“Chicken staff meetings, chicken progress reports, chicken analytics, chicken sprint review”

My Well-acquaintance Laura decided to try her hand at making real coq au vin, which, as you may or may not be aware, assumes a mature cock.

The one key thing that is generally understood about traditional Coq au Vin, however, was that it was supposed to be made with a farmyard rooster (hence the “coq” (cock) – and not “poulet” (chicken)).

The chickens we buy in parts in the supermarket today are no more than a couple months old, and they don’t move much in their short lives. That’s why they are so tender. They are still babies.

The traditional coq au vin recipe involves braising a rooster in wine and stock for a really long time to break down the tough meat and connective tissue and to soften it up. That long braising time is how you actually make an old rooster edible. The long braising time also reduces and enriches the wine sauce. The long time to cook is part of the entire point.

As it happened, though, Laura had a big ol’ cock on hand, and so she was off to the races. This is a fun read, but it also makes me want to find a source for mature birds and try it myself.

Here’s something interesting…

Well, to me, anyway.

You’ve all played pool on a coin-op table in a bar, obviously. Did you ever wonder how the table knows which ball is the cue ball? It has to be able to tell somehow, because after every scratch during play it returns the cue instead of trapping it with the object balls.

Turns out, there’s two ways.

One method involves a big-ass magnet and requires the cue contain enough iron for the magnet to pull it to one side and change its pathway inside the table. That’s pretty neat. (Click through; there’s video.)

The other method involves a cue ball that is fractionally bigger (2 and 3/8 inches vs the standard 2 and 1/4) than the object balls, and uses a slightly different mechanism to do the segregation that’s perhaps a bit easier to imagine since it’s size based.

This information has implications, though.

First, it means that home or premium table cue balls won’t work on coin-op tables, because in those sets (a) all the balls are the same size and (b) none of them contain iron.

Second, a bar owner who needs a new cue ball for his table will also need to know which kind of mechanism his table has, because there two types of cue balls and the iron one won’t work on a table that expects an off-size cue, and vice versa.

Interestingly, the first several billiard supply shops I found online didn’t even deal with coin-op cue balls; they were all about the home or premium market. I assume this is because a bar owner (or similar) is dealing with some local amusement vendor and not the Internet most of the time, whereas folks searching for “pool table supplies” online are looking to outfit their own billiard room.

No idea why this information charms me so much, but there it is. (Also: Magnets!)

Maybe you’re confused. It’s everywhere, but what IS it?

Hamilton is pretty much on fire, but I admit I wasn’t really receptive until the JoCoCruise. I had apparently even skipped the New Yorker article last February about Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Off-Broadway production (which you should track down and read, because it’s amazing, too.)

Anyway. That article mentioned the origin of the show: basically, Miranda got obsessed with Hamilton after reading Ron Chernow‘s biography, and started working on material. The first public airing of the work was the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and Spoken Word — in 2009.

Well, dear reader, you’re in luck; the piece then called “The Hamilton Mixtape” was taped. Here you go. First taste is free.

Actually, it’s the first TWO tastes, because for the Grammys they took a live feed from the theater to show the Grammy audience the first number of an actual performance of the show on Broadway. So here’s what that song became five years later. The lyrics are mostly the same; the biggest difference is that instead of all being from Burr, it’s split up between Burr, Laurens, Jefferson, Madison, Eliza, and Washington.

Make Time.

(Seriously, the embedded link is like watching that old footage of Prince playing “Purple Rain” for the first time. It’s amazing.)

My favorite part is the reference to a “Writ of Duh”

Over at the Atlantic, Garrett Epps explains the metric smackdown the tantrum-throwing Alabama Supreme Court was just handed by a unanimous SCOTUS. It’s a thing a beauty:

The Alabama Supreme Court has had a rough week. On Friday, the court issued a one-sentence order admitting that “Erm, um, well, urm, okay, fine! Whatever! We really don’t have the authority to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges. Are you people happy now?” The order came accompanied by 170 pages of bloviation, which read a bit as if Robert E. Lee had tried to spin General Orders No. 9 as a strategic victory.

