Thursday, August 31, 2006

Automatic double tracking (ADT)

[One of the many ways the Beatles changed music.]
Automatic double tracking (ADT)
was an electronic system designed to augment the sound of voices and instruments during the recording process. It used linked tape recorders to create an instant and simultaneous duplication of sound which could then be captured on tape.

During the 1950s it was discovered that doubletracking lead vocals in popular song recordings gave them a much stronger and more appealing sound (especially for singers with weak or light voices). First pairs of tape recorders were used, then later multitrack recording machines, to produce the effect.

However, until the invention of ADT it was necessary to record the vocal tracks twice, with the second vocal in synchronisation with the first -- a process which was both tedious and exacting, and might require several takes and rewinds.

ADT was invented specially for The Beatles on April 6, 1966 by Ken Townshend a recording engineer employed at the EMI Abbey Road Studios in St John's Wood, London. He developed it mainly at the instigation of John Lennon, who hated the tedious doubletracking sessions and regularly expressed a desire for a technical solution to the problem.

In essence, Townshend's system used two studio tape decks which were connected to the recording console, and to each other. As a vocal was being recorded onto the first tape machine, specially installed connections simultaneously fed the signal from the record head of the first deck into the record head of the second deck, onto the tape, out from the playback head of the second deck and back into the record head of the first. If the playback heads of the two decks were precisely the same distance from their respective record heads, the voices would be recorded in perfect unison.

However, the doubletracking effect relied on the almost inaudible millisecond delays between the guide vocal and the doubletracked vocal. This was achieved naturally in the old system, because it was in practice impossible for even the best singer to precisely duplicate a previous vocal.

Geoff Emerick, an EMI balance engineer who began working with the Beatles during the recording of the LP Revolver, was able to introduce the fractional delay required by adjusting the variable speed oscillator (VSO) that controlled the speed of the motor on the second tape deck, so that the tape ran slightly slower than on the first deck. With this slight delay now introduced, the signal coming out of the playback head on the first deck would be audibly 'doubled', but the delay was not enough to cause the vocals to be noticeably out of sync.

An alternate method of creating the required delay, if the second deck did not have a variable speed motor, was to simply apply pressure to the rim (or 'flange') of the feed reel on the second tape deck to slow down the tape speed. This led to the invention being dubbed 'flanging' by The Beatles, who were thrilled by Townshend's invention and used it throughout the Revolver LP and on all their subsequent recordings. The invention of ADT soon led to the development of other related studio effects, besides flanging, including chorus and phasing.

ADT quickly became a universal practice in popular music and since its invention it has become rare to hear popular music recordings that do not use it, especially on vocal tracks. Although the tape-based ADT system has since been superseded by digital sound processing technology, doubletracking is still a common production technique.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006


[Also be sure to check out the site for the Portman-related movie of the same name.]
(from the noun fan and the affix -dom, as in kingdom, dukedom, etc.) is a subculture composed by like-minded fans (aficionados) characterized by a feeling of closeness to others who share the same interest (Thorne&Bruner 2006). Such a community of keen aficionados can share a common interest in a wide selection of phenomena, such as authors, hobbies, genres or fashions. Fandom as a term can also be used to refer to the single interconnected social network of these individual fandoms, many of which overlap. While the term is applied to social networks surrounding many novelty interests, it has its roots in appreciation for science fiction.

Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object of their fandom; this is what differentiates them from those with only casual interest.

The objects of a fandom typically relate to the arts, sports or entertainment. For example, it would be unusual to refer to an accountant who is very interested in the details of accounting as a "fan" of accounting.

The plural fen is often self-applied in science fiction and related fandoms. This is an example of fannish jargon.

Members of a fandom associate with one another, often attending fan conventions (such as science fiction conventions), and publishing and exchanging fanzines. Today, these communities are often online, especially for less well-known source material. Some fans also write fan fiction, stories based around the universe and characters of their chosen fandom. Some also dress in costumes ("cosplay") or recite lines of dialogue either out-of-context or as part of a group reenactment. Such activities are sometimes known as "fanac," an abbreviated form of the phrase "fan activity."

The term "fandom" is particularly associated with fans of the science fiction and fantasy genres, a community that dates back to the 1930s and has held the World Science Fiction Convention since 1939. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the usage of the term back as far as 1903, with many of its documented references referring to sports fandom.

