Less is More: Billie Davis 1969

“Nobody’s Home to Go Home To” was a 1969 B-side for Billie Davis that I have a weakness for. The bass playing is incredible and the song cleverly jumps between three keys, but the strings and backing vocals kind of take over the recording. I noticed this morning that they’re both panned hard right and the vocal is centered, so I got to work.

  • Dumped the right channel to make a mono track of the left, leaving all the essentials: drums, bass, piano, elec & acoustic guitars, a quiet organ, tambourine, and the vocal.
  • Made several surgical cuts to bass frequencies that took over the mix at points.
  • Mitigated some incidents of “breathing” and “pumping” in the breaks. This is where a compressor had turned up the gain while the band’s last note of a section was fading out. This can be done to great effect (after the snare hit at 0:21 in Elvis Costello’s “Busy Bodies”), but on this track it just sounded like a someone with coffee jitters was leaning on a fader, and it made the snare hits that preceded the following sections unnaturally loud.
  • Raised some high frequencies to bring some sparkle to the vocal
  • Added a tiny bit of stereo echo to widen the sound

In the result, you get a more interesting intro (IMO) and a tighter rhythm section, and you can actually hear the piano, the backbeat snaps of the electric guitar, what sounds like a low temple block on the snare hits, and Billie’s quiet falsettos at the end of the choruses.

Billie Davis – Nobody’s Home to Go Home To (mrclay.org mix)

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Here’s the original .

Maria Napoleon “Think of Rain”

Louis Philippe and Maria Napoleon put together a fine version of one of my favorite tunes. I usually don’t like covers that mess with the melody, but at the end of the choruses I really love how the vocal playfully jumps to what a high harmony might sing, if Margo Guryan had written one in. I’ll have to check out the compilation this is on, “Simultaneous Ice Cream“.

You Are Not So Smart

The Misconception: You are a rational, logical being who sees the world as it really is.

The Truth: You are as deluded as the rest of us, but that’s OK, it keeps you sane.

You Are Not So Smart is a blog devoted to self delusion and irrational thinking.

And it’s great.

The latest post is about on Subjective Validation, “a fancy way of saying you are far more vulnerable to suggestion when the subject of the conversation is you.”

The tendency to believe vague statements designed to appeal to just about anyone is called the Forer Effect, and psychologists point to this phenomenon to explain why people fall for pseudoscience like biorhythms, iridology and phrenology or mysticism like astrology, numerology and tarot cards.

The last was on Confirmation Bias, which explains the success of political echo chambers and why racism and xenophobia will always be with us; humans are wired to ignore evidence outside their preconceived beliefs.

In the last few years I’ve been taking stabs at my own confirmation bias, seeking out the best arguments and evidence from those I might be inclined to disagree with. While there are a tremendous number of pundits making baseless assertions, especially on the radio and television—mastery of confirmation bias is a winning strategy—there are just as many great writers and thinkers across the political spectrum with worthwhile arguments.

Other great posts:

  • The Just-World Fallacy – People don’t “get what they deserve”
  • Fines – The effect of removing the social cost of undesired behavior

Cheers for Ruins

If you too love urban ruins, Opacity.us has awesome photography of abandoned hospitals, churches, libraries, factories—you name it—with all structures well categorized and documented. Don’t miss the wallpaper.

A decent Gainesville find is in the woods directly South of where Shealy Dr. ends. My coworkers and I used to walk the mile along Shealy Dr. and Ritchy Rd. every day and I finally convinced them it was a Great Idea to explore the trail into the woods where Shealy Dr. ends. It runs South along the edge of the open field and down to Bivens Arm, but if you head Southwest when you see water you’ll come across an abandoned brick house in the middle of the woods. The roof is caved in and kids have spray painted pentagrams and nonsense on the walls, but still awesome. A trail also heads West along the North side of Bivens Arm.

I just got life insurance; who’s up for some misguided exploring and documentation of “Satan House”?

Call it “SecondOpinion”

The creators of StackOverflow should team up with the Dept. of Health & Human Services and launch a medical Q&A site based on the SO model.

StackOverflow was designed by a few programmers to scratch an itch within the community, and the model they came up with made it the most effective question/answer site I’ve ever used. Got a really, really tough programming question? You can probably get a half dozen answers in 5 or 10 minutes, and if you wait a day, you can see them ranked by quality by several programmers within your field.

