Evil Red Light

I am in love with my Macbook that I bought a few months ago on grahams recommendation; it is so much fun to use that half of the time I feel like it is a toy. Last night, I was pretty bummed out because my toy broke.

When I left the lab yesterday, I banged my headphones that were plugged in while I was picking up stuff from my desk. I didn't think anything of it until I busted out the computer last night and I couldn't get the sound to work from the internal speakers. Looking in the sound preference pane, the digital output was selected, not the internal speakers and there was a red light coming out of the headphone jack. It turns out that the headphone jack is not just a headphone jack, but can double as a digital optical out if you have that hooked up to your jack. I must have somehow hit the sensor when I banged the headphones and stuck it on optical out mode.

Apparently this is a common problem, because if you google '"red light" macbook' you get a million forum posts about it. The first thing suggested on the forums that I tried was just plugging and unplugging my headphones from the jack which did not fix the problem. The other common recommendation was to try to mess with the switch by sticking a toothpick in the jack and hitting the sensor that is in the "6 or 7 o'clock position". That is a great tip if you know where 12 o'clock is. I incorrectly assumed that they were using the headphone icon above the jack as 12 o'clock, but it turns out they were using that as 3 o'clock. Anyway, after banging on the sensor for a little while with a toothpick, the problem appears to be fixed; I've plugged in and unplugged my headphones repeatedly; the red light turns on for a second if I am playing sound, but turns off. I'm not sure if this is the normal behavior or not.

Anyway, here is a more detailed explanation in case someone on the web runs into the same problem and can't fix it by just plugging in and unplugging their headphones or randomly poking about in there with a toothpick. There are four sensors in the jack. Centering yourself as the headphone jack icon being 12 o'clock, there are sensors on the outer rim of the jack at 12, 3 and 9 o'clock. Those are the sensors that detect if you have headphones plugged into the jack. Deeper in the jack behind the 3 o'clock sensor there is another sensor which is, I assume, the sensor to figure out if you have a device taking the digital optical out plugged in. If you press that deeper 3 o'clock sensor with a toothpick and bang on it eventually you should be able to unstick it. It helps if you play a song or something that makes sound while you do this, because it turns on the digital optical out and you can see what you are doing. The light will go out if you are successful in unsticking the sensor. Hooray for you!

Survival Instinct

I had a dream last night where I was in a building that was getting attacked by paramilitary people or something like that-- at one point I wound up fighting for my life with one of the guys and, surprisingly, winning. Right after that I woke up.

Because of the dream, I started thinking about the Virginia Tech shootings, and I was wondering why nobody did anything. Okay, I can understand that it is surprising that Cho popped into the room and started firing. Fine, everyone is scared and they just froze up-- for round one I can understand that. But in some of the classrooms, he left and then came back in and kept firing and still nobody did anything. I never read a single article where there was a report of someone rushing him and getting shot. I even read one account where someone hiding heard him stop firing to reload, and still nobody got up and attacked him in the two seconds or so that he reloaded. Also it wasn't like he was rolling in there with a fully automatic weapon-- he had a glock 9. A pistol!

I can completely understand hiding under a desk basically hoping that he doesn't pick you to get shot as a first survival instinct. But when he then starts walking around executing everyone, it is amazing to me that nobody came up with an alternate plan. Especially when he kills a bunch of people, [i]leaves the room[/i] and comes back.

So in case you are in a similar situation in the future-- if some guy with a pistol comes into your work or whatever and starts shooting people, just wait until he is shooting someone and then go rush him.

Random

I am looking for a device that will do something to generate a random number for me, notify me, but not be obvious about what it is doing. I am thinking of some kind of wristwatch that will randomly vibrate or something to tap me.

When playing a hand of poker it will often be that there is a choice which is clearly not correct, a choice which is probably the best choice and a choice which is okay but not the best choice. When playing against good players, it is important to not do the correct thing sometimes, in order to defeat their ability to figure out what you have based on your actions. When playing at home against a good player I do things like roll a 20 sided die and then play the okay but not best choice if it is a 4 or less or whatever I deem a good mix-up-percentage to be. However when I play live obviously I can't bring my die out and roll it. However I also do not want to do something like look at the second hand at a watch or whatever since it will become obvious I am mixing my play up just to mix it up.

The only solution that I have come up with that would do what I want is if I recorded my computer saying numbers 1-20 every few seconds, recorded it to an ipod and listened to it at the table. This would also be a way to keep the timing of my actions constant.

It would be a lot more convenient to have something to wear, not listen to. Any ideas?

Concentration

I have a vested interest in being able to measure some things about myself objectively. Right now I have a few lame ways of doing the things on this list, but I thought I would throw this out there to my livejournal to see if anyone knew of anything on the web or any sort of computer program that would do it in a quicker, more automated fashion for me.

