Monday, March 31, 2008


Oh, also, forgot to mention:
Five O'clock People, one of the greatest indie bands of all time, (as rated by the universally accepted "Tim's obviously superior taste in music" scale, defined in "AESSSS standard 42.b&c, digital audio miscommunications protocols" J.Aws.Soc.bams. 37 (2008), the dusty one sitting in the corner of the student lounge, on the lower right margin of page 1024), just came out with a new CD.

Freshman year, first week at college, I didn't want to shell out the $5 dollar cover charge for a gig they had in the gym at Penn State. Myron drug me kicking and screaming the whole way. I still maintain it was the best live show I've ever seen - depressingly so. No pumping lights or expensive equipment - they just sounded so darn good. I can't figure out how people with 300x the budget, pumping lights and professional roadies can't touch how just plain good they sounded. Anyway, in addition to Jacob's blog, enjoy the music.

Brother-in-law has a blog

Atmybench. Which is also a cool name.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Last 4 unusual episodes

of my life involved the introspection following 4 lectures/presentations/dialog's that made me react in unusual ways. A person can learn a great deal about themselves (that other people, no doubt already know) by examining one's own reactions to something and trying to figure out the motive behind the reaction. So:

Episode 1: Professor gives a lecture on C.S. Lewis' space trilogy to a little group I am part of.
I am quite partial to this group of books, having read each of them several times and thoroughly enjoying them. That Hideous Strength is a bit slow, granted, and I did put the book down in the middle of things and read the entire 5th Harry Potter book in a matter of days before picking it back up and finishing it for the 3rd time. But afterwards there was never any doubt as to which book was by far the better of the two.
Anyways, the professor came and talked about the books, and then summarized the books because only 2 people in the group including me had ever read them. This was very enjoyable, and he was funny - he would pad almost every other word or phrase with "kind of..." So, "The name of the, kind of, book I will be, kind of, talking about is, kind of, Perelandra" [no joke]. He then proceeded to make big claims about this incredible "discovery" he made about the book which, I think, was completely ridiculous. The disturbing part of the whole thing to me was not the ridiculous claims he made (if I got bent out of shape every time I heard crazy ideas at a university, I wouldn't have lasted more than a day in college), rather how... angry... I got over these ideas. I'm not sure the motive... I went back into "interacting with SPU faculty mode." It was like reliving that whole thing. I wonder if I conditioned myself to react this way. I was angry because these are some of my favorite books, and C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite ideas, and his "discovery" seemed repulsive to me. But its not like it was the Bible or anything. Maybe it was because I think people in the English departments are so arrogant for thinking that these stupid "discoveries" are like... some sort of incredibly important addition to human kind's pool of knowledge (Erm, plank-speck issues, Marston...?). And, all of this ended in a mild depression lamenting over my tendencies to get so irked by these small things that I can't even think straight and engage people in any sort of meaningful discussion in the process.

Episode 2: On campus Muslim and Christian "dialog."
"Off campus Muslim vs. Christian debate," being the redeemed, and much more desirable form of such an announcement, I was not originally sure if I'd attend. However, several friends would be there, and I thought I'd root for the team and see how we were presented before the public. I arrived a few minutes in advance and ran into a friend there who helps me with music for ICF sometimes. He's a real clean-cut looking kid, he's in the army, a solid, solid Christian, but not one who, at first glance, would strike you as the intellectual type.
I sit down next to him, and after having read handout by the professional, PhD holding, book-writing "renown friend of Muslims across the world" Christian, I voice concern over the direction the dialog might take. I found his hand-out both "wimpy" and "limp-wristed." A lady behind me overhears my comment, and makes a comment inviting a less than friendly retort (not like mine didn't). I turn and look at the women. She is every inch the visual embodiment of the older, liberal type woman who staunchly demands the ordaining of lesbian-pastors. I go into reaction mode again (Anger+2, IQ/2). Train of thought having derailed, I also start sputtering a bunch of nonsensical nonsense, trying to defend what I just said. My friend, the one I am sitting next to, turns to her and lets loose a deafening barrage of scripture and early church father stuff on the issue. Oh. I sit there in stunned silence watching this sophomore wield scripture like an ax.
So already this thing is off to a bad start. Though, possibly good - I am rightfully ashamed about some things - I'm ashamed of my inability to defend what I believe on the spot, because I've gotten soft, and over react. I got it into my head that debates are always pointless and never useful. Better to actually live one proverb than memorize 3 but never do them, right? Yes, but "I have hidden thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee." Anyway, 3 cheers to this kid for waking me up.
Anyway, the debate begins. It starts out on shaky ground, but I'm trying to give the speaker some credit. In the first cross inquiry (not "examination" that is too strong a word) the representative of Islam asks what the Christian believes is the place of science. To my great surprise, he gives a very good answer. "God commands us to be scientists" and he goes back to the garden, naming the animals, tending the garden, etc. He then explains that science is good insofar as it doesn't become our God. A+. However, that was the high point, and it was a long, long, very long way down from there. I was seriously wondering if I had swallowed a bottle of crazy pills before coming to this debate, because people just kept saying dumber and dumber things. Finally, when it was over, me and my friend ran gasping and choking for breath out of the building (it's been a while since I ran into a person with the same reactions to these sorts of things as myself). I then found out that his best friends are all in the army, serving in Iraq. He doesn't even want to be here at school, but that's where God has him and he's going to finish up his degree before heading over to be with his buddies. But he was from a community that had a large number of [pacifist Christian denomination members]'s living in it, and they were all telling him he was going to burn in hell if he joined the army. As a result, he spent a couple years digging through scriptures and reading early church history to get to the bottom of the matter, which culminated in a 50 page thesis on the topic his senior year.