The term is also commonly associated with anime/manga. Serious fans of this subject are also called otaku.

"Fandom" is also the name of a documentary / mockumentary about a fan obsessed with Natalie Portman.

Fanac is an abbreviation for "fan activity" which arose within science fiction fandom. It consists of such activities as editing zines, writing fanfic, attending cons and cosplay.


Monday, August 28, 2006


[When a general just won't do.]
A generalissimo is a commissioned officer of the highest rank; the word is often translated as "Supreme Commander" or "Commander in Chief". It is an Italian superlative substantive, which grammatically would actually be disallowed in Italian (superlatives can be made with adjectives only). When used as a noun, the correct sense is "General of the highest degree" (or commander in chief of the entire armed forces of a specific country); as an adjective, the closest English form is "most general," but the concept is best expressed by the grammatically incorrect expression "most generalest." The term "Generalissimo" in English has come to refer to a kind of ruler who has ascended to that position by a military coup. In most developed English-speaking countries, the term commonly evokes the image of corrupt dictatorships and so-called "banana republics."

The dictator Francisco Franco, Chief of State of the Spanish State, also held the title Generalísimo de los Ejércitos Españoles, or "Generalissimo of the Spanish Armies", a title which expressed his supreme command of the Army, Navy, and Air Force of the Spanish State.

Chiang Kai-shek also used the term (although he was technically a general special class or "five-star general") as did Joseph Stalin; the latter, however, was appointed to the position on June 27, 1945, at the conclusion of World War II and did not use it as a title to designate his position of commander in chief, but rather bore it as a title of rank, Generalissimo of the Soviet Union, above the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. The Japanese title of Shogun is in a way comparable to that of generalissimo.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Jews for Jesus

[Sometimes they hand out fliers and such...]
Jews for Jesus is a Christian Evangelical organization based in the United States. It was founded in 1973 by Moishe Rosen, an ordained Baptist minister of Jewish heritage who self-identifies with the Judaic tradition. The long-term goal of Jews for Jesus is one of religious conversion of all Jews to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah — a position which is usually characterised as Christianity and is incompatible with Judaism (see Schism between Jews and Christians, Anti-Judaism, Supersessionism, Dispensationalism). The organization claims to be "one of the most extensive evangelistic outreaches to Jewish people in the world today." While Jews for Jesus is based in the United States, they have also sent their branches as far afield as Ukraine, Germany, France, England, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Russia, and South Africa....

Jews for Jesus' official mission statement is "to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide." They claim that belief in Jesus as Messiah is a fulfillment of the prophecies of Hebrew scripture. Rosen argues that Christianity is the fulfillment of scriptures....

Jews for Jesus is widely opposed by both Jewish groups (secular and religious) and Christians who oppose attempting to convert Jews. Many Jewish groups see Jews for Jesus as a thinly-veiled attack on Judaism, while many Christian churches, particularly the more liberal denominations, see Jewish religious practice as valid in and of itself and thus object to evangelizing Jews.

Another criticism of the group is that one of the most important Jewish principles of faith is the belief in one God and one God only with no partnership of any kind, and it is therefore impossible to profess Judaism and believe in Jesus at the same time.

The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, an umbrella organization that includes Muslims, Jews, and church groups from the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, has condemned Jews for Jesus as promoting activities "harmful to the spirit of interreligious respect and tolerance." The conference is opposed to religious proselytizing in general. The conference also denounces the group's "deceptive proselytizing efforts", stating that when practiced on "vulnerable populations" such as the young or the elderly, these efforts are "tantamount to coerced conversions." (2) The Rev. Clark Lobenstine, a Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister and executive director of the Conference, has stated that his group condemns Jews for Jesus and other messianic Jewish groups by name because they "go beyond the bounds of appropriate and ethically based religious outreach." (3) Rick Ross, an alleged "cult expert", has been critical of the organization as well and has included them on his website.(5)

The Board of Governors of The Long Island Council of Churches, a group that is opposed to proselytizing of Jews in general, voiced similar sentiments in a statement that "noted with alarm" the "subterfuge and dishonesty" inherent in the "mixing [of] religious symbols in ways which distort their essential meaning", and named Jews for Jesus as one of the three groups about whom such behavior was alleged....

