Two-armed typing, MP3 fidelity testing

The arm is slowly healing. Have discovered that if I take off the sling I can use the right arm to hoist the left onto the laptop keyboard, where it receives enough support to allow me to type two-handed. I can’t do it for a long time, but it will help me dig out of the backlog and start getting productive again. One-handed typing is NOT 50% of two-handed typing, because you have to move your arm back and forth over the keyboard and have to look at all the keys. Two-handed is about four or five times faster for me.

Mike and I have been talking about finally coming to an unambiguous conclusion about optimum MP3 bitrates – we want to find the rate at which MP3 is indistinguishable from the source CD. Neither of us are tolerant of MP3 compression artifacts and neither of us care about keeping files small enough to trade over the net – we just want as much compression as we can get without compromising a drop of fidelity.

I’ve done some experiments before, but we’re going to do this one right. He brought over some of his best hi-fi selections, including some of the RCA Living Presence stuff. I contributed three of my own favorite fidelity test tracks, and used my little TestEnc script to encode six sample tracks at a variety of bitrates with the lame encoder. Then I burned those tracks back to audio CD. This returns them to PCM, but with the compression losses now built in.

The weak link in the chain is Be’s built-in decoder which I’m forced to use to translate from MP3 back to PCM when burning the disc. It’s based on blade, which is OK, but definitely not the best, and certainly not what I would use for a test like this given my druthers. If I suspect it’s getting in the way, I may have to do this in Windows with CDex or something that lets me choose the decoder.

Before burning, I randomized the track orders and printed out a key listing all the actual bitrates. Folded this up and sealed it. I also printed out track lists w/o bitrates and we’ll use those to write notes about our impressions. Tonight I’ll take these to his house and listen to them on his system, skipping around between the track variations and making notes. We’ll see how the notes compare to the key page.

OK Soda, Baffler, Hermenaut

Anyone remember this soda? It appeared on the market for about six months in the mid 90s and then promptly disappeared. Today I saw a reference to it on my favorite news and culture site Plastic.com:

http://www.plastic.com/article.pl?sid=01/06/29/1729221

Only to discover that the reference is due to the recent appearance of an article by my old Boston friend Josh Glenn in the Baffler:

http://www.thebaffler.com/glenn.html

Way to go Josh – you got plasticized! Very good article, too. But The Baffler competes with Glenn’s own magazine Hermenaut (www.Hermenaut.com), which, incidentally, used to be hosted at my site birdhouse.org. Sleeping with the enemy again Josh?

Tow truck

CycleTow just came and hauled away my bike to evaluate whether it’s totalled or repairable. Seeing it in the light of day, it’s more messed up than I thought. The subframe is tweaked, which may tip the scales toward totalled. So sad to see it being hauled off like that. Like watching a best buddy move away or something.

Such a beautiful morning… I should be going for a ride. Sigh.

a blur

Have spent the last five days mostly on the couch, in a blur of vicodin and movie rentals. Here’s what I’ve seen in the past few days:

Alfaville – Godard
The Harder They Come – Jimmy Cliff
Wonder Boys
Reefer Madness
Bamboozled
Twisted Obsession
Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie – Bunuel
One Day in September – 1972 Olympic terrorists
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
The Ladies Man – ugh

DVDs from the Criterion collection are so great. The Bunuel documentary on Discrete Charm was fantastic, as was the commentary on Harder They Come.

Getting so frustrated not being able to do anything. Even small things like washing the dishes are minor triumphs. Last night I “escaped” from my sling somehow and woke up wiyh my arm above my head somehow. No wonder it’s so sore now. Will have to cinch myself in tighter tonight. I’m so ready for this whole thing to be over and have my life back, but there’s much more pennance to pay.

Have been reading developer materials on groove.net. Much learning to do before I can be useful to them.

