Talk about a forlorn hope, in both senses of the phrase.

    Publishers are also doing everything they can, including astroturfing, to convince readers that indie books are inferior, even when those indie books are published by the most popular authors in the publishers’ stables. I’ve read a bunch of both indie-published and trad-published ebooks, and I have to say that in terms of content and editing I don’t see much, if any, difference. Oddly, it seems that the indie-published ebooks are, if anything, likely to have better formatting than the trad-published ebooks. I suspect that a lot of trad publishers are rushing backlists into e-print without worrying too much about picky details like proper formatting. Stuff like hard breaks in the middle of sentences or even words, mangled special characters, and so on. In fact, of the ten worst-formatted ebooks I remember seeing, I think all ten were trad-published.

    Add that problem to the very high prices of trad-published ebooks, and it’s obvious they’re headed for a major crash. Not that they can afford to price ebooks reasonably, because that kills their p-book sales dead in the water.

  3. Jim Cooley says:

    I’d gladly pay for some hardbound editions if they were still made by sewn signatures. The slap-dash glued-in crap they put out now won’t last more than a decade or two.

  4. OFD says:

    What Jim said. I still love books I can hold in my hands and read. I have Kindle on this Win7 box and my work laptop but it’s only for work-related stuff. You won’t see me reading novels or other fiction or poetry on one of them. I still buy books on Amazon and I still go to used-book stores, and I keep my eyes peeled for certain stuff on the latter.

    Other than that, I am with Robert; good riddance to the current crop of publishers.

    I am of the same mind with music; nothing after 1975, pretty much, across the genres, and I’m in good company with both Larry Coryell and Merle Haggard. Once we’re all gone, the kidz can just go crazy with embedded chips in their skulls and camera lenses replacing their corneas for all I care.

  5. BGrigg says:

    Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated.

  6. Jim Cooley says:

    Here’s a blog post that’s made me sit up and go Hmmm…

    My interest is in the quote, At some point a ‘black swan’ event, or perhaps something the classical world would have simply called ‘nemesis,’ is going to knock the US futures market off its foundations. The government and exchanges will seek to force a solution on market participants through the de facto seizure of positions and accounts, with a settlement dictated by the Banks. MF Global looks like a dry run for that much larger default. and a replay of FDR’s seizure of physical gold in ’32 (?). Naturally, anyone holding a futures contract in whatever form would also be affected.

    Gold, Eurodollars, and the Black Swan That Will Devour the US Futures and Derivatives Markets

  7. Jim Cooley says:

    OFD, as Bill said, you will be assimilated!
    I bought the new translation of _War and Peace_ when it came out and it is ugly and too big to read because of the cheap thick paper as well as the the binding which has already been discussed. Cracking the spine really DID crack the spine.

    Reading it on the Kindle was a breeze, though I missed making notes in the back like I normally do.

  8. Miles_Teg says:

    I’m incensed by the price of p-books, especially older ones that paid for themselves years ago, but I still prefer them unless the e-book cost is very much less. I only have about a dozen e-books on my Kindle, and I’d rather read my favourite books in paper than on the Kindle.

  9. Chuck Waggoner says:

    I have no attachment to paper. In fact, I am trying to get it as much out of my life as possible, and — except for legally certified documents — I scan them and that is basically the end of them. Once or twice since I have returned to the US, I needed something, and I just printed it from the scan, and that has sufficed nicely.

    Having had to get rid of over 2,000 books of my parents (which actually proved impossible, except for sending 99% of them to the dump), and having become an extreme minimalist after my wife’s passing, I have no interest in providing storage space for a book, or keeping it clean. If it does not come as an e-book, then I do not buy it.

    I do the reverse with CD’s, however. Having once made part of my living as a music director for radio stations, I do store CD’s, but I throw away jewel cases and get special plastic storage used by libraries. That reduces the storage space I need by more than two-thirds. I suppose I could part with them — and might some day — as I have well-backed up digital copies as both WAV and MP3, with a CUE sheet, so I could actually reconstruct a duplicate of the original, if I ever needed it. I digitize vinyl and sell it to a local second-hand store. Have made a lot of money on selling vinyl.

  10. Chuck Waggoner says:

    If Henry VIII were on Facebook

    He seemed to have some weird attraction to the name Catherine/Kathryn/Katherine.

