Showing posts from February, 2017
I learn new things every time I volunteer for a research study. Today, I learned that neuroimaging researchers have no idea how the fMRI works.

Oh, they're aware that there's a very large magnet in it, and that the people who paid for the very large magnet said NO METAL IN THE MRI ROOM in equally large block capitals. Beyond that they don't really have any idea. They know they're measuring brain activity, and I think some of them know what marker they're using (blood flow), but they don't appear to know by what arcane sorcery big magnet + blood = animated GIF of the brain.

[Hemoglobin is magnetically susceptible. Only very, very faintly, hence the mad scientist-grade 4T magnet in the MRI scanner. Hemoglobin that's carrying oxygen has a slightly different response than hemoglobin that's already dropped it off, and brain regions that are active get an influx of the oxygenated stuff. Awesomely powerful, but also awesomely picky, and if you don't do the…

Monday Mystery: PCM Adapters

This week is merely a minor personal mystery, whose solution I have recently run across by accident.

I am plagued with endless mental snippets and snapshots of... cruft, really. Data that I encountered at some point and inexplicably decided to store forever. Most people have this to some extent, I think; mine are just occasionally vivid enough for me to analyze consciously. Sometimes that helps me figure out where to look to ID the image, sometimes it doesn't.

I am particularly attuned to things that look 'wrong'. Again, a thing that most people experience -- human brains are great at patterns and even more great at being annoyed when a pattern doesn't complete correctly. My sense of 'wrong' can be subtle sometimes, and half the time I have to dig it out by working backwards from what the wrongness reminds me of and then figuring out what other things remind me of that. It works not unlike my various synesthesias, which means it's probably technically anoth…

Weekly Album: Shiina Ringo - 無罪モラトリアム [Muzai Moratorium]


Weekly Watch: Techmoan's Retro Tech

Techmoan is sort of a general tech channel on YouTube, but the host has a charming obsession with weird lost audio and video formats. He's even managed to get hold of some I hadn't heard of before, which is impressive, considering I've loaded the Dead Media Project Archive into my head a few times now. He goes to the trouble of recording bits off of YouTube's free use music archive to demo a lot of the formats, which is nice, although YouTube encoding itself sort of smashes the brilliance of a lot of high-resolution formats.

Monday Mystery: The Vanished Prodigy

Barbara Newhall Follett was writing poetry before most children would even be enrolled in kindergarten. By twelve, she was a published novelist. By twenty-two, she was a bride. And by twenty-six, she had vanished completely.

Follett was awash in the written word before most children even knew their ABCs. Her father, Wilson Follett, was eventually the author of the posthumously-published descriptivist tome Modern American Usage. (The manuscript was largely in draft stage upon his death, but friends who read it thought it was too wonderful to go unreleased.) At eight she was hard at work on her first novel, The House Without Windows; after its publication, at the tender age of twelve, she went on to write The Voyage of the Norman D, released when she was sixteen. Both books were critically-acclaimed, and Follett became a celebrated prodigy of the literary world.

Outside the world in her novels, however, all was not well. In 1928, when Follett was 14, her beloved father announced he woul…

Weekly Album: Tokio Hotel - Zimmer 483

Curiosity got the better of me again, and I went out to try to investigate why the hell people are so fascinated by television shows about 600 lb humans.

I should know better than to do this. I always just end up wondering how people get into such goddamn stupid arguments.

Body image issues are always something I have to approach like an alien anthropologist. I have plenty of problems, but hating the mirror is not one of them. I ran into a picture of Mae West when I was maybe eleven or twelve and thought to myself, "I want to look like that when I grow up." And lo, for it came to pass. I am wasp-waisted and hourglassy. It's not necessarily the fashionable shape of the day, but neither does anyone complain at me about it. Nothing fits quite right when I buy it, but when your problem is "I always have to take the waist in several inches," you don't get a lot of sympathy.

Worrying about weight is especially weird to me. I don't normally know exactly what I…

Weekly Watch: The Oddity Archive

The Oddity Archive is a running YouTube show spotlighting weird old media tech, with bonus snark and bad puns. This show isn't specifically about video games; the host talks more about obsolete video and audio formats, past trends in television programming and services, incidents and failures of the medium, and the occasional side trip into things like talking board games. There are about 200 videos, including his minisodes and various digressions into commentary that didn't make it into finished episodes, so you can binge for quite a while.

Monday Mystery: Lyle Stevik

On September 14, 2001, a young man checked into a nondescript motel in Amanda Park, Washington. He signed the register as Lyle Stevik. He had no credit card, but the clerk decided he looked harmless enough, and allowed him to rent the room without one. The desk heard from him only once more, when he asked to change rooms to escape the noise from a nearby trailer park. On the 15th, he was seen pacing up and down the nearby highway, perhaps agitated. On the 16th, the hotel maid offered to clean his room; he declined, although he did ask for more towels.

On the 17th, the maid knocked and received no response. She entered the room and found him, hanged from the closet rod with his own belt. On the nightstand, he left $160 with a note that said "for the room". In the wastebasket was a copy of the Sunday paper, and another note that simply said "SUICIDE". The investigators described it as looking somehow experimental, as if he were trying to remember how to spell it.

He …

Weekly Album: L'Arc~en~Ciel - YouTube mix


Official Kickstarter Announcement, WHEEEEEEE!!

