2017-12-21

Music

Music

I love good music. To me, some music seems to be alive, that's the good. Most seems to be lifeless, inert, just a random sequence of notes, sound not music. And there is a lot of annoying, offensive, head piercing stuff that I don't want to hear.

Below is a selection of wonderful music. If you haven't heard any of these pieces, you should rectify the situation - YouTube can help.

There is a lot of wonderful music around contra dancing (a hobby of mine). Hopefully including a tune that I just finished writing. I'm not including any of it here.

I have found that people like songs for two fundamentally different reasons. Some like the lyrics and don't really care about the music. I like the music and don't really care about the lyrics. The songs included here of Schubert and Schuman are in German, which I don't understand - doesn't bother me at all. There are a few recordings of Schubert songs in English.

Another interesting issue that I have encountered is that people have an internal clock that is not constant. This is a psychological speed - I am not referring to your heart beat. If you listen to music that is faster than your internal speed, it can have an energizing effect. If the music is slower it is likely to be boring. If you want to understand slow music, you must first slow your internal clock so that the music pulls you along rather than dragging you down.

A melody is a sequence of tones. Why should one sequence of tones be superior to another? I have no idea. But my head tells me, without question, that this is the case. And there are rhythm, chords, keys, performance, timbre, voice. I have no idea how/why all of this comes together to be pleasing. (If you look at the frequency ratios of the notes that make up the seven tones of a Euclidian scale, a, b, c#, d, e, f#, g# for example, you can see why these scales and 1/3/5 chords work well. But this just scrapes the surface of a complete composition.)

I have been trying to write some contra dance tunes recently. I have little background in music theory, but I have listened and played enough music, especially for contra dance, that the basic rules are internalized. If I violate them the tune doesn't sound right.

Given that I have a tune that meets the basic requirements, I have found that with the repetition required in writing the tune, almost any melody will imprint on me, making me enjoy it. This is NOT good. If I like anything I write - how do I know if it's any good? That might explain the incredible array of awful music in the world. Now how can I avoid adding to it?

Schubert
  Symphony 8 D759
  D760, D845, D958, D959, D960 piano
  Songs
    Thekla D595
    Litanei auf das Fest Aller Seelen D343
    Der Winterabend D938
    Nachthymne D687
    Standchen D957/4 from Schwanengesang
      (this is a song, despite the many instrumental transcriptions)

Beethoven
  Symphonies 2..9
  Appasionata piano sonata
  Missa Solemnis

Schumann
  Symphonies 1,3,4
  Widmung op 25/1 (song)

Emmylou Harris
  The Maker
  Me and Willie
  Poncho and Lefty
  Wrecking Ball (the entire album)

Blondie
  11:59
  Dreaming
  One Way or Another

Fleetwood Mac
  Silver Springs

Patti Smith
  Broken Flag
  Distant Fingers
  Paths that Cross

2017-12-15

Good Stuff

Good Stuff

I've written about a lot of the stupidity in the world. It's time to write about some good things. Of course you have to scour the internet to find most of it.

Mono laser printers - if you don't need color, mono laser printers are cheaper, faster, more reliable, and easier than color inkjets.

Number 11 X-Acto blades in a #2 handle - (Long ago) I used to cut up my thumb when using a #11 blade in a #1 handle. Using a #2 handle buries the bottom part of the blade in the handle - no more cuts.

Vionic flip-flops (sandals) - a flip-flop with heel cup to keep your foot centered and arch support!

Size 10-13 socks - I hate having my foot squeezed. The standard sock, size 6-12, drives me nuts. Size 10-13, which are not always easy to find, are a huge improvement (that's for my 9.5 foot).

Trakline belts - if you haven't tried a ratchet belt, try one. They adjust in 1/4 inch increments and they do not imprint on the leather so the belt lasts longer. Trakline makes ratchet belts with stainless steel buckles and high quality leather (make sure that you get a stainless steel model). Excellent.

Dropstop - a cloth covered foam tube that closes the gap between your car's front seats and center console. It keeps things from falling into that unreachable place on the floor outside of the seat rails.

Wristies - a fleece tube with a thumb cutout. They cover your wrist and the back of your hand but not your fingers. Very nice for around the house when it's cold and for playing the violin when it's cold.