I would like to be able to measure these things about myself while I am playing poker:

a) how tired I am
b) how emotional I am
c) how well I am paying attention

I realize that all three of those things intertwine, but some of them can exist without the other ones so they are all separate as well. It seems like there should be some sort of web app to measure at least a) and maybe all three. Right now here is how I measure all three.

a) I count backwards from 100 to 0 by threes and time myself before I play. And then later on if I remember to do it or if I am inclined to do it, I do it again. The problem with this is it is a pain to do and I have to stop what I am doing to do it. It works, though. If I am very emotional though, I will never do this.

b) The only way I do this is I have a timer that rings a bell and every three minutes I just kind of do a self-check and ask myself if I am emotional. The problem with this is I just ignore the bell if I am emotional and do not do the self-check.

c) I just try to catch myself if I am getting distracted and then I stop playing if I am getting distracted. Obviously, if I fail to catch myself then I simply continue to stop paying attention.

Really, what I want is some kind of application that would hopefully detect a problem before I could detect it with my current methods. Like, my counting backwards from 100 by 3, I only detect something once it becomes a big problem, since the method is fairly noisy so I only detect large differences. Also with emotions, obviously, I only detect an emotional problem after I feel the emotion and I do not detect an impending problem. So after I am already upset I detect I am upset and then I have already done something while I was upset which is a mistake. And once I am distracted and I catch myself I have already played while distracted which is also a mistake.

I feel like definitely for a) there should be some sort of web app where there is a task to do that times you to figure out how tired yo are. I don't know, maybe it tests your reflexes or something, I'm not sure what. But I haven't been able to find anything the several times I have searched on google. The other two it is kind of hard to think of where to begin looking for something to perform those sort of self-checks. But it would be awesome to have some simple kind of tests to do that might pick things up before they actually happen.

The problem with the way I do things now is that they only catch things after the fact, and after things happen your judgement is affected; like after you are already tired/upset/etc your judgement about whether or not you are tired/upset is off because you are tired/upset so you can get into a loop where you keep playing because you are not even aware you are tired/upset because you are tired/upset. And sometimes it is hard to stop playing when you are tired or upset simply because you are tired or upset! It is a very crafty loop which can be expensive if you do not catch it as early as possible. I have a bunch of safety nets to try to make sure this does not happen but from time to time it still happens, so I am always looking for more improved ways of keeping it from happening.

So.... Anyone have any suggestions?

Leaving Early

Yesterday, grahams invited me to the Red Sox game so of course I went. At the top of the ninth inning we were down by one run; so in case you are totally clueless about baseball like I was as of last year that means we have one more chance to bat before the game is over. So of course, there are groups of people who... leave and go home early? I mean I understand that you don't want to wait in traffic or whatever, but you a) bought the ticket which is a pain in the ass because getting Red Sox tickets is a project in and of itself b) came all of the way out to the park c) waited in traffic to get to the park and d) watched the whole god damn game which was a back and forth game full of drama... can't you wait ten minutes and watch one half of an inning?

I mean, the whole point of going to a baseball game is to see something awesome and exciting happen. And something awesome doesn't happen in the first inning or the second inning. The awesome things that happen, that really pump people up, that people get totally psyched about and go crazy about, are exactly this thing. Down by one run, bottom of the ninth inning. The chips are down, the Boston Red Sox, will they pull it out? The big drama. The come back win! Will they do it?!?! This is what you paid your ticket for, to get some excitement, some drama! And here it is, they are providing the exact opportunity for it to occur because the Red Sox are down by one and it is going to be the bottom of the ninth inning. And you leave.

Anyway, it was the bottom of the Red Sox order, so our noobs were up. The first two got out. Then my man, Youkilis got up and did what he does best: watch two strikes go by very calmly even though there are two outs and the entire stadium is screaming at him to swing at the ball. The whole game he watched 17 pitches go by and he swung at four of them. His philosophy about hitting is this: why swing at strikes that are not good ones to hit, since you will probably just get a bad hit and get out anyway, you might as well just take the strike and hope the pitcher throws a ball the next time or a strike that you can hit better. I love him. He watched two more pitches go by which were both balls, but barely. He was not afraid, with the entire stadium screaming at him, to simply watch a pitch go past to strike him out for the loss. Did I mention that I love him? The next pitch he actually swung and got a single. Then a couple pitches later Mark Loretta hit a walk off homerun to win the game. And the entire stadium went absolutely nuts. Fenway Park after the Red Sox pull of something like that is a sight to see; the place goes completely wild.

That is why you don't leave early.