Monday, in a different but related matter, the U.S. Supreme Court piled on by in effect issuing what I’ll call a Writ of Duh in a same-sex adoption case.

and

[I]n another case, the Alabama court on Friday took 170 pages to discuss the unremarkable proposition that a state court can’t disobey, set aside, ignore, fold, bend, spindle, or mutilate a judgment of the United States Supreme Court. Here’s the entire operative part of the order: “IT IS ORDERED that all pending motions and petitions are DISMISSED.” Most of the other pages are occupied with sour grapes. Chief Justice Roy Moore (who lost his job once before when he defied an order of a federal court in a different case) was, as always, convinced that the world is eager to hear his views on a variety of subjects. He in his wisdom really thinks Justice Anthony Kennedy is a bad, bad judge for writing the Obergefell decision. Justice Tom Parker (founder of the conservative think-tank that brought the challenge) concurred specially to denounce the Supreme Court’s “despotism and tyranny.”

South of the Mason-Dixon Line, “tyranny” usually translates as “making me recognize the rights of people I don’t like.”

Boom.

“This is the downside of building party identity around a package of calculated nonsense and comically unrealizable goals.”

Josh Marshall at TPM explains the GOP’s Trump problem in terms of the idea of technical debt, thereby endearing himself to many geeky Heathen.

The deeper causes of the recent trends in the GOP go deep into the society and culture of the American right and American society generally. But Republican elected officials have increasingly coddled, exploited and in some cases – yes – spurred their voters’ penchant for resentment, perceived persecution, apocalyptic thinking and generic nonsense.

Ever wonder what it’s like to work with Terrence Malick?

Thomas Lennon (The State, Reno 911) got hired as a partygoer in the new film Knight of Cups, and shared his recollections here.

“We’re all standing there and Malick hands out these pieces of paper to all of us,” Lennon said. “And the one he gave me said, ‘There’s no such thing as a fireproof wall.’ And I ask, ‘Is this something I’m supposed to say in the scene?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Lennon learned, after talking to the director, that there was no script, just a phrase that might inspire him when cameras started rolling.

“And then Malick goes, ‘Would you like some more? Because I have a whole stack of these.’ And I was like, ‘I think I’m good,’” Lennon said.

Lennon later asked Bale while Malick was away:

Lennon: “Is this how it goes?

Bale: “Yeah.”

Lennon: “Every day?”

Bale: “Yeah.”

Lennon: “How long have you been doing this?”

Bale: “This is, like, day 25.”

In which Erin is Awesome

So, last week we took a cruise, which was awesome.

On of the guests this year was fantasy author and awesome human N. K. Jemisin.

Erin and I attended her reading last Wednesday, which was a port day. During the reading, the crew had a drill that involved overhead announcements — which, unfortunately, also cut off the mic Ms Jemisin was using, interrupting the reading.

Over and over. It got comical, really, but Ms Jemisin persevered and finished the reading.

Well, Erin being Erin, she decided that Ms Jemisin should be rewarded for her grit here, and set about making some sort of trophy for her using materials she could find on the boat. That was somewhat limiting, but since one of the bits of swag for the cruise was a stuffed dolphin in a fez, and extras were available, an amusing and on-topic base was quickly identified. Erin festooned it with shiny things from the gaming room, and we gave it to her after dinner the next night. She was very pleased.

And, as it turns out, remains pleased about it now.

Here’s more on the Apple vs. FBI situation

Security expert Bruce Schneier weighs in. This is a guy who absolutely knows what he’s talking about:

The FBI’s demands are specific to one phone, which might make its request seem reasonable if you don’t consider the technological implications: Authorities have the phone in their lawful possession, and they only need help seeing what’s on it in case it can tell them something about how the San Bernardino shooters operated. But the hacked software the court and the FBI wants Apple to provide would be general. It would work on any phone of the same model. It has to.

Make no mistake; this is what a backdoor looks like. This is an existing vulnerability in iPhone security that could be exploited by anyone.

[...]