DanceSocks fit over your shoe to let you slide, short tube or full shoe cover. They let you use a supportive, cushioned shoe on the dance floor. They work well with most running shoes. If your shoe is too smooth, the tubes will slide off. If a thread comes loose, use a match to melt it down.

Nite Ize S-biner - that's a double carabiner in an S shape. When huge electronic automobile keys became the norm, it always bothered me to have my keys in the bottom of my front pocket. The best solution that I have found - make a small (three inch) loop with a shoestring, attach it to your belt above your pocket, attach the top loop of a small s-biner to it, attach your keychain to the bottom loop of the s-biner. Now the keys hang from your belt, in your pocket, not bunched at the bottom.

12 hour Neosinepherine / Oxymetazoline HCL nasal decongestant - maybe the most effective drug on the market. It lets me breathe effortlessly for about 10 hours. Watch out - overuse can be a problem.

Rolling wheel paper cutters - what an improvement over the guillotine paper cutters. They don't bubble the paper as they cut so the cut is straight. They cut stacks of paper well (maybe 20 pages max). And they don't provoke a fear of cutting off my fingers when I see them. Sadly the Fiskars model that I prefer is no longer made.

L.L. Bean "Lakewashed Five-Pocket Khakis" - cut like jeans but very lightweight cotton. These are great for dancing, much cooler than jeans.

Ebooks apps for smartphones - I used a Kindle ebook reader for a while. Then I tried reading an ebook on my phone. I never used the Kindle again. The phone is light, always with me, and now the screens are big enough to be very useful for books. All of the reader apps that I have tried (Kindle, Nook, Google Play, Kobo) have annoying bugs or are missing features that I would like. Amazon constantly adds new features and new bugs to their Kindle app - I gave up on it a while ago. I am using Google Play Books.

PDair phone belt cases - leather, good fit to specific phones, fixed belt clip (the rotating belt clips always die quickly). They last for more than a year of constant use, for me.

Free42 - a smartphone HP 42S calculator app. The last HP calculators that I owned died of cheapness with very little use. Free42 is excellent and free.

NHT loudspeakers - whenever I heard NHT loudspeakers in other people's home they impressed me as sounding natural. I finally got a pair with subwoofer - very nice. (Now my hearing is so bad, it doesn't really matter what loudspeakers I have.)

Solid state computer "disks" - they are silent and fast!

Silentpc.com - silent PCs - no fan and a solid state disk. What an improvement! Plus you can get one with Linux ready to run.

Wrist cuff blood pressure monitors - these are much easier to use and less annoying that arm cuffs. They are finally showing up in doctors' offices. But they are typically used incorrectly - read the instructions. My Omron doesn't start up until it is at heart level - how does it know?

Memory foam mattresses - I love them, but I don't like memory foam pillows.

I am so glad that LED lights have replaced fluorescent lights. I hated the spiral bulbs and the slow turn on of compact fluorescents and the buzzing of big fluorescent drivers.

Geared violin pegs (I prefer Wittner) - they don't slip due to temperature changes.

Zarelon synthetic violin bow hair - IT DOES NOT BREAK!

High capacity batteries for cordless electric dremel tool, vacuum cleaner, screw driver. What a treat, no cord to plug in, no cord to get in the way, no cord to put away. And a recharging station so you know exactly where the thing is when you need it.

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?

Original Glide dental floss - the current Glide breaks constantly.

Various running shoes, but the designs only last for a year and are replaced, often with an unrelated and inferior design concept. And virtually all running shoes are UGLY.

Casio F-28W - an inexpensive wristwatch with recessed buttons. I could take off the band and carry it in my pocket. The recessed button weren't automatically pressed when I sat down. Why doesn't someone make a small pocket watch?

Classic IBM / Lexmark keyboards - superb buckle spring keys. Mine would have lasted for my entire life but the keyboard to computer link kept changing.

Honda CRX - what a great car, but too small to be safe in today's world of trucks and SUVs.

2017-12-07

Plug-in Hybrid Cars

Plug-in Hybrid Cars

First, let me say, I can't see owning an electric only car. They take too long to charge and there is insufficient infrastructure to use one effectively on a long trip.