Since I seem to have narrowed my career prospects down to "things I like that happen on a schedule that I can sustain", I've gone about trying to figure out how to start doing them with a budget of zero. It turns out that this is only really possible when I'm doing them for my own amusement. If I'm making them into a commercial venture, other people quite rightly want to be paid -- and even the ones that on the fence about it (ANNUSHKA) get offered money, because I am allergic to asking artists to work for free.

So I turned to Kickstarter.

As most of you know, I've been fooling around with dance hoops for a few years. I picked it up initially because the first thing everyone tells you when you're underemployed is 'don't let yourself sit idle', and I wanted society to shut up. Plus the circus performers looked neat. I found a dance studio that paid volunteers with banked rehearsal time, bought a $5 fitness hoop at Marshall's (and later cadg…

Weekly Watch: Brian Molko Interview

Yes, I can be obsessive. Hush.

I thought this was a particularly interesting watch, because it's by far the most relaxed interview I've ever seen Molko do. The lady doing the interview, Emma Blackery, isn't a journalist -- she's a YouTube face. She has a lifestyle channel and a personal vlog, and has had some minor success as a musician. I have no idea how she ended up talking with them, but given that she's a screaming fan of theirs and her accent is local to the studio where the broadcast they're promoting is being filmed, it was probably a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and remembering to answer her email.

Blackery's lack of experience is relevant here because it means she doesn't actually know what her job is. She's so new, she thinks she's supposed to go have a conversation with the famous person. You can get away with that if you're interviewing someone for a magazine -- you can go down the pub and have a couple …
You know how, if people find out you enjoy something you have a talent for, they like to tell you to "follow your dream"? They give you this advice on the assumption that the terrible consequence of not doing that is that you will have a tedious mundane life in which you will always wonder if you could have made it. The dichotomy there is 'stay safe' vs 'challenge yourself', with a side order of 'you can always go back to being boring and normal if you totally bomb'.

Nobody ever gives you career advice for when the arts are your only option. I assume there was some at some point, but it was discontinued when 'circus freak' stopped being the only choice that won out over 'sidewalk match-seller' and 'homeless beggar' as the prestige career for the terminally different. Although, I seem to have accidentally run away from home and joined the circus already, so maybe there's still some merit in that plan.

I try not to post too m…

Monday Mystery: L'Oiseau Blanc

On the 8th of May, 1927, François Coli and Charles Nungesser -- two French aviators, both aces in the dogfights of WWI -- took off from Paris en route to New York City. They flew a Levasseur PL.8 they called L'Oiseau Blanc, a biplane purpose-built for the task, in the hopes of winning the $25,000 prize for the first non-stop transatlantic flight between the two cities. They were escorted to the coast by French fighter planes, logged by a British submarine off the Isle of Wight, and spotted over the Irish towns of Dungarvan and Carrigaholt.

The biplane took off heavy, with a full load of fuel that should have given it 42 hours of flight time, enough to reach the Atlantic coast of North America. As the estimated time of arrival came near, thousands of people crowded onto the waterfront and into places like Battery Park, where they would be able to see the planned water landing in front of the Statue of Liberty. Rumors had been swirling of L'Oiseau Blanc being sighted over Nova S…

Weekly Album: Prince - YouTube Top Tracks

My trip to the urgent care clinic got me, in addition to some pretty decent drugs and a set of X-rays done by a tech who also has EDS run in her family, a referral to Sports Medicine over at a nearby hospital. I never in a thousand years would have thought to ask for that. Sports medicine is for people who do, you know, sport... type... things. Right? I just dance. Maybe a lot. Like an hour a day. Or so. Plus I'm at the studio twice a week. And I'm starting to pick up students. Someone recently asked my rates. Unprompted.

Shit. I'm not good at this, okay? My computers can all update themselves without supervision, I don't know why I can't.

I did tell the doctor at the urgent care that I was aware that I should stay active so that my joints didn't rattle around quite so much, and that to that end I'd taken up dancing. The referral to SM suggests that she took "dancer" and filled in "serious" or possibly "professional" on her own…
It is a bizarre fact of life that, if you click on a documentary on YouTube and let it autoplay through for long enough, it will eventually try to serve up a television program about a fat person. I have no idea why this is, other than "because internet". It's not exactly my favorite sort of reality TV pap -- I watch lurid true crime shows, myself -- but I do occasionally let it run through out of sheer curiosity.

I categorically refuse to get into any fat acceptance/Health At Any Size discussions here, except to comment that, while I am absolutely positive that fat people are people and should be treated as such, I am getting less and less sure about reality TV producers. The two most common thoughts I have while watching these things are, "Who the fuck thought it was a good idea to put this on the air?" and "Is it possible to reach backwards through space and time to punch the insensitive jackass presenting this program?"

The third thing I think, as…

Weekly Watch: Big Clive

Video feed: this into your head to: Learn a hell of a lot about electrical engineering and how much battery manufacturers lie.
I spotlighted this channel in my frail attempt to post a bunch of nice things at the end of 2016, but here it is again. Big Clive is a large bearded Isle-'o-Mander, né Glasgwegian, who loves taking gadgets to bits to see what's inside of them, and "testing" cheap Chinese eBay crap until it catches fire. I love him to death.

If you binge long enough, you'll learn many things about Clive. He used to spend summers on the Isle of Man, he moved there to help care for his ailing mother, he has a fine appreciation for whiskey and Guinness. He set quite a lot of things on fire, or nearly so, as a wee bairn electrical engineer before wising up. He orders his cheap Chinese eBay crap in pink whenever he can, because it amuses him.

One of the most charming things you'll learn is that Clive loves thing…