What the FBI wants to do would make us less secure, even though it’s in the name of keeping us safe from harm. Powerful governments, democratic and totalitarian alike, want access to user data for both law enforcement and social control. We cannot build a backdoor that only works for a particular type of government, or only in the presence of a particular court order.

Either everyone gets security or no one does.

Seriously.

Hey Chief Heathen: Apple, Encryption, and You

As you’ve probably heard, the FBI really, really wants Apple to help them unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernadino shooters. A court has actually ordered that Apple do so; in response, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a public reply (in addition to immediate appeals); you can (and should) read that letter in its entirety, because in it Cook lays out very clearly what’s at stake here.

All this is very confusing to lay people, though, I’m sure. We nerds have been up to our asses in crypto for a long time, and understand how critical it is to modern life. You use strong crypto every day, even if you don’t realize it — every time you see that little “lock” icon in your browser, you’re using it, and (to a first approximation) your browser session is locked up tight — otherwise, online commerce wouldn’t be possible, right?

Obviously, a phone is different from your shopping cart at Amazon, but there are lots of points here that are still being obscured by poor media coverage that has, in general, been entirely too deferential to law enforcement and the government. Let me lay out a few things for you, in simple terms, to help you make sense of it all, because whether you realize it or not this case affects you.

First, you need to understand something about encryption itself.

Properly implemented encryption is effectively unbreakable with current technology. (I could explain why, but it would make this post WAAAAY too long.) Not even the NSA can break it; the computing power doesn’t exist yet. It might, in the future (google “quantum computing”), but right now it’s safe and secure.

That’s exactly why law enforcement is so up in arms about wanting back doors built into things: precisely because they can’t break into some systems or data files if they’ve been properly encrypted. Think about it: the cops don’t care how strong your locks are, because they can always break your door. They care about encryption because, done right, they have no recourse.

Second, you need to understand that encryption isn’t the whole picture here.

There’s also device security, and device security at Apple is in an ongoing improvement process. You have probably seen by now stories about how “well, they helped cops BEFORE, why won’t they do it now?” These are wilfully misleading stories authored by deliberately ignorant people who are carrying water for the anti-crypto squad. Just because it was easy or trivial for Apple to unlock a phone in 2008 doesn’t mean it’s just as easy or just as trivial to do so now, because every new iPhone and new version of iOS improves the platform. It is accurate to say that Apple likely views the ease with which a non-owner (Apple) could unlock prior phones as a flaw to be fixed, and are behaving accordingly.

Good, because the only secure device is one that only its owner can unlock.

Third, Cook’s assertion that the FBI’s request would make all similar phones vulnerable is absolutely and unequivocally true.

The cops are demanding, basically, that Apple create a tool that will circumvent the security of the iPhone in question. Such a tool, once created, will almost certainly get leaked and used by other parties — like foreign intelligence people, or criminals, or repressive regimes.

Law enforcement loves to suggest that such bypass tools or (worse) built-in back doors will only ever be used by the “good guys,” but that doesn’t even pass the risibility test. Even supposed “good guys” overstep their authority with astonishing regularity, and law enforcement in the US is absolutely no exception. “Trust us!” is a bullshit argument.

Fourth, don’t give this mouse a cookie.

Iif Apple is forced to do this, now, to this particular generation of iOS and iPhone, then you can be sure that law enforcement will insist they do so (or attempt to do so) for later iterations of the platform. (This is one reason Apple is working so hard to make the devices secure and private, even against attacks from Apple itself.) We cannot let cops — who, let’s be honest, would be happier with a master key to all locks, all phones, all safety deposit boxes, etc., because what do you have to hide? — dictate privacy and security for the rest of us, and Apple realizes this.

Fifth, there is no ticking-time-bomb situation here.

Thus far, terrorist tradecraft is best described as “epically shitty.” The Paris attackers used normal SMS, which is incredibly insecure. They used regular tappable phones. But even if they started using secure methods, signals intelligence isn’t how you track these people. You need to chase them and catch them and prevent attacks through normal police work; you can’t expect an online dragnet of messaging traffic to do much for you (and, indeed, it clearly doesn’t work, even putting aside the privacy concerns). The FBI know who did this. They have reams of other evidence. They’re using this case, and the spectre of TERRORISM TERRORISM TERRORISM, to try and stifle real security for ordinary Americans. There’s no reason to do that.