  11. Miles_Teg says:

    So, why don’t second hand books sell? People don’t buy them, or there are far more on offer than demand requires? I wish I didn’t have as many bookcases full as I do but I still like having my favourites as p-books. (And as e-books too, mainly technical type books so I can search them.) I have only about 150 music CDs and 100 DVDs so keeping them in their jewel cases isn’t so much of a hardship for me. But I would like to digitize them as backup and to play on portable players.

    How do you digitize your vinyl Chick? I have about 30 LPs and 50-100 45s that haven’t been touched for 20+ years.

  12. Miles_Teg says:


    Have I ever mentioned how much I wish we could edit posts?

  13. Raymond Thompson says:

    How do you digitize your vinyl Chick? I have about 30 LPs and 50-100 45s that haven’t been touched for 20+ years.

    I have been slowly digitizing my vinyl albums. I play them on a high quality Panasonic turntable with a massive aluminum platter run by a direct drive DC motor. The cartridge is a Shure V15 Type Iv tracking at 1 gram with anti-skating set properly. The turntable is connected into my receiver.

    From there I run a cable from the line level out to the line level in of my sound card of my computer system. I then start the recording software (Adobe Audition), and play the record. The resulting sound file is one side of the album. From there I split the track at the song boundaries and save them as individual MP3 files (192K bit) apply a scratch and pop filter available in Audition.

    II could run a digital optic (TOSLINK) cable from the receiver to the sound input. But I don’t want to spring for an optical cable that is that long as it would be very expensive.

    It is indeed a very tedious process. For some albums I take the easy way and just buy the CD. Alas, many of the albums are long out of print and are not on CD. Even the, ahem, illegal, sites have no such files on them. Try finding Solo Flight by Cat.

    My albums have been well cared for so the problems are minimal. But it certainly is not a fast solution.

  14. Chuck Waggoner says:

    So, why don’t second hand books sell? People don’t buy them, or there are far more on offer than demand requires?

    Oh, there is a big market for second-hand books over here. But the used book stores will only give about 25 to 50¢ for a book, then turn around and resell it for as much as $10. Even then, the manager of one used bookstore I frequent a lot, told me that they are just hanging on with their fingernails and had to lay off a couple people over the summer.

    How do you digitize your vinyl Chick? I have about 30 LPs and 50-100 45s that haven’t been touched for 20+ years.

    Yeah, I concur with Ray that it is a very tedious process. I have a Technics direct-drive pro turntable available, and I just record them through a pro soundcard into Audacity (unlike Ray, I will not touch any Adobe program and will be ecstatic when Flash is finally and officially dead — it could not happen to a better company) using a Stanton pro cartridge. Actually, I think the Stanton is made by Shure, but I am not sure. Then I clean up each track in Audacity (put a quick fade-up at the beginning and fade-out at the end, because I hate vinyl scratching) and burn them onto a CD using a program called Burrrn (also keeping the WAV file and MP3’s that I make, stored on my file storage system). I do not even try to preserve the in-between track stuff or its timing, which some audiophiles do. I am not trying to exactly reproduce the album experience; my interest is only in the tracks, themselves. Two seconds of inter-track spacing is the modern standard for CD’s. I always put two seconds of silence after each track, as that is how tracks are ripped by most rippers: the inter-track silence is appended to the end of the previous track. Besides, some playback software requires pad on the end of songs (including older versions of Winamp), as there is buffering of a quarter- to a half-second, and older players stop playing when no new material is inputted for decoding, and thus some material gets stuck in the buffer. That moment of stuck buffer is played when the next track begins playing. The two seconds of silence on the end, ensures that the buffer is played out, and the only thing that could be stuck in the buffer is silence (which it almost always is).

    Like Ray, I am only digitizing stuff that is not available on CD. During the last decade, a lot the vinyl albums I have or am interested in, have been remastered from the original tapes, and that means less noise and hiss than material that was just played off a vinyl record and made into a CD — which is what happened with a lot of vinyl releases when CD’s were first introduced. Just got the CD of an album I have been trying to lay my hands on since 1968. I am a big fan of Harry Nilsson’s, and he wrote the music for a movie starring Jackie Gleason, called “Skidoo”. Gleason hated the movie so much that he spent the rest of his life seeing that it did not survive. Although I agree the movie was awful, to me, Nilsson’s music was nothing short of a modern-day Händel. I ordered the LP from the record distributor right away, but the guys at the distributor said it had been made a “cut-out” (removed from inventory) before it was ever released.

    Finally got my hands on what was supposed to be a European remaster of the original material, but it has way too much hiss to have been digitally remastered. Disappointing, but I still love Nilsson’s music 43 years later. Nilsson sings the entire credit list at the end of the movie.