Jews for Jesus defends its actions against these charges, stating:

"If a person believes the Bible and believes that Jesus is the only way of salvation (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Romans 10:9,10) and then that person declines to tell a Jewish friend about Christ, it indicates one of two things. Either that person has decided that the Jews are not worthy of the gospel, in which case he would be a racist, an anti-Semite and a hater of people instead of the lover of people that God wants him to be. Or perhaps he has judged the gospel as being unworthy of the Jews in which case he has trivialized the passion of Calvary and the awesome significance of Christ's resurrection." (4)

Jews for Jesus is a member of numerous evangelical Christian groups: The World Evangelical Alliance, Canadian Council for Christian Charities, Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association, Evangelical Alliance of Great Britain, Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability, Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, National Association of Evangelicals, The Internet Evangelism Coalition, and the World Evangelical Fellowship....


Thursday, August 24, 2006


[The fear of getting stuck.]
Trypanophobia is the extreme and irrational fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. It is occasionally referred to as aichmophobia, belonephobia, or enetophobia, names that are technically incorrect because they simply denote a “fear of pins/needles” and do not refer to the medical aspect of trypanophobia. The name that is in common usage is simply needle phobia, while the correct scientific term is trypanophobia....

The condition was officially recognized in 1994 in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition) as a specific phobia of blood/injection/injury type. Phobic level responses to injections cause sufferers to avoid inoculations, blood tests and in the more severe cases, all medical care.

It is estimated that at least 10% of American adults are trypanophobic, and it is likely that the actual number is larger, as the most severe cases are never documented due to the tendency of the sufferer to simply avoid all medical treatment....

It is suspected that the genetically linked forms of trypanophobia date from early human history. In early time periods, genes that predisposed a person to avoid physical injuries such as piercing, stabbing or other skin penetration would be more likely to survive, given that in those days, death from bleeding, hemorrhaging or subsequent infection of a wound, were far more common than they are today. Over time, the complex bundle of symptoms that comprise a vaso-vagal shock response were hard-wired into the genetic makeups of certain humans, and these symptoms are still expressed today in the form of vaso-vagal trypanophobia....


Wednesday, August 23, 2006


[You thought you knew what this meant. You had no idea.]
Flatulence is the presence of gas under some degree of pressure, in a confined space. The term is normally used of the presence of gas in the digestive tract of mammals. However, a balloon is flatulent as is a fizzy drink until the gas is released by opening the bottle containing it. [1] Though confused by the word's use as a euphemism for 'fart', flatulence is distinct from flatus, which is the release of such confined gas. [2] The distinction becomes very important in cases of bloat. In the animal digestive tract, the gas is produced by symbiotic bacteria and yeasts....

is a Latin word meaning a puff or blowing of a gas such as air. Flatulence is a French noun derived from flātus, which as a medical term means 'accumulation of gas in a natural cavity'. [3] More generally, flatulent means 'of a windy nature' or 'full of air and wind'. By extension, foods such as beans may be called 'flatulent', as they generate gas in the digestive tract which then becomes flatulent as it is liable to produce flātūs - puffs, blows and breathing, via the œsophagus (gullet) and mouth or via the anus. Flatulence is therefore a tendency to produce puffs and blows so the word can be applied to the character of a haughty person or to the wolf of the Three Little Pigs story, as well as to the more usual use in alluding to a physiological tendency to break wind.

'Meteorism' is a near-synonym of flatulence in the medical sense. However, it may arise from a blockage which prevents the escape of gas. It is therefore not strictly, a synonym. It is derived from Greek rather than Latin. It will have influenced English by way of the writings of Hippocrates, whose works were long a major influence on the thought of western medical doctors. It is a 'flatulent distension of the abdomen with gas in the alimentary canal' [4], and is used as a synonym of bloat in veterinary use. The Greek original, μετεωρισμοσ (meteorismos), means 'being raised up, swelling' [5] alternatively, 'elation, excitement of mind'.... [6]