Stand with Apple, even if you prefer Android. Stand with Apple, even if you hate the walled garden. Stand with Apple, because they are absolutely the only player in this market who have absolutely no interest in analyzing what you do online and selling it to other people. They’ve been increasingly verbal in their commitment to user privacy, and have proved it with the ongoing security improvements in the iPhone. Now they’re putting their money where their mouth is in a big way, on a big stage, in this particular case. Good for Tim Cook, and good for them, and good for US, because it’s a certainty that the Feds would much rather have us insecure.

As security expert Bruce Schneier puts it:

Today I walked by a television showing CNN. The sound was off, but I saw an aerial scene which I presume was from San Bernardino, and the words “Apple privacy vs. national security.” If that’s the framing, we lose. I would have preferred to see “National security vs. FBI access.”

He’s right.

More from Rep. Ted Lieu, and more background on why Apple is so pro-crypto (that bit’s long, but you should read it).

Aaaah, so THAT’S why this week’s X-Files was so much better

The writer and director, Darin Morgan, also wrote for the original series, and was responsible for two of the very best episodes of the show: Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’ and the Emmy-winning Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, both of which are brilliant.

In particular, note that both “Chung” and this week’s episode feature retelling of events from multiple perspectives as well as a certain over-arching sardonic and self-aware humor. (Did you notice Mulder’s ringtone is the X-Files’ theme music?)

Wikipedia link; more over at IO9, which also notes a few Easter eggs — the biggest of which is actually in the comments: the character Guy Mann is dressed exactly like Carl Kolchak, from the show that inspired Chris Cater in the 1970s.

Song Exploder’s Bowie Playlist

First, Song Exploder is brilliant, and you should be paying attention to it.

Second, this feature has a number of musicians discussing particular Bowie songs, and includes John Roderick on Space Oddity (reproduced below). This is awesome because, of course, Roderick has a lost-astronaut song of his own that I’ve seen him play live.

Space Oddity is the original and still the best lost astronaut song, released only a few days before the Apollo 11 launch in 1969. It was originally a current events song! Maybe even a novelty song, if the events in question weren’t so solemn. All the more of an accomplishment, then, that it still sounds futuristic and provokes anxiety 47 years later. In 1969 space travel seemed poised to become mundane–we would soon all be living on space stations, wearing jumpsuits and enjoying science drinks–but Bowie sided with Kubrick that, in addition to metaphysical magic, suburbia, celebrity, and product placement and malfunction would follow us to the stars. Like so much of Bowie’s music, Space Oddity has themes and sounds that in less adroit hands would be corny. The countdown at the top of the song and the horn swell “rocket ship taking off” are so literal you almost roll your eyes, but Bowie’s voice is so urgent you lose all desire for detachment. It’s hard for us now to imagine the emotional moment of 1969, with all the war, violence, unrest and upheaval taking place. The world-historical venture into space, armed with science and human confidence, wasn’t yet a fait accompli. We still could have fucked it up, left dead astronauts on the lunar surface, surrendered to the impossibility of Kennedy’s hubristic challenge and Vietnammed ourselves into a death throe. Instead, we succeeded, and Bowie more than any other artist made outer space the dominant theme of his work for many years after. His persona allowed him to comment on contemporary events from a place that felt like objectivity. Bowie saw us like an alien might, but he loved us and got bloody with us because he was trapped here, or emigrated here on his own, so he took our side. Bowie screeched and squawked and filled his music with unearthly noises and we accepted it because we were so flattered that this metallic space Phoenix was interested in talking to us. The appeal of the Rolling Stones was that you were supposed to feel lucky some cool junkies invited you to listen to their sex party through a keyhole, but Bowie had a message about the salvation of humanity. He seemed to be telling us that the looming apocalypse was survivable? Escapable, maybe? Maybe not, though. Maybe we should just quit fighting and have sex a lot until the fire tornados come? Maybe Major Tom experienced a malfunction and his spacecraft was lost, but more likely Major Tom severed his own tether for reasons known only to him. Maybe he saw something, or someone was waiting out there for him, or he realized the futility of our seeking, or he found what we’re all seeking in the eternal quiet.