Wow. New respect for this guy. I was originally extremely irritated by the dialog (ala Space Trilogy lecture, but with even more eye-rolling and gagging), but my interest his story quelled that and the evening ended up quite an enjoyable one.

Episode 3. [Very nice microphone company] representative visits PSU.
This was today. This man, a representative from one of the best microphone manufacturers on the market, was going to be talking about - bum ba da dum! - capsule design! This is my area! I can finally ask someone all the questions I've been wanting to ask! Most specifically, because I've been looking every where and haven't found a book or article that explains this great mystery, "why do some capsules have a center tap suppressing the 0-1 mode of diaphragm vibration." (If you look at the picture of the mic I disassembled, you can see it has a center tap as well).

I meet the guy before the lecture and ask him the question. He looks at me like he doesn't really know what I'm talking about. I grab the cut-away of of the 3000$ mic sitting on the table and say, "you know those mic's that have the taps right here??" I say, pointing my finger at the center of the diaphragm. "Oh yeah... those..." he says, sort of rubbing his beard. "It's to, ah... you know... increase damping, and stuff." Oh. "Oh, uh... is that all?" "Well you know, it colors the sound, and [insert more techno babble that people insert when they are hoping you will not understand them and just believe them]". "Ah... ok."

I then watch a presentation in which the guy throws around terms like "linearity", "frequency response", "noise floor"(oddly enough) and "dynamic range" as if these were interchangeable terms without any real meaning. We ended up getting the normal "here's why our product is better than theirs, + a bunch of techno stuff that they told me to say but I don't really know about."

Now, I love mics. They really make me tick! I even spend significant amounts of time thinking about them. (Yes, that is a little weird). And so, given how I reacted in the previous two episodes of "Tim hears a bunch of nonsense" you would think I would also get worked up about this one. But... strangely enough I didn't. I really liked the guy who presented. I was disappointed he couldn't answer my questions, but he can't know everything about everything. He was very knowledgeable about how their wireless systems work, and mic capsules just aren't his high point. I am irritated that the company didn't send someone who knew a lot about mic capsules to give a presentation mic capsules, but heck... you wouldn't want acoustics students to steal your idea patent-pending idea either. (Ironically, the microphones from this company work similar to how my Infrasonic Mic works - this was news to me, I didn't know that this technique was mainstream). Anyway, despite the light I cast the presentation in, it was actually enjoyable and he did the best job he could given his circumstances.

Episode 4. A very good Master's degree presentation by a student.
He was just presenting his research. During his research I saw something that I thought was wrong. At the end of his presentation (which was very well put together), I asked him about it. He knew exactly where my misconception was, and in a very friendly manner explained to me where it was coming from. Wow, I was impressed. Cool dude.

I guess that's the thing to learn from it all: when you really know your stuff, you aren't scared of the questions. Hmmm... that doesn't necessarily mean you won't get angry/irritated though. More thought to be done on this, but it's 1am

Thursday, March 20, 2008



Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

I was thinking today how Americans name mountains things like "Mt. Raineer, Mt. Stuart, Mt. Daniel, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood" etc, after the guy who might have climbed or logged it first.You kind of have to love the place inspite of dead boringness of the names.

Contrast that to... almost every other place in the world, where mountains are named things like Yulongxueshan, or Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. So named because it looks like the ridges on a dragon's back. Revered to the extent that only one group has ever been given permission to climb the [very high - 18400 ft] peak.

Here's some photos, I probably already posted them here but oh well, here they are again.