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cat righting reflex

[Despite this, it's still dangerous to leave a cat near an open window. Be careful!]
The cat righting reflex is cat's innate ability to orient themselves as they fall so as to land on their feet, often uninjured. The righting reflex begins to appear at 3-4 weeks of age, and is perfected at 7 weeks. They are able to do this as they have an unusually flexible backbone and no collarbone. After determining up from down visually or using their vestibular apparatus (in the inner ear), they rotate their upper body to face downwards and their lower body follows. In addition to the righting reflex cats have a number of other features that will reduce damage from a fall. Being small, having a light bone structure, and thick fur decreases their terminal velocity. Furthermore, once righted they may also spread out their body to increase drag and slow the fall to some extent. A falling cat's terminal velocity is 60mph whereas a falling man in a free-fall position is 130mph. At terminal velocity they also relax as they fall which protects them to some extent on impact. Padded paws will also soften impact.

Using their righting reflex, cats can often land uninjured. This is, however, far from always the case, and cats can still break bones or die from falls. In a study (in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) of 132 cats that had fallen from buildings, it was found that cats were most likely to die if they had fallen about seven stories.[citation needed] Below that height they may not have reached terminal velocity and would hit the ground with less force. However, if falls were further than seven stories the chance of cats dying also decreased as they had more time to right themselves, spread to increase drag, and relax.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Problem of evil

[A dilemma indeed!]
In the philosophy of religion and theology, the problem of evil is the problem of reconciling the existence of evil or suffering in the world with the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God or Gods. An answer to the problem of evil is called a theodicy....

Epicurus is generally credited with first expounding the problem of evil, and it is sometimes called the Epicurean paradox (or the riddle of Epicurus). In this form, the argument is not really a paradox or a riddle, but rather a reductio ad absurdum of the premises. Epicurus drew the conclusion that the existence of evil is incompatible with the existence of the Gods. More generally, no paradox or problem exists for those who do not accept the premises, in particular the existence of a benevolent god or Gods.
"Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. ... If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. ... If, as they say, God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?" (Epicurus, as quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief)

Epicurus himself did not leave any written form of this argument. It can be found in Lucretius's "De Rerum Natura" and in Christian theologian Lactantius's "Treatise of the Anger of God" where Lactantius critiques the argument....

The biblical book of Job is, perhaps, the most widely known formulation of the problem of evil in Western thought. Other books of note include Psalms 1 and 82, and Ecclesiastes (Koheleth)....

Many terms and concepts must be decided upon before the problem of evil may be sufficiently analyzed. This is due to the nature of religious belief.

  • Who or what is God?
For example, the problem of evil changes radically depending on whether God is a personal God, as in most forms of Christianity, distant Gods, as was the case in ancient Egyptian religions, as well as whether there is only one (monotheism) or many Gods (polytheism). (See also demiurge)
  • What is evil?
A frequent error is the notion that an omnipotent God would be able to make an agent morally free yet incapable of doing evil to others. This is an error because no amount of power can allow one to make a logical contradiction true. (See the Omnipotence Paradox)
To what extent would God desire to spare people from evil? It is, perhaps, too hasty to assume that not experiencing any evil or harm is in the best interest of the universe....


The fifth century theologian Augustine of Hippo mounted what has become one of the most popular defences of the existence of God against the Epicurean paradox. He maintained that evil was only privatio boni, or a privation of good. An evil thing can only be referred to as a negative form of a good thing, such as discord, injustice, and loss of life or liberty. If a being is not totally pure, evil will fill in any gaps in that being's purity. This is commonly called the Contrast Theodicy — that evil only exists as a "contrast" with good. However, the Contrast Theodicy relies on a metaphysical view of morality which few people, even theologians, agree with (that good and evil are not moral judgments). In On Free Choice of the Will, Augustine also argued that Epicurus had ignored the potential benefits of suffering in the world. However, it is pointed out that an omnipotent God could give the world any benefits derived from suffering without those in the world having to suffer....

Some theists argue that God allows evil to exist so that humans can have freedom of choice, to do good or evil, so that they are whole beings, and not mindless machines.

Some critics of this argument say that beings which are not omnipotent do not have freedom of choice in any case. But others say that free will should be understood as "wanting" and "trying" but not necessarily "getting". For example, not everyone has the ability to become a successful Major League Baseball player, even though they have the freedom to try.