More Bowie bits you shouldn’t miss

From the RS tribute issue:

  • Trent Reznor’s comments include Bowie helping him get sober: “I knew. I knew you’d do that. I knew you’d come out of that.“. You should absolutely click through to the 1994 tour performance wherein he and Bowie do “Hurt” together. (How the fuck did I miss that tour?)

  • Longtime Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey — who also became his “Under Pressure” duet partner — was more or less plucked from near-obscurity to tour with him; her memories of him are here. On this one, don’t miss the video of “Under Pressure.”

This time, I’m gonna make it to Austin

(tl;dr? Here’s the link. Thanks.)

Here comes the 2016 MS150 Pitch!

Here we go again! It’s time for Chet to ride to Austin — well, almost; it’s in 90 days or so (4/16-17). And that means it’s time for me to hassle you about fundraising again. Many of you have been extremely generous for this cause in the prior three years, and I hope that you’ll feel similarly generous this year.

What the hell are you on about, Heathen?

The MS150 is one of the largest — if not THE largest — charity rides in the country. Come April, something more than 15,000 riders will take off from Houston in a two-day marathon ride to Austin, some 165 miles away. I’ll cover 100 miles on day one, spend the night in La Grange, and then either 65 or 75 on day two, depending on which route I choose.

And when I say big, I mean big: last year, there were 13,000 riders, and we raised over $20 million. Yeah, it’s like that.

Wait. You’re doing this again?

Yep. Here’s why:

I’m sure you all recall that late 2014 and early 2015 kinda sucked here at the Farmer household. I had a bad crash last November, resulting in the dramatic-looking x-ray above, followed by a long period of healing and rehab. I was confined to a walker from November 20 until late February; I used a cane for months after that. And, obviously, I missed the 150 last year.

(Well, let’s be clear: with your help, I actually DID do the most important part of the 150: fundraising. We — all of you plus me — took first place in fundraising on the Karbach Brewing team, and that’s something we should all be proud of. But I didn’t get to ride.)

You’ll be really slow this time, right?

After spending all that time off the bike, I took my first short ride in late March. I was slow and tentative, and had no endurance, and that sucked out loud. I joke that I lost 40 pounds riding bikes and drinking beer, and that’s the truth, but part of that was riding hard and often. I went from a 250 pound guy who could barely get to 18 miles an hour to a 210 pound guy who cruised with the hot rod pack at 28 or 30 down Washington Avenue. Coming back and being slow was hard.

But I did it anyway, and I kept doing it, and by July I was finally able to notch 100 miles a week again, and I’ve never looked back. (Well, except to check for traffic.) All told, I rode nearly 2800 miles in 2015, which I think isn’t too bad for a guy who spent the first quarter unable to walk. I didn’t do it by myself, obviously — I had lots of help and encouragement, and a huge part of that was from my teammates at Karbach.

Now, in January of 2016, I’m a stronger rider now than I was last November. I’m excited about that. After sitting out last year, making it to Austin this time around will be especially meaningful to me.

That’s cool and all, but it’s not the point. This is the point.

I’ve written to you before about MS, and about how it can sneak up on its victims in pernicious and devastating ways, but to be completely honest I don’t think I really appreciated what that could be like until I spent some time with my mobility compromised. My experience wasn’t a perfect analog — I had great care in one of the best medical centers in the world; there was never any real doubt that I’d make a full recovery barring serious complications — but understanding that intellectually is a long way from internalizing it, especially when you can’t do the things you love, or climb the stairs in your house, or help your spouse with the housework, or even walk.

I got better. (Better, stronger, faster…) My life today is more or less just as it was before the accident. I’m lucky. Some MS patients see remission, but some don’t — and even those in remission live with the knowledge that their personal demon could re-emerge and re-imprison them at almost any time.

