Thursday, November 28, 2013

RELEASE: the lossless e.p. by The Calculus Affair

NOTES

My wife Laurie Frankel wrote a book called Goodbye for Now. I might have mentioned it before. When it got picked up I thought a nifty cross-promotional thing to do would be write an album to go along with it. Since February was nearby and I always produce ten songs as part of my yearly go-'round with the RPM Challenge, I wrote those ten songs for the book, and recorded a demo of them as my RPM Challenge album for 2012.

After listening to the demos once or twice, I came to an inescapable conclusion that those ten songs sucked. Well, they didn't all suck. One was good.  I threw out the other nine songs and wrote ten more. Of those ten, nine sucked and one half-sucked. I threw out the original plan and decided to take the one and a half songs that didn't suck and with them re-record some of my old material--because really, who has heard any of my old stuff?--and that would be the album.

Time went by and none of that happened; I missed both the release of the hardback and the paperback and now it's two years later (life, man, I tell you what). The lossless e.p. is the salvage of this project: it contains the two songs (nos. 2 and 4 on the e.p.) and a couple from my back-catalog. It's also the first formal release of "Men of Luggage," which, while ten years old, has never appeared on anything besides compilations released by other entities.

TRACKS

  • 1) The Bridge
  • 2) Just This Once
  • 3) Men of Luggage
  • 4) I Take it Back
  • 5) Men of Luggage (Acoustic Version)

CREDITS

  • Written, performed, recorded, and mixed by Paul Mariz at The Cowslip's Bell, Seattle, WA. Additional recording and mixing for (3) by Gino Scarpino at Joralemon House, Seattle WA. Additional backing vocals on (3) by Gino and Jason Hyatt
  • Sounds of cars passing on (1) from freesound, recorded by Corsica_S and volivieri.
  • Mastered by Kevin Bressler at Whiney Cat Audio, Seattle, WA. 

LISTEN/BUY

As of this writing there's no place to buy a physical CD;  there may be at some point--updates as events warrant. If you know me and ask nicely, I'll burn one for you. Otherwise, go listen on Spotify (or Google Play, if you're a subscriber). It's free, and I get, like, $0.0015 every time you play a song. Also, when you listen there, it associates The Calculus Affair with other music you listen to and that's good for me. If you're a downloader, my net from any of the four stores above is roughly the same, so support the marketplace of your choice.

THANKS

  • In addition to those happy few of you out there who are Calculus Affair fans (you know who you are)...
  • Matt Gani, Jennie Shortridge, Garth Stein, Stevie Kallos, and Ben Bauermeister (a.k.a. The Rejections). It is thanks to you that The Calculus Affair is now my side-project.
  • Gino Scarpino, Kevin Hyatt, and Mark Cooper for an endless, life-long stream of musical support and constructive criticism.
  • And Laurie Frankel: all and everything beyond words.

Monday, July 08, 2013

"Well, They've Seen Us"

Back in March, Randall Munroe posted to his webcomic, XKCD, an unassuming drawing of two stick figures, a boy and a girl, sitting on a slight incline. The comic was titled, "Time," and the alt-text (what you see when you hover your mouse over the image) said only, "Wait for it." I clicked it a couple of times, stared at it for a little while--maybe it was a slow-moving animation of some kind?--but nothing happened. A couple of hours later, though, the picture had changed--now the two people appeared to be building a sandcastle. A quick look at the source code of the page revealed the trick: every half hour, a javascript call was updating the picture, creating an ultra-slow motion animation of two people building a sandcastle on a beach. So after a day or so the cartoon showed a partially built sand castle; a few days later the sand castle was quite elaborate--the two builders created a scaffolding so they could build higher. They went away and came back with a mini trebuchet so they could play Sand Castle Siege. I thought it was cute. I assumed eventually it would reach its natural end and the cartoon would start over. I thought that because I'd forgotten that Randall Munroe doesn't do anything to any scale that's not epic.

XKCD is one of the most popular web comics out there, and one of the few that allows its creator the luxury of making a living doing his art. The "art" portion of his art is at first glance very simple--stick figure people, black and white drawings, basic outlines of things. The subject matter of his cartoons, which are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, are anything but. He constructs Math jokes, Linux jokes, Quantum Physics jokes; ofttimes a deep knowledge of coding, science-fiction/fantasy tropes, and/or general nerd culture are required to have any idea where lies the humor. 