More Music

So, I found some music I was looking for, and I figured out where Squarepusher and those guys are not doing their job, I think. I have been listening to The Well Tempered Clavier by Bach. Go here and click on the links on the left to listen to it. It is amazing. It is very simple in that it is just a piano playing, but it is very musically complex and completely entrancing to listen to. When I put it on it attracts my whole attention.. for instance I can't put it on and do something else, I have to stop what I am doing and listen to it. I get stopped and lost in it; I am sure it is because it is new, though, but I want it to be that I am distracted because finally something satisfies me but I doubt that is true. Anyway, the reason why I think The Well Tempered Clavier is musically complex and rich and interesting is that it does not just vary in time like most music, it varies in.. I don't know what the musical words are to describe it. But it has multiple different melodies that all intertwine together and you can follow an individual one but they all sound really nice together. There is a main one and there are other ones that kind of dance around the main one that are variations on the main one and it is so beautiful, and the variations on the main one are kind of games, like deviations from the main melody, so it is kind of like musical playing around but it is really beautiful. It is like in a techno song when the guy throws in something unexpected and it pumps you up, the composer is doing that, playing around with you with the melody, teasing you, playing with you when you are listening in this really fun, gentle kind of teasing but really clever really smart way, it makes me so happy to listen to it. I feel like I am being teased by Einstein when I listen to it. It is really frustrating that I do not have the vocabulary to describe what I mean. I read about it in Godel Escher Bach years ago and he made a big deal about the music in that book but I never went and actually listened to it because when I thought of classical music I thought of symphonies and orchestras and I could never really get into all of that stuff. But I think this is the most engaging music I have ever listened to. Squarepusher and Aphex Twin and those guys are really clever about making new envelope pushing music that is interesting to listen to, but only in the time dimension, so their music winds up ultimately being very boring to listen to after a while once you get over the initial shock and newness of it. They are just arranging things in a sequence and that is it and once you get the hang of it it kind of becomes dull. So no matter how clever they are about it, no matter how cool their drum flutters are or whatever, it is never anything more than putting things in an order, no matter how unique or surprising that order is. Eventually, you catch onto the pattern and it will becomes dull. But these fugues that Bach wrote are astounding because they are arranged not only in time but they are also several different melodies stacked on top of each other, all harmonized and wrapped around each other as you move through time so the fugue is really rich and complex to listen to. It is three dimensional to your ear. Even though it is just one piano playing the music itself is very pleasing, complex, intricate and rich. It is way more difficult to pick apart what is going on in the fugue. I sit there and listen to it and I think to myself, "This is a very simple song", because it is when you kind of step back from it, but when you try to focus on what is going on, the song is really really complex and confusing. Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, even though everything appears to be really complex and confusing, it isn't; after a while you just realize it is erratic, not really complex or anything. It's just surprising and erratic.

Okay, Squarepusher and Aphex Twin are like jump-out-and-scare you horror movies. Yeah, the first time you see them they scare the crap out of you, they do their job really well. You get totally freaked out and jump of your chair. But after you see them a couple of times, you know where the scary scenes are and the movie isn't really as scary anymore. Bach is more like one of those really creepy movies that is psychologically creepy, so later on when you are in bed, you get completely freaked out. Or when you are walking down the street, you get totally freaked out. Or later on when you are eating dinner or doing something completely innocuous. And you can watch those movies over and over and over again and those same scenes will scare you forever, you never stop being creeped out by those scenes. I feel like I could listen to these fugues for years and never really get tired of them because when I sit and try to pick them apart while I am listening to them they are so complicated that I wind up only being able to do one part of them at any given time.

I feel like emailing Squarepusher and saying, "Okay aren't you tired of time yet. I dare you to write a fugue." How cool would a fugue be with different instruments. Or without the constraints of instruments. With his sick mastery of time and those drum flutters everywhere, oh man.

Modern Mozart

In Squarepusher's wikipedia entry he says that he thinks that classical composers were restrained by their instruments and that computers have allowed modern composers musical freedom from that restraint. His point is excellent, and it has to logically be true. There are only so many sounds a violin can make, only so many sounds a tuba or a cello can make. The composers necessarily had to be restrained by the intruments, so they had to be limited by what they could create. If that is true, where the fuck is our electronic Mozart? I can't remember ever having listened to a modern electronic song without words that made me cry, but I have listened to many classical music songs that made me cry out of the beauty of it. Why is that modern electronic music has had the shackles of the instruments lifted from it but now somehow produces music that is emotionless and dull?

I searched everywhere. I tried everything. I started out in industrial music because I was an angry kid. And I found a lot of anger there, but anger is an easy emotion to spark, really. Anger and sadness are easy ones. I listened to Junkdrome by Front 242 in college and got drawn into more electronic music. I hopped from techno to trance. I searched for more complex things, going to dub, to drum and bass. I played around with ragga. I wound up finally only putting on more glitchy stuff like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin and the like when I sat down to listen to music, because it was the only music that could capture my interest. It was never really emotional, just complex enough to entertain me. I never found anything emotional in the music anywhere. All of the rhythms are so simple, even in the glitchy music, you can find a very simple, very repeated rhythm. It is boring, even though they try very hard to hide that it is boring and simple with a lot of pizzazz and hand waving. I appreciate some of the cool tricks they do, some of the games they are playing with tracking different distortions of the sounds, but really.. I just get bored. Then I put on some classical music, put on just like.. come on anything, I don't even know anything about classical music, I am so not cultured. But any of those famous Beethoven symponies. That Four Seasons refrain that is so famous. You hear that and it moves you emotionally. Where the hell is that stuff in the electronic world? It's not there? Why??