I said I did this to drink beer and lose weight, and I think in the first couple years that was more true than not. The fundraising part of the event was a minor part. After all, I didn’t know anyone with MS, and had no real understanding of what it could be like. The 150 is just a thing lots of Houston riders do.

Then, in 2013, friends asked me to ride for their sister, or friend, or cousin, or coworker. That makes it more real in a big hurry, but not as real as spending a few months on a walker.

The ride is secondary. I’ll put in the miles anyway, because I love riding, because it’s good for me, and most of all because I know what it’s like not to be able to. The MS150 is about MS, about raising money for MS research, and about helping those people affected by it. Chet riding to Austin is a sideshow; what we do here, with the link above and below, is the main event — and it’s the part I need you for.

Be on my team.

Please give. If you’re able, please increase your gift from last year. We are all of us very, very fortunate — maybe none of as as much as I.

The direct donation link is http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/chetfarmer.

Also, in the past, folks have given me names of those close to them who suffer from MS; I write them on my race bib, and find them particularly inspiring after 50 or 60 miles. If you’d like to add a name to the list, just let me know. I’d be proud to.

Why we still need health care reform

Joe Biden’s son Beau died last year from a brain tumor. He was, at one point, concerned that cognitive damage would force him to resign his office, which would have made him unemployed and uninsured. It is no secret at this point that the Vice President and the President are close friends, and their relationship included frank discussions of Beau’s health, and the challenges that might arise, and how they might meet them, including the idea that they’d sell their house to pay for Beau’s care. (Remember, Biden is probably the poorest man to ever be Vice President.)

President Obama would have none of it, and told Biden he’d pay for it if need be.

So, two things.

First, it’s great that the Vice President has a rich and powerful friend who could have helped his family.

Second, how incredibly fucked up is it that even someone in Beau Biden’s position would have needed this kind of help just to get care?

Single payer. Now.

(h/t: sp0ka.)

This is probably obvious, but it bears pointing out: He planned it.

Bowie’s exit — the release of his album only days before his death, the video of “Lazarus,” the timing of it all — is in no way an accident, and was absolutely planned. His producer confirms it.

A commenter on Metafilter calls it a “nothing-but-net exit,” which to me just about sums it up.

You should never doubt that he was, in addition to so much else, an unstoppable conceptual bastard.

“Look up here / I’m in Heaven”

David Bowie has died. He had turned 69 on Friday.

Chris Onstad wrote this when Michael Jackson died. It’s as on point today as it was then:

“He was your Elvis, and when your Elvis dies, so does the private lie that someday you will be young once again, and feel at capricious intervals the weightlessness of a joy that is unchecked by the injuries of experience and failure.

“Welcome to the only game in town.”

It hardly needs to be said, but in the pantheon of musical influence in the last half century, Bowie has few peers. For me, it’s probably the hardest musical loss since Lou Reed. It might get loud in the office today. I suggest you go and do likewise.

Here’s a start, from 1978. “Heroes” has always been a favorite of mine, even though for the last 13 it reminds me of a wake (Steve Barnett’s, 13 years ago this month). That seems appropriate today.

Hey Chief Heathen! Talk to me about streaming music vs. purchased music!

Over on Facebook, I ran into this article that tries to make the case for buying physical media, but fails utterly because the author doesn’t understand the difference between purchased digital music and streamed digital music. It seems to me that this is probably a broad problem, so let me try to clear it up for you.

The Argument

In the linked article, the author says CD or vinyl beats “digital music” on four fronts. He or she asserts that:

  • It better supports the band, because streaming services pay so little;
  • You get security of ownership — the music will always be playable, and you don’t have to keep paying for it;
  • CD/vinyl gets you better quality than digital; and
  • Collecting is fun.

The author’s main problem is that the piece conflates the notion of purchasing digital music with the idea of paying for a streaming service. In fact, almost the whole piece is really about buying music in any form vs. paying for a service, but the author doesn’t appear to understand that he’s missed something big. I get that people misunderstand this stuff, though, so let me try to fill in the gaps.