As medical professionals contributed answers, comments, and votes in their spare time, a medical version of SO would quickly turn into an amazing resource for public health.

It might require some tweaking. SO users are generally in the same community, though sometimes different specialties. This makes it easier to design behavior-reinforcing tricks to keep user contributing. Every time I get a question answered I almost always end up taking a few minutes to provided input to other questions, and I earn points and “badges” for contributing (what other users deem as) good info.

On a medical Q&A site the advice takers and givers are mostly exclusive communities, but I think professionals would still contribute, and we could create ways to encourage them. Medical schools could require students to earn points on the site; we could reward consistently good contributors financially or with real awards.

The Quickening of Facebook

If you’ve used Facebook in Opera and Firefox, you might have noticed that Facebook is several magnitudes faster in FF, but this has nothing to do with FF’s speed. For FF and IE users, Facebook uses a client-side architecture called “Quickening” that basically makes a few popular pages into full AJAX applications that stay loaded in the browser for a long time. All transitions between “quickened” pages are done through AJAX calls and a cache system makes sure all pages displayed from cache are updated based on changes from the server (e.g. comments others made, ad rotation) or client (e.g. comments you made).

While other sites have certainly done this before, the complexity of Facebook’s apps and level of optimization performed is staggering. The system continuously self-monitors page performance and usage of resources and re-optimizes resources like JS/CSS/sprite images to send and receive as few bytes as possible.

Video presentation goodness: Velocity 09: David Wei and Changhao Jiang, “Frontend Performance Engineering in Facebook”

Bring on Skate 2

Before EA skate was on the horizon I started a post about how the THPS series was no longer cutting it, but I never got around to posting it.

While they’ve obviously done something right, THPS has never been about realism and I think there are plenty of players (probably mostly skaters) who’re looking for a more challenging simulation-like experience. The Project 8 trailer gave me some hope (tricks are done at more realistic heights, with more accurate board motion and foot placements), but the interviews seem to confirm that gameplay isn’t going to change much.

It didn’t, nor did THPG.

Grinds/slides should slow you down depending on the materials in contact; board slides on handrails should be quickening, grinds on an unwaxed concrete planter should slow you down quite a bit but still give a satisfying growl.

Landing tough tricks should be harder and depend more on your speed, energy, timing and the environment; rough, uneven, slick or wet surfaces should require more precise moves, and deep sidewalk cracks, metal gratings, handrail kinks should add a little risk of random board-stopping. You should get a real sense of accomplishment even landing a short run.

A spot shouldn’t be a collection of grinds/slides linked one after another for miles. You might have to maneuver around some tight corners while setting up for a handrail. Spots should be laid out naturally, but inspire creative lines instead of spelling them out. School 2 (THPS2) still stands out as a great level in this respect.

EA skate really pulled most of this off. It feels like real skateboarding (enough to give me that fix when you finally land a line after trying for hours) and has spots that look natural environments. After experiencing skate, THPG looks like a cartoon world where every surface was a quarter pipe. As for skate 2, the trailers still look like real skating and it seems they’ve only extended (not screwed with) the gameplay, but the city’s starting to look a little cartoonish.

Thanks, Recuva

Recuva is a drop-dead simple Windows file recovery program [aside 1] that just saved me two hours of work. I was trying to reorganize some directories and ended up deleting two freshly written PHP files [2]. I’ve used about a half-dozen file recovery apps over the years due to my affliction [3], but Recuva was the most intuitive by far. Within 30 seconds I opened the program for the first time and closed it with my recovered files saved.

I tried to write a little review on download.com, but their Javascript was too broken for Opera.

[1] DOS’s “undelete.exe“, as crummy as it was, was the only reason ever to miss Win9x.

[2] Subversion lesson: Don’t commit directory renames/moves at the same time as modifications to descendant files/folders. Commit the rename, breathe, commit the rest.

[3] The shortcut geek in me developed the terrible habit of using [secret key]+[Delete] to delete a file, bypassing the Recycle Bin (if you don’t already know this key combination, don’t look it up; forget it existed; I wish I could).

9/6 update: Recuva just recovered 62G of Kathleen’s stuff from a failing external drive. OSX couldn’t mount it and a supposedly more heavy-duty Windows recovery app I tried couldn’t open the drive either.