Paying the piper

It finally happened — I pushed it too far on the bike and bought the farm. Mike and i took a ride out Redwood Rd. to go to a gear shop in Castro Valley. Had a great Mexican lunch. On way back, we were really flying – felt so good to be on familiar twisties again. Was thinking how nice it is that the bike is finally all broken in and that I’ve found my zen with it.

Was in a decreasing radius left-hander doing about 45 when the turn suddenly got much tighter. Cranked it over harder, but started to freak out when I realized I was getting too close to a drainage ditch at edge of road. Because I couldn’t lean any farther with confidence, I should have been pushing down sideways on the bars to eek out a few more ounces of angle. Instead, I panicked and tapped the front brake. That’s all it took to stand it up, which sent me straight into the ditch.

Rambled through the ditch for a few feet, then the front tire bounced out and caused the bike to catch air and sail back toward the road. Bike came down nose first at an angle and i went head first over the handlebars. Had a moment to think about how to roll. Landed on my left shoulder and elbow, plus side of helmet. The bike came crashing down behind me with an evil, expensive sounding noise.

I immediately jumped to my feet and out of the road, then realized the bike was at the end of a blind curve and liable to be run into by a car or to become an obstacle for another bike. I went to it and grabbed the handlebars and tried to lift it. As soon as I pulled, I felt a rippling run through my upper left arm and something felt like it was out of place. The pain was pretty intense and I sat down on the side of the road. Everything was chaos. Realized later that I probably started the arm fracture in the crash but actually broke it trying to lift the bike.

Mike had been right in front of me, and though I knew he couldn’t see it happen, I knew he would turn around soon and come find me. Minutes later, another biker stopped to help me out. He was able to get my bike out of the road and to a pullout on the other side. It looked pretty messed up. Another guy showed up, then another. Some bicyclists were there. I started to come out of shock and was sweating like a pig. One guy had some medical experience and did some coherence and visual tests – I was fine, or at least didn’t have a concussion. But the pain in my upper arm was really starting to kick in. A bicyclist gave me 800mg of ibuprofen. Had a few sips of water.

Somewhere in the middle of all this someone rode down to the ranger station to call the paramedics. They arrived 15 minutes later followed by the CHP. More questions and more tests, then climbed into the back of the ambulance — first ambulance ride. CHP wrote up an incident report.

Went to Alta Bates emergency room where the interminable waiting began. Was in there for hours. Finally took x-rays. Big fracture running diagonally across my left humerus. Amazingly though, everything is in tact and in alignment. Doc predicts it will heal nicely but will take time.

Amy and Mike showed up around 10:30. Mike had taken care of having the bike towed down off the mtn. Amy had been teaching and saw Mike arrive with tow truck. She was worried sick. She has always been so worried for me and this is the last thing I wanted to put her through. But she was a trooper.

Finally got sent home with a splint and sling, a bottle of vicodin, and a prescription. Had fertility duty, then slept fitfully. Today it’s all still sinking in, what it means to be pattially disabled for the next 8 weeks, what I did wrong, how it could have been avoided.. Every little thing is a goddam hassle now (like buttoning my pants), and I need to start making money. Life is so weird. Went to see orthopedist and he said I wouldn’t need a full cast — just the sling and another x-ray in 12 days.

Pretty ironic that I just finished a 3500 mile ride without incident, then all this happens on a 50 mile afternoon jaunt. Helmet will probably have to be replaced. Jacket is deeply gouged but still viable. Aerostitch looks fine. Protective gear saved my life today. Head would have been smashed open without the helmet. Bike will need quite a bit of work and I can’t afford that until I’m working again. I won’t be riding for a while. May even make a bigger decision about riding. Can I trust myself to reign it in?

I’ve typed this out one-handed, hunt and peck. It has taken a long time. I’ll have to get used to it.

Time passes swiftly by

Let me respectfully remind you,
Life and death
Are of supreme importance.
Time passes swiftly by
And opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken.
Awaken!
Take heed:
Do not squander your life.