Purchasing vs. Streaming and the Issue of Artist Compensation

If you BUY music from a digital source, like iTunes (but not Apple Music) or Amazon, you own those files, and the band gets paid. They have no copy protection on them, and you can copy them to as many devices as you like, make backups, burn CDs, or even give copies to other people — which would be wrong, but it is possible. (N.B. that movies and TV purchased from iTunes definitely DO have DRM on them; these comments apply only to music. Exercise caution when buying video from iTunes, and do the mental math considering it more a rental than a purchase.)

There’s no real advantage to physical media when it comes to actual music ownership. There might be a small advantage to the artist if you buy direct from them at a local show or wherever, where I assume they get a bigger cut, but that’s a corner case.

It IS absolutely true that, with streaming services like Spotify, you have to keep paying to keep listening. But if you buy the music and download it, you don’t; it’s always yours. It’s also true that streaming services traditionally pay artists very, very little compared to any kind of purchase, which is a good reason to avoid them and buy your music.

But what about quality?

The quality argument has similar problems. Downloaded digital files — at least from iTunes — are at such a high sampling rate, and in such good formats, that it’s extraordinarily unlikely that anyone could tell them from CD source in a blind test. (In fact, it’s never even been done with 256Kbps Mp3, and the AAC files from Apple are better than that.) There’s no audio upside, even theoretically, for physical media — and this is before you factor in the fact that most people don’t use equipment that would expose the difference between even lower-bitrate sampling and CD source. You won’t hear it in your car, or on crappy default headphones, or on a tiny Bluetooth speaker.

Again, though, the author’s ding definitely DOES apply to streaming music, because the quality is only as good as your connection, and will be degraded if there’s insufficient bandwidth (like a YouTube video, but with audio). This is definitely a reason to avoid streaming services (and I do, for the most part), but it’s not a reason to avoid downloaded digital music.

The Collector Angle

Collecting is the only area here where I can maybe see the appeal of physical media, but speaking as a guy with a 30 year collection, let me add that at some point, adding additional physical items to store that you don’t need to have to hear the music becomes unattractive. I love that music I buy from iTunes doesn’t come with something I have to put on a shelf or in a cabinet. (I mean, have you SEEN my living room?)

Is there a reason to buy physical media in 2016?

Yes. Sadly, though, the article misses the reason I do sometimes still do it: because I like to support my local record store. Even sadder, the reason it’s not in the article is almost certainly because so few people still live in a place that even has the option. There’s no joy in browsing the CDs at Wal-Mart or Best Buy.

So why would anyone use a streaming service?

Services like Apple Music or Spotify or Rhapsody or whatever have all the drawbacks listed above (no ownership, less compensation to the artists, poorer quality), but they do provide something people value: enormous libraries of music. Apple Music boasts like 37 million tracks, which is way more than I have in my library, and I’m a crazy person. Paying a fee gets you access to those tracks, but at a pretty significant tradeoff.

In the past, I maintained a Spotify subscription for pre-purchase sampling and earworm-remediation purposes, but I’ve discontinued that. I wasn’t using it for anything I couldn’t accomplish with, say, a YouTube search, and I didn’t feel good about supporting a service that is allowed to compensate artists so poorly.

Mileage may vary on this, but at the end of the day, I’d rather have my music be MY music. On that, at least, the author and I agree.

Dept. of Unlikely Name Collisions, Jazz Subdivision

Several years ago — and most likely via NPR — I became aware of a jazz bassist named Avishai Cohen.

This morning, a really nice video of him and his band playing was in my feeds; you can watch it here, and I suggest you do (ideally with headphones).

As I listened, I tried to go to Wikipedia for a background refresher on Cohen, and found something somewhat surprising.

I already thought it unusual that Cohen is an Israeli-born jazz musician; maybe it’s because I’m a middle-aged white man, but I don’t think of Israelis as being terribly well represented in jazz. So imagine my surprise when my Wikipedia search brought me this:

Avishai cohen

Yup. In addition to the Israeli-born jazz bassist Avishai Cohen (b. 1970, avishaicohen.com), there’s also an Israeli-born jazz trumpeter named Avishai Cohen (b. 1978, avishaicohenmusic.com), and they appear unrelated.