I think that composers need restraint. They need it to create beauty. Once the shackles were off, they fell apart. I think Squarepusher and Aphex Twin were destroyed by technology. They could have created really moving beautiful music but instead created a bunch of emotionless, kind of cool but really, ultimately, boring just trying-too-hard crap. I mean I like it but.. not really. It's not what it could be. It's not even close to that classical music, not by a long shot. And it's not their fault, they just had too many options. So they had to put their own restraints on themselves, or else they would not be able to create anything. Since they didn't have instrument restraint they had to create a restraint of this really stupid kick drum rhythm that they can't get away from no matter how hard they try. They try to hide it and spice it up, but it is still there in every friggin song and it makes every song really boring. Track the kick drum, hidden or not, and there you go, you figured out the song. Your mind wanders even though they try to keep you interested with the spastic stuff going on around it, but the kick drum is still there even if for this measure it happens to be a rest. They try to mask it and whatever but it is always there. And so it's never beautiful. Never really, really interesting. I just sit there listening for how, in this song, they messed around with that idea. Sometimes they play with other concepts, but in about 90% of the songs its just that one idea over and over and over and over again. It's just because they don't have any instrument restraints to play with, so they just are stuck on that one.

I think to create beauty people need restraints. Look at art. If you don't have any restraints, what do you get? I don't know, you get that abstract kind of throw paint around art which, I don't care what people say, that's not art to me, that is crap. If you go stare at Rembrant or Renoir and then go stare at some crap people threw at a canvas you will see one is art and one is just pretentious garbage. Beauty comes out of working in a set of restraints. Look at poetry. What is the most beautiful poetry to me? Haiku. So restrained. The least beautiful to me is the free form poetry where people can just do whatever. Occasionally people can nail it, like e.e. cummings, very occassionally, but most of the time, it's crap. I mean I do listen to and enjoy Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, don't get me wrong, they comprise about 20% of my listening time, but at the heart of it, I yearn for something much more than them out of electronic music that just hasn't happened yet for whatever reason. But today in the car I got really worried that it is impossible for it to ever happen. Maybe humans just cannot operate in that way-- if you give them too much freedom, they cannot create beauty. e.e. cummings at least had the restraint of language to work within, the restraint of grammar somewhat, the restraint of having to get an idea across, so he could create beauty with a restricted restraint. Music I think, even though it does still have a restraint in that it has to internally make sense, has a much more lax restraint than language. I suspect that is true but maybe it is not true.

Future Sound of WTF

For the past few days I have been walking around thinking it is 2008. I was thinking that I had been at MIT for 8 years, but it hasn't been that long. I wrote 2008 on a couple purchases I made. I think I dated my rent check 2008-- nice to know that the bank cashed it anyway. Weird.

Running Good

You missed again?
I knew you would
I'm gonna win
That's just understood
'Cause I'm Running Good

Hit and run
Or Stay all day
It don't matter
When everything is going my way

Shoulda coulda woulda
Is somewhere in the past right now
Fretting over betting is gone
Don't ask me how
All I know is that I'm Running Good

Muck a flush
When it's no good
I'm laying down
When I should
I'm Running Good

I'm holding up
And sucking out
Turn up the heat
'Cause I can't be beat
When I'm Running Good

I'm stacking and racking
And coloring up again
I'm smoking and toking
And the dealer is my best friend
When I'm running good

'Running Good' by Tommy Angelo

walking or sitting when not lying down

I forget if I posted it to here before, but earlier this year I figured out how to walk. I figured it out while I was walking down the street in front of my apartment, analyzing how walking worked and sort of experimenting with different ways of walking. I discovered that if I bend my knees more walking was a lot easier on my legs. I think it is how you are supposed to walk, I just wasn't doing it before.

Anyway, yesterday I figured out how to sit in a chair. I could never figure out how to sit in a chair and have it be comfortable. It turns out that I was not placing my hips properly. If you get your lower back going with some curve to it and have your hips up straight, you can sit really comfortably for a long time in a chair. I don't understand why chairs are the way they are, because most of them are designed for you to sit exactly not like that. They want you to sink back into them, but unless the chair is a super-comfortable recliner sort of chair, sinking back into the chair is just hard on your back. If you just sit up straight it feels so much better.