– The Evening Gatha

Turning Point

BYTE ran a piece I wrote two weeks ago:

Turning Point for Be, Users

about the BeOS situation as it stands… just how bad it is, who should keep using and why, etc. Ignited quite a firestorm on BeNews, but most people didn’t begrudge my position… most agreed with it. A few flames, easily extinguished. The weird thing was that I got messages from old Be engineers and employees… people I hadn’t heard from for quite a while writing to commiserate, and to remember what it used to be like. Interesting that they’re still following Be after all this time, long after they’ve moved on personally. BeOS gets under you skin that way. People are never the same after they start using. Was kind of nice reconnecting with an older segment of the community.

Between that and the recent “Adamation leaves the BeOS scene” announcement I had to write, I feel like a Benedict Arnold. Except that I’m not a traitor – I’ve done everything in my power to keep things alive. Why there were never dozens of journalists on the BeOS beat is still a mystery to me. I shouldn’t have been alone.

Anyway, it just amazes me that there are people today who think I’m being unfairly harsh on Be. “They’re going through hard times. You shouldn’t be so callous.”

For godssake people, open your eyes.

In Absentia

Went to see the new Brothers Quay film In Absentia with Amy and Amy after work, preceded by five other Quay shorts. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched any of their stuff. This was a big departure from their earlier works. More live action, less puppeteering. About a woman in a room writing over and over again in these tiny, cramped, heavy loops, nothingness onto a page over and over again, breaking pencil leads with her heavy hand and placing the stubs on the windowsill. Eerie soundtrack by Stockhausen which I loved but the Amys hated. Took a while to shift gears. Brain still in work mode through most of the first shorts, then I slowed down and got into it more. Felt really good to get out of the office and into the theater, especially to see something more abstract.

Broccoli of the Subgenius

Picked up a used copy of the Book of the Subgenius at a garage sale to replace my decades old, dog-eared copy. Tried to watch Conceiving Ada, but it was so badly acted and so corny we had to quit after 20 minutes. I’d love to learn the story of Ada Lovelace, but those filmmakers should be ashamed. Ended up watching some of Short 6 instead.

arenacross

Took off early from work (well, 6) and went to the Oakland Arena with Mike to check out the arena cross — sort of the “superbowl of motorcross.” What they do is take a basketball court and fill it with dirt, then make this ridiculously torturous, windy whoop-de-doo track and pack it down. Kids and 20-somethings from all over the state race 125 and 250cc motocross bikes around, spending a full 1/3 of their time in the air. The jumps are absolutely insane. A 30 foot take-off run in 1st or 2nd gear off a 12-foot jump, and they sail in these perfect arcs halfway down the court, land and brake suddenly, hairpin turn, then two or three medium size jumps on the way back, a run of small whoop-dees, and back into the main jump. Over and over again.

I don’t know what they burn in those things, but the smell of dozens of two-stroke engines buzzing with this whiny noise and pooting out this acrid chemical smell. It smelled so bad and so brain damaging I can’t even believe they did it indoors. Afterwards we could taste the chemicals in our mouths it was so foul.

There was also a class of 65cc bikes ridden by 7 to 11 year olds. Cute, but not nearly as daring. They just roll over the jumps. Would have been more exciting if one of those kids were mine. In fact it seemed like half the audience was composed of friends and family of the racers.

I was hoping for a real white trash experience, but it was kind of ho hum. Graceful to watch, but it got boring pretty quickly, and there just wasn’t enough space to make for a good race. Whoever hit the first turn first always won. Wish they had trotted out more spectacle — big boobie babes, show-off stunts, etc. Think we’ll have to go to a monster truck rally for that.

$8 for parking
$6 for a beer
$4.50 for what they straight facedly call “nachos”
$27 for the ticket with all those absurd ticketmaster “service” charges (what f*cking service?)

Kinda fun, kinda gross.