But a plug-in hybrid could be used as I typically use my car. In town all week, short trips. I could generally avoid any gasoline use. Long trips on the weekends, hybrid mode, mostly on gasoline. This would give excellent efficiency during the week, using electric with no engine warmup issues. And it should give excellent efficiency on the weekends, acting as a hybrid.

For those of you concerned with recharging from a coal fired power plant - I have read and I believe that the efficiency of the electric mode results in less carbon dioxide emission than hybrid mode even when recharged from a coal fired power plant.

I have narrowed the choice to the most recent plug-in hybrids - Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Prime, Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in.

CHEVROLET VOLT - it appears that they have optimized the Volt for electric mode and forgotten hybrid mode. 41 mpg in hybrid mode - that's about 10 or 15 mpg below where it should be. But in return, you get a 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds - pretty good.

9 gallon gas tank, with a one gallon reserve that's 320 miles - not enough. How about replacing the 50 mile battery with a 25 mile battery and increasing the gas tank to 12 or 15 gallons.

The Volt needs work on its aerodynamics. The drag coefficient is .29, 21% higher than the Prius Prime. That says styling counts more that efficiency. Drag coefficient helps predict gas mileage above the speeds that the EPA uses for testing. The Volt is a poor 41 mpg on the highway and when going 90 mph instead of 70 mph the aerodynamic drag is increased by 65%.

Ground clearance - not specified - grr. After an inquiry, Chevrolet says 3.5 inches. That's ridiculous unless they are referring to a rubber air dam under the front bumper. Sigh.

Chevrolet says that cloth seats are available, but their build a car web site won't let me select them - grr.

The TOYOTA PRIUS PRIME is ugly, not the shape, but the details. But the drag coefficient is .24, so I'll let that pass. It is much more efficient than the Volt in hybrid mode, 54 mpg. And the gas tank holds 11 gallons. With a one gallon reserve that's 540 miles. People think I'm crazy for wanting a long range between fuel stops, but I hate gas stations.

The battery is good for 25 miles - plenty for me.

But a 4.8 inch ground clearance - not enough. And 10.9 seconds 0 to 60? That will get you around town, but it's not good enough to compete on the highway.

The HYUNDAI IONIQ PLUG-IN specifications are pretty much the same as the Prius Prime, but it looks a lot better. And the ground clearance is 5.5 inches! Still, I can't see trying to go up some of the long hills that I drive, getting stuck behind big trucks or being a left lane nuisance.

Hyundai has much less experience with electric integration in cars than Toyota and Chevrolet. The Ioniq is a first generation, first year car. I don't know if I would trust it even if it met all of my preferences.

So that leaves nothing for now.

Maybe a new Camry Hybrid with new and improved ugly (marketed as "bold" by Toyota) and a shrunken gas tank. It has great specs and a solid history. But I prefer something smaller.

Mazda says they will introduce the 2019 3 with a compression ignition gasoline engine. No electric stuff, but 25% improvement in efficiency. Diesel-like fuel mileage on gasoline. Simpler than a hybrid, no battery manufacturing issues. Maybe I will wait and see if they produce.

The Voice

The Voice

Time to lighten up a bit. It's Tuesday. I like to have the TV on while I'm working on the computer. On Tuesday there is nothing of interest on the TV. I guess I'll see if there is any good singing on The Voice. This is the latest big singing competition (not that it's new - several years old). Here goes (this is based on my past experiences as well as tonight).

I have never seen such ugly haircuts anywhere else. Maybe I haven't looked.

I don't understand why they do singing contests with the opponents singing a duet with each other. I don't have the slightest care how someone sings a duet with their opponent.

I am amazed at some of the boring song choices. I guess they stress the singer's abilities.

The judges/coaches think every performance is fabulous. Where is SIMON COWELL? He is desperately needed. (Simon Cowell is the mean/honest original American Idol judge.)

The real problem with this and other singing competition shows is that there are huge numbers of great voices, but not very many that belong to someone with good taste in music. I would much rather hear a limited voice sing a great song than hear a great voice sing junk. A great singer and a great voice are not the same thing.

And I don't understand why people want music video performances rather than performances of music (this happens in the later stages of the competition, as I recall).

I guess I'll switch to an old Andy Griffith show - Hmm, Barney's interrogation of Otis isn't bad.