Monday, July 26, 2010

This is a little old but worth posting.

In a bit of 20th Century music news, has figured out a way to play back some of the world's earliest sound recordings. The folks over at Tonehammer, a purveyor of fine samples, made free reproductions available:
Invented in the 1850s by French inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, these "Phonautograms" actually predate Thomas Edisons earliest recordings by nearly two decades.

They were made by projecting sound into a cylindrical horn attached to a stylus, which in transferred the vibration into lines over the surface of soot-blackened rolls of paper. These captures were purely optical.
No device existed which could translate the recorded acoustic information back into sound, until the First Sounds organization acquired the artifacts, with the help of the French Academy of Sciences. They worked with scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other experts to devise a method of scanning and deciphering the images.
I used some Tonehammer products on my soon-to-be-released "Reflection" album. Good stuff!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Rational Rationing of Health Care

Everything in the physical world is rationed.

There's a finite amount of stuff. As an economist, I always believed a big part of the value of economics was studying ways to divide up a finite amount of stuff against greater demand.

This is called "rationing."

Health care is no exception to this. There aren't enough doctors, drugs, or MRI machines to go around for everyone to get as much as they want all the time. (This could be changed if society wanted to do so, but that is a different discussion).

So American society "rations" it. Currently, that rationing system says that if you're wealthy, you can have all the care you choose to buy. If you're extremely poor, you might be able to get an emergency room to help you...and if you can't cover the bill, the American taxpayer will pay. If you're in the middle, should anything remotely serious happen, you're going to get clobbered unless your employer offers insurance, and even then, you're only covered up to what they choose to provide.

As for the "choice" everyone supposedly has or wants, all those American workers covered by employer-provided plans generally don't get much choice, unless you think "this or nothing" is a good choice; or if a choice between "affordable but crappy insurance" and "you could theoretically have what you want, but in practice you can't pay for it" is a choice.

"Rationing" is a term thrown around to scare people. It conjures up images of nasty military food and extreme scarcity in times of war. See past the term and get to what's really being discussed - do you think the finite amount of healthcare should be simply up for sale to the highest bidder, and that cash should be the only criterion for distribution?

As a society, I think we can have an intellectually honest debate about whether health care is a basic human right or not (we can choose to be like some Third World countries and literally let people die in the streets) but that's a lot more personal, intense, and harder to fight against than "rationing".

Another point brought up frequently is that centralized systems like those of the UK or Canada, "the basics" (broken arms, shots, infections) are well-covered, but things like cancer or fanicer treatments are harder to get treatment for.

Guess what? You're probably only ever going to need "the basics". It's akin to owning terrible day-to-day clothes but 3 bitchen tuxedos. I think it's better to focus on covering most of what you need most of the time.

Framers of the debate are playing on people's emotions, their fears of serious diseases, and their lack of statistical understanding. It's shameful.

Most of the people in the debate are reacting from fear and emotion, rather than thinking about what they really need and what's best for everyone. That's nothing new, but I remain disappointed in the general public's ability to see past such blatant attempts at distortion and manipulation.

Over the last few years, I've interacted more closely with the insurance-medical complex. It's hardly been ideal, but I've managed to get the care I've needed, as have most people I know.

Insurance works on a simple principle: spread risk out over a large population. I suppose viewed through Tea-colored glasses it sounds "Socialist".

Perhaps this ultimately mirrors the larger sub rosa conversation going on in American society today: Would you prefer that you personally had the small opportunity to be very, very rich while everyone else is poor, or would you prefer we tried to lift everyone's quality of life a little bit?

The recent lottery hype provides all the answer one needs, sadly.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MOG for Mobile Phones

Today MOG launched its Android and iPhone mobile apps. So far, the reviews have been good.

This is the culmination of months of hard work by the MOG team...and also yours truly. I learned a lot and believe this app is superior in several ways to some of my previous efforts. Not perfect yet, but we'll be working on these for a while.

These apps are also the latest step in the music services my friends and I have been envisioning for over a decade: (nearly) Every song in the world is available for your immediate listening. Or download to the phone for playback later without a connection. High quality sound, too.

I've been working in digital media for so long I sometimes forget to appreciate the paradise we've created.

So if you have an iPhone or Android phone, go get MOG! 3 day free trial, or just go ahead and sign up.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Good coffee. A quick omelette. "The Pearl" on the stereo. Through windows jeweled with dew and fog I see the sun pulling itself up. 41 today.

Last year, with the aid of family and friends, I had a wonderful, massive birthday party. I was working at Rhapsody. Had just written a song called "Oh Shit, I'm 40!" (which I will record and post here soon). Much has happened since then.

Not long after that party, my employment situation changed rather dramatically. I managed to start a digital media consulting business before ending up with a new job that has made me far happier than my previous gig. And this in an economy where many talented people cannot find anything. And my phone is still ringing!

I had a computer near-death experience, but managed to retrieve all my data (thank you, TechCollective!) and still finish one of the better records I've made: "Reflection", which will be fully released as soon as Sound and Fury finish putting the book together.

In May, I saw my cousin Claire get married. It was great to see how much she'd grown and changed over the years. Hard to believe this was the same woman who had appeared as a nearly-silent teenager who wouldn't look you in the eye. It was also nice to see the extended family and friends together, many of whom I hadn't seen in decades.

On Monday, July 12 my great-aunt Caroline "Linie" Lushbough died. She was 88 years old. She was more of a grandmother to me than her sister ever chose to be. A wonderful, remarkable woman. True pioneer stock, she had a pilot's license and flew planes, cooked delicious food, and always, always had a great attitude about everything. I was fortunate enough to see her this past May.

On Wednesday, July 14, I saw Neil Young in concert. Neil is 64 years old and still performing a wide range of music. Inspiring. Perhaps I don't have to "retire" from live performance just yet (I'm currently playing in 2 bands, one of which has a show tomorrow).

Life isn't perfect, but that's OK. I'm working on things that need attention and getting better at ignoring the rest. I am incredibly fortunate, and grateful for the life I have. Sometimes it feels like every day merits a celebration. Today is as good a day as any.

Thank you all for checking in here, and for being a part of my life!