Neat. Maybe what the jazz world needs now is a collaboration?

Holiday Photo Tip!

When using your fisheye, be careful about the placement of your hand on the camera body. Just because your hand is behind the lens doesn’t mean it’s not in the shot.

PC250550

Posted in Pix

We are a dumb, dumb, dumb country

America is too dumb for TV news:

Until recently, the narrative of stories like [Trump's fantasy of dancing muslims in New Jersey on 9/11] has been predictable. If a candidate said something nuts, or seemingly not true, an army of humorless journalists quickly dug up all the facts, and the candidate ultimately was either vindicated, apologized, or suffered terrible agonies.

Al Gore for instance never really recovered from saying, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” True, he never said he invented the Internet, as is popularly believed, but what he did say was clumsy enough that the line followed him around like an STD for the rest of his (largely unsuccessful) political life.

That dynamic has broken down this election season. Politicians are quickly learning that they can say just about anything and get away with it. Along with vindication, apology and suffering, there now exists a fourth way forward for the politician spewing whoppers: Blame the backlash on media bias and walk away a hero.

[...]

Trump, meanwhile, has been through more of these beefs than one can count, even twice blabbing obvious whoppers in live televised debates. Once he claimed the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to help China, moving Rand Paul to point out that China isn’t in the TPP. Another time he denied that he once called Marco Rubio “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator.” The line was on Trump’s website as he spoke.

In all of these cases, the candidates doubled or tripled down when pestered by reporters and fact-checkers and insisted they’d been victimized by biased media. A great example of how candidates have handled this stuff involved Fiorina.

The former HP chief keeps using a roundly debunked line originally dug up by the Romney campaign, about how 92 percent of the jobs lost under Obama belonged to women. The Romney campaign itself ditched the line because it was wrong even in 2012. When confronted this year, Fiorina simply said, “If the liberal media doesn’t like the data, maybe the liberal media doesn’t like the facts.”

[...]

This is a horrible thing to have to say about one’s own country, but this story makes it official. America is now too dumb for TV news.

It’s our fault. We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that’s basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games. You want bigger margins, you just cram the product full of more fat and sugar and violence and wait for your obese, over-stimulated customer to come waddling forth.

The old Edward R. Murrow, eat-your-broccoli version of the news was banished long ago. Once such whiny purists were driven from editorial posts and the ad people over the last four or five decades got invited in, things changed. Then it was nothing but murders, bombs, and panda births, delivered to thickening couch potatoes in ever briefer blasts of forty, thirty, twenty seconds.

What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it’s just that the Fox version is a little kinkier.

We are completely doomed.

No, I’ll bet Dick Cheney doesn’t think a Muslim ban is Un-American

I saw this today at Talking Points Memo:

Screen Shot 2015 12 08 at 8 51 57 AM

There’s zero chance this is a principled stand by Cheney. Make absolutely no mistake here, and remember that Cheney is a guy who thinks torture, indefinite detention at the will of the state, and invading unrelated countries in response to nonstate terror attacks are all fine and dandy.

No. This is about trying to ice Trump, because now the GOP establishment is well and truly terrified because he keeps not going away. If Trump is the nominee, they’re fucked, because most people won’t vote for this preening fascist blowhard, and the Democratic nominee wins in a walk. If Trump survives long enough in the polls to contemplate a third party run, their base is split and they’re fucked, because without every single angry reactionary white vote, the Democratic nominee wins in a walk.

Here’s the thing, though: This is a bed the GOP made. I’ve been making this point for a while, but the most succinct formulation of it is probably from Wil Wheaton on Twitter:

The GOP’s been laying the foundation for Trump since Nixon’s Southern Strategy and Reagan’s Welfare Queens. None of this should be a surprise.

If you spend 40 years building your politics on fear and hate of the Other, you shouldn’t be surprised if you eventually get a candidate like Trump that’s willing to say and do horrifying things to please the increasingly agitated core.