And then there are the big things: a subway map of all of North America, a drag-able map of an enormous world of which the viewer can only see a tiny part at any one time, a log-scale drawing of the  height of the universea log-scale drawing of the depths of the universe, an exploded view of money, a map of online communities scaled by population circa 2007, then circa 2010 (in which you learn that Farmville is only the second-biggest farming-based social-media game in the world). And it goes on. Every now and then Randall Munroe will completely blow you away with the scale of his effort. 

It is, as of this writing, 106 days after frame one of "Time" was posted. More than 2500 drawings have come and gone, now at a rate of one an hour. There is dialog--in individual frames one of the two characters will have a word balloon and a frame or two later, the other character will answer back. After they had built their fantastically detailed sand castle, had a little bit of fun destroying and repairing it, and resting a bit, the couple started to notice the sea level rising. It began to eat up their castle, but it also caused them to wonder what was going on in the world they were in, a world they seemed not quite to understand fully. So they left and began hiking; mostly they seemed to be searching for some kind of answer about that world and what was happening to it. They have been hiking for months now. They have climbed mountains, seen far off seas, and come across buildings long abandoned. Night fell and it was stunningly beautiful--black and white drawings of the sky and Milky Way, slowly rotating through the sky.     

XKCD is, according to its own epigram, a "webcomic of romance, math, sarcasm, and language." I've always thought "romance" was an awkward word right there at the front--a better word might be longing--but it's also not wrong either. XKCD's first read may be as a comic about math jokes, but it also can't help but reflect the author's ongoing awe with all the things he finds in the world and his attempts to convey that awe to a broader audience. You might get a good chuckle from reading one of his comics, but read them continuously for months and you will find that you are following along something bigger, more profound, and more (literally) awesome. 

Today, for the first time in three and  a half months, the explorers of "Time" have come across some other people--they seem to be wearing Toessels. An initial read might be that the comic is nearing its end, but I suspect it's probably just the beginning. 

(a continuously updating visualization of the entire "Time" comic can be found here) 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Technical Note

If anyone out there is still paying attention, I decided not to renew my custom domain for this blog, because why would I do that? You may find all of your favorite Odds Are One content at the original blogger URL, http://theoddsareone.blogspot.com. As you were.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Sabbaticals

MTG and I were in the car this evening talking about something I would once normally have blogged about (the universe being a computer simulation in somebody else's universe--maybe I'll get to it sometime soon) and I remembered with fondness the act of blogging. Then I went and read some old comments and remembered the pleasure of the whole experience--the presence of a virtual intellectual community and the discussions that went on.

I may or may not be, at heart, an academic, but I came to a true love of ideas and of thinking them through and writing about them too late in life to really become one. It's not that I was too old to go (back) to graduate school, but that by then I had gotten used to, you know, not starving or living in a crappy apartment with a bunch of other starving academics, and finally not having the best-case-scenario result of my life pursuit be a series of one year posts at the University of Northwest Indiana at Gary. So, in any case, I never became one and it went onto the list of things that I did as a hobbyist while I made a living at my day job. As, it happens, almost all of us almost always do.

One of the ways my life has, however, been like an academic's is that I've been lucky enough to have sabbaticals. I took about six months off working in my early-mid 20's and another few months at age 29, and now another one again here ten years later, which has so far lasted nearly a year. In the first one I didn't accomplish a whole huge ton. I learned to program in PERL, which now that I think of it might be the single most profitable skill I have ever acquired (I'd listen to arguments about my math degree also, but following this thread will take me too far down the rabbit hole. I frequently feel a sort of kinship with David Foster Wallace--I think of things while writing about other things and then I want to write about those things before getting back to the thing I was writing about originally. Besides, it turned out my original point was invalid anyway. First sabbatical: highly successful). I could make similar arguments about the second, I guess: I made an album and in so doing learned how to make one in the modern way that one does, and that skill has followed me around since.

This third one has been really, really great. It has reminded me of a thing I know when I'm on sabbatical but forget when I'm done--one is on sabbatical not to refresh or recharge in order to go back and continue to do what one was doing. One leaves to do or create something new such that oneself is changed. One never returns from sabbatical. Whatever one returns to is something new. The one who returns is someone new.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Lies, Gender, and Damned Statistics

On Slashdot recently I encountered another version of Martin Gardner's two-children puzzle. The original problem is this:
I have two children. One of them is a boy. What are the odds the other one is also a boy?
If you're a human living in the world, three things are probably true of you vis-a-vis this puzzle. 1) You've heard it before, 2) you got it wrong the first time you heard it, and 3) the correct answer still seems wrong to you.