    I am only half-way through my vinyl collection, but will have a party when it is all done. Vinyl sound is not superior to digital. Actually, one of the biggest record pressing factories was right in Indianapolis when I was growing up. My broadcasting tech friends and I, knew folks who worked there. A great deal of care was put into records back then, but all of them had to be run through special equalization that actually altered the sound from what was laid down during the recording session. This was so bass notes would not push the grooves too close to each other, and other compensations were also added for deficiencies that were inherent in the vinyl medium. But songs were listened to, over and over again, before the master ever started pressing records — something that does not happen in the digital CD realm. I have CD’s where there are obvious defects that should have been caught, if anyone was listening. But since digital material can be transferred at many times the real-time rate, listening to the end product in real-time — which was the only way audio transfers could be done back in the vinyl days — is hardly ever done these days. That results in very few CD’s that are actually checked by real-time listening before being photographically duplicated. Moreover, CD’s today are run through compression programs that actually cause a lot of peak clipping, so that the CD will appear to sound louder when played. That was something that just did not occur back in the vinyl days, as it would have been considered a defect, not a positive advantage.

  15. Jim Cooley says:

    I don’t digitize them.

    I ran some experiments which pretty much proved the superiority of vinyl to digital encoding, so now I don’t.

    I have my carefully preserved albums; I have a good turntable, cartridge and stylus, so I play them when I want. Problem solved.

    OFD would surely approve if he wasn’t so entranced with the fidelity of his windup Victrola… 😛

  16. OFD says:

    I have some cables and a CD in a package along with a turntable that purports to be connectable to the PC, for transferring LPs to CDs but I haven’t had the time or the real motivation to undertake the process yet.

    So back to the Victrola, only missing the American pit bull terrier who liked to listen to it.

  17. SteveF says:

    I have no vinyl. My mom smashed them ages ago when she was mad at my sister. Now, I acknowledge that my sister was a heinous witch when she was a teenager and I can’t figure out how she made it to 20 without having been drowned, but I’m still not sure how smashing my records accomplished anything.

    Not that it much matters. I never had a golden ear, and less so after being exposed to many loud noises in my youth. (Including an artillery barrage in Korea. No, not the Korean War; I’m two generations too young for that. No, this was a training exercise. The ROKs shelled the valley we were setting up in. Um, oops.) I used to listen to CDs a lot and was perfectly happy with them. Now, when I listen to anything, I stream techno from internet radio stations.

  18. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Until I can access my home computer files from the car, I am happy with digitizing my vinyl. Put them on the iPod so I can take with, as I sure could not get a turntable to play reliably while driving. I have some pretty obscure stuff in that collection, which has never come out on CD. I do far more driving than I would like, and that helps me through the complete waste of time that driving a car is.

  19. OFD says:

    From Steve F., almost two many eerie similarities here:

    “My mom smashed them ages ago when she was mad at my sister. Now, I acknowledge that my sister was a heinous witch when she was a teenager and I can’t figure out how she made it to 20 without having been drowned, but I’m still not sure how smashing my records accomplished anything.”

    My dad smashed all my tank, plane and ship models when I was a kid in high school after I got caught skipping and brought home in a cruiser by the police. Also grounded for two weeks. After which I restarted the models and again skipped school. And also consumed and sold various hallucinogenic substances. See? Violent destruction solves nothing, ha, ha.

    My sister was also a major handful growing up and in an earlier time might well have been smothered, strangled or drowned. Ditto our daughter here, whose behavior would most definitely, had I or my brothers done it when we were kids, gotten us beaten and then sent to a reformatory. In colonial times, death.

    Your hearing messed up, too, Steve? Try mine, after two tours as a machine gunner in southeast Asia, then twelve years as a street cop and weekly firing at indoor and outdoor ranges. Then what seems like forever in noisy frigging raised floor data centers. Icing on the cake was being just a short hop, skip and a jump from a major B-52 strike. We crouched on the ground, eyes screwed shut with noses and ears bleeding.

    But I can’t wait to try out my new Audio-Technica “Solid Bass” stereo headphones with this computer system, the television/home theater, and my dumb little XP laptop at work if I get stuck there overnight this coming winter, watching Amazon Prime movies and TV shows.

  20. OFD says:

    Almost forgot: the headphones were highly recommended by Gary North over at Lew Rockwell’s site and his blog.

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