Another argument is that the choices a person can make are determined by one's inherent nature. If someone were naturally good, he would still have some degree of free choice. Many people who have enjoyed this partial free will have lived their lives without causing suffering or other evil. Why wouldn't God make everyone predisposed to being good? Why would he make some who are predisposed to performing evil acts?

The other side of this argument is that there "are no" naturally good people. All people are capable of both good and evil acts. An individual does either good or evil acts, depending not only on their inherent nature, but also upbringing, experiences, morals, choices, circumstances, society, and many other factors. The same group of people might be good or evil depending on the society they live in.

Additionally, some critics note that if a god simply cannot create people that are both entirely good and enjoy free will, then it cannot be considered all-powerful....

A unique response to the problem of evil comes from the ill-defined body of early Christian belief known as Gnosticism. Many Gnostics claimed that the god of the Jewish Bible or Old Testament who created the world, is not God, but an inept, though highly powerful, being that they call the Demiurge. They view him as a malicious being who made the world of matter and flesh as a prison to hide humanity's true spiritual nature. Hence, part of their answer to the problem of evil is that the true God, whom they sometimes call "the True Father," did not in fact make this world of suffering, evil and pain. However they do not provide an explanation for why the true God would allow another being to create them instead, and in such an evil manner.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

1995 Chicago heat wave

[Pardon the absence; staying cool.]
The 1995 Chicago heat wave led to approximately 600 heat-related deaths over a period of five days. It is now considered to be one of the worst weather-related disasters in Chicago history.

The scale was shocking, although the event itself may not have been that unusual. Eric Klinenberg, author of the 2002 book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, has noted that in the United States, the loss of human life in hot spells in summer exceeds that caused by all other weather events combined, including lightning, rain, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes....

The temperatures soared to record highs in July with the hottest weather occurring from July 12 to July 16. The high of 106° F (41° C) on July 13 set the record for the warmest July temperature since records began at Midway Airport in 1928. Nighttime low temperatures were unusually high (upper 70s and lower 80s °F - about 25 °C) as well. Record humidity levels also accompanied the hot weather.

Most of the heat wave victims were the elderly poor living in the heart of the city, who either had no working air conditioning or could not afford to turn it on. Many older citizens were also hesitant to open windows and doors at night for fear of crime. Elderly women, who may have been more socially engaged, were less vulnerable than elderly men. By contrast, during the heat waves of the 1930s, many residents slept outside in the parks or along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Because of the nature of the disaster, and the slow response of authorities to recognize it, no official "death toll" has been determined. However, figures show that 739 additional people died in that particular week above the usual weekly average. Further epidemiologic analysis presented by Eric Klinenberg (author of Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago) showed that blacks were more likely to die than whites, and that Hispanics had an unusually low death rate due to heat. At the time, many blacks lived in areas of sub-standard housing and less cohesive neighborhoods, while Hispanics at the time lived in places with higher population density, and more social cohesion....

A contributing factor in the heat wave is an effect called an urban heat island. Urban heat islands are caused by the concentration of buildings and pavement in urban areas, which tend to absorb more heat in the day and radiate less heat at night into their immediate surroundings than comparable rural sites. Therefore, built-up areas get hotter and stay hotter. Other aggravating factors were inadequate warnings, power failures, inadequate ambulance service and hospital facilities, and lack of preparedness. City officials did not release a heat emergency warning until the last day of the heat wave. Thus, such emergency measures as Chicago's five cooling centers were not fully utilized. The medical system of Chicago was severely taxed as thousands were taken to local hospitals with heat-related problems. In some cases, fire trucks were used as substitute ambulances.

Another powerful factor in the heat wave was that a temperature inversion grew over the city, and air stagnated in this situation. Pollutants and humidity were confined to ground level, and the air was becalmed and devoid of wind. Without wind to stir the air, temperatures grew even hotter than could be expected with just an urban heat island, and without wind there was truly no relief. Without any way to relieve the heat, even the inside of homes became ovens, with indoor temperature exceeding 90 °F (33 °C) at night. This was especially noticeable in areas which experienced frequent power outages. At Northwestern University just north of Chicago, summer school students lived in dormitories without air conditioning. In order to ease the effects of the heat, some of the students slept at night with water-soaked towels as blankets.