The correct answer, if you've never encountered it, is based on the following a priori: there are four equally-likely ways to have two children:
  • a boy followed by a girl
  • a boy followed by another boy
  • a girl followed by a boy
  • a girl followed by another girl
You look at that graph, you find all of the rows where both children are boys (1), and divide it by the number of rows where at least one of the children is a boy(3), and you get the answer: 1 in 3.

Mrs. Transient Gadfly will tell you that Mr. Transient Gadfly's position on all questions of this nature is that it is not a math question, it is a language question. And, moreover, it is an ill-posed one. The nature of how poorly this question is posed is laid bare by the variation linked above:
"I have two children, one of whom is a boy born on a Tuesday. What's the probability that my other child is a boy?"
If you follow the logic of the original problem (which, being that I am a human in whose true nature you will find the compunction to write this blog, I did) you'll write out all the days of the week your first child could be born, followed by all the days of the week your second child could be born, look at all of those that have a boy born on a Tuesday in them, count the number of those that have a second boy, and come up with the answer (it's 13 in 27, if you write out the table. Do not write out the table). If you are literally anyone else in the world, you will come up with a much better answer: 1 in 2. The crux of the issue, which the linked article almost hits on but then fails to, is that there is no universe in which the given answer (13 in 27) is correct. It would require the asker of the question to randomly chose a day of the week and a gender, and then only pose the question if he or she had a child that matched those criteria.

(Here is one of those moments where Transient Gadfly has an existential crisis about the nature and purpose of The Odds Are One: should I explain why what I just said is true? It would take, like, seven paragraphs and still nobody reading would understand the logic. I'm not going to do it this time. You'll just have to take my word on this one).

If you're anyone else, you look at that question and understand the only way someone would pose the question: he or she randomly chose one of his or her children, and listed two characteristics of that child: his gender, and the day of the week of his birth. And you will come up with the correct answer to the question, because when you randomly chose one of your two children, the gender of the other one is a coin-flip. So, you might well ask, what is the difference between the original question posed by Martin Gardner and the question involving the day of the week? And the answer is, absolutely nothing. There is no way to tell, from the way it is stated, whether the asker, a parent of exactly two children, randomly chose one of his progeny and told you his gender, or a parent of exactly two children, of whom at least one is a boy, told you that fact. And it matters, because in the former case it's a 50% shot that the other child is a boy, and in the latter it's a 33% chance.

I leave you with a link to an XKCD cartoon, because it's literally impossible to make this point better than he has here.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

New Releases

Two new releases for your Tuesday:
  • A new five song e.p. from The Calculus Affair. It's available for free download from http://tinyurl.com/5songs-tca (this link expires in two weeks, so if for some reason you're reading this after the 14th of June and you want a copy, leave me a comment or something). It's culled from my 2010 RPM Challenge album, and it's a little bit on the weird side for The Calculus Affair. But it's still pretty good.
  • My nephew, Alex Dean Trendler, arrived this morning at 6:12 a.m. MDT. 6 lbs. 1 oz., 21 1/2 inches. A big fan of The Calculus Affair, no doubt.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And The Worst Part Is, I Never Learned How To Read

I just got my first pair of reading glasses. My left eye doesn't quite make it around to the thing I'm focusing on, which causes me to work harder to make a reasonable stereo image of something close to my face (this condition has a name, but I can't remember what it was). I've apparently been compensating for this problem without really knowing I had it. At the beginning of my last visit my optometrist did a couple of checks and then asked: Do you find it difficult to focus, or that sometimes you see a double image when you read? Do you get tired while reading? Yep. All my life. I'd never really noticed the first thing until Mrs. Transient Gadfly pointed out that I close one eye when reading in bed, which was apparently my main compensation mechanism (it works only passingly well, as I fall asleep almost comically fast while reading anyway).

So now I have glasses with a slight prism in the left lens (the other option was 12 weeks of vision therapy, which I'll probably try some day when I don't have an 18-month-old). The other thing my optometrist mentioned, almost in passing, was that this would help my reading comprehension. As long as it has mattered (a little bit in high school, mostly in college), I've known that I don't absorb anything by reading it. I can follow a narrative, but my reading comprehension is for crap. I have adapted to this fine in life; on the verbal portion of standardized tests I read the questions before reading the paragraph; I figured out that I have to write down notes on the material if I want to know anything about it when I'm done.

Are these two things related? I haven't had the glasses long enough to know if they're going to help me glean new meaning from the text. But I'd always assumed that my brain just wasn't wired to learn by reading, never once thinking that it might be because my eyes were draining all my battery power just trying to stay focused on the words in front of them.