floppy-disk delay pedal, what?

A Germany company has shipped a delay fx pedal that uses a floppy drive as magnetic media to run its delay. That’s… interesting… and strikes me as likely to be really noisy, but on stage, probably not enough to care.

What makes me think about it more is data rates. Are they floppy-native digital? Are they formatting mp3? If so, 320kbps is very high quality, and the faster floppies managed 500kbps, so we’re good there, and you could ignore FAT and just write a digital data stream at that speed, it’d work.

But what if you intentionally racked that down? I kind of like the idea of intentionally under-quantising your delay pedal. Crank it down to 48kbps or something, have your delay sound like a cranky land telephone line.

Or maybe they’re bypassing the digital part entirely – what does floppy drive sound like as an analogue magnetic media? What do dropouts sound like on a floppy disk?

That would also let you play with different rotation speeds, of course.

Oh wait, look, they have a video. (Scroll down at the link.) Apparently, it’s analogue. That’s fucked up! I kind of like it. But it does lose the possibility of digital data loss, which – depending upon what you’re going for – is kind of too bad. Low data rates combined with this environment could make some really awful/awesome noise.

eta: In comments, John posted a link to this awesomeness, go play that, you need to right now.

again, e pluribus hugo is a requirement

So the Hugo finalists are out for the 2016 Worldcon, and, again, the Rabid Puppies put up a slate, and, again, it’s the same as it ever was: one political party vs. no political parties: the party always wins.

The damage, if you’re curious, of Rabid Puppy slate vs. finalist positions:

2/5 Best Novel (40%)
4/5 Best Novella (80%)
4/5 Best Novelette (80%)
5/5 Short Story (100%)
5/5 Related Work (100%)
5/5 Graphic Story (100%)
1/1 Editor Short Form (100%, but four positions were left open)
3/5 Editor Long Form (60%)
2/5 Dramatic Long Form (but both actually very popular: The Martian and Avengers: Age of Ultron) (40%)
3/5 Dramatic Short Form (60%)
5/5 Professional Artist (100%)
4/5 Semiprozine (80%)
5/5 Fanzine (100%)
5/5 Fancast (100%)
4/5 Fan Writer (80%)
3/5 Fan Artist (60%)
4/5 Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo) (80%)

A lot of people were opposing E Pluribus Hugo on the basis that if you just had a lot higher turnout, the one party running as a political slate would be swamped.

We got that huge turnout. We got the biggest turnout in the history of the Hugo awards. From memory, it was roughly twice the size of last year’s record – and Puppy-fuelled – turnout.

And it had fuck and all impact on the party vs. no-party problem. And it never will. And that’s how we have Chuck Tingle’s “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” with a Hugo nomination.

No, really, it is, thanks to the Rabid Puppy slate voters.

e pluribus hugo must pass second reading at the 2016 Business Meeting. I hope people get that now.

Now, as expected, this year, we saw some sabotage nominations, as well as some genuinely-popular nominations in Long Form. The goal, clearly, was to trigger a repeat of last year’s response: NO AWARD all Puppy nominees, with a revised goal of blocking all Hugo Awards from being given. They said that outright last year: if they can’t win, they will destroy all the awards forever.

So for this year, I am proposing a different strategy:

NO AWARD above anyone connected to running this slate. Anyone who supported it, anyone who promoted it, anyone who worked on it: NO AWARD over them. NO AWARD above Vox Day, NO AWARD above Castalia House (and all its works), NO AWARD above all of it.

Everyone else, vote for the best. Last year was a highly effective action showing rejection of all slates. But this year, the targets must be the specific perpetrators directly. It must be the people who are doing this, because while half of their interest is destruction, another half is self-promotion and boosting the visibility of their own works.

And until slates can be stopped via electoral changes, until e pluribus hugo can pass second reading at this year’s Business Meeting, this must be opposed. Because a vulnerability, once exposed, will be exploited. This will not stop, until it is stopped.

Particularly since Vox gets to spend all of daddy’s money on whatever little ragefest his neofascist heart desires.

e pluribus hugo is now the minimum requirement to save the Hugo awards, in anything like their current form. We knew this would take two years to fix, and this is year two; e pluribus hugo must pass second reading in Kansas City. Fandom, if you care at all about the Hugo Awards, do not fail.

eta: Well, this isn’t good. (File 770 is down, hard, with an owner-please-contact-administrator notice.) Anybody know what’s up? Here’s an archive.

eta2: Mike Glyer says on Facebook that it’s not a DDOS, and that his ISP is working on it; they’re migrating to a new server.

eta3: And there’s our first withdrawal: Tom Mays has pulled “The Commuter” from consideration.

This is a part of a series of posts on the 2015/2016 Hugo Awards capture by a rightist political group whose focus has now shifted to destroying the awards.

as the gender police step up their game

So here’s video of a cop throwing a lesbian against a wall and out of a washroom for dressing too butch, as the Gender Police start stepping up their game. This has been happening for a while, but the new fundamentalist right Queer Panic is really ramping it back up again. It’s like Saudi Arabia and the goddamn religious police in action, only, you know, it’s not a death penalty situation – yet.

That video pretty much instantly triggered a new Mary Kaye and the Cosmetics song. They’re my all-dyke hardcore punk alt-band who play only Hello Kitty-branded instruments, and they write shit like this and My Boyfriend and Sad Muppet. I’ve worked out the lyrics and most of the chords, of which there are four.

It’s short and very screamy. I’m not sure I have the vocal chops for it but I’m going to try. The lyrics are not worksafe.

Also, this same pack of assholes are going to be ramping up their local to me initiative campaign next week.

See, they may have local activists, but all these trace back to one specific large group of fundamentalist/reconstructionist lawyers who advocate making queer people illegal across the world. This time, it results in putting a $2500 bounty on trans kids in schools. I am not even making that shit up, it’s $2500 per kid per washroom break, because as I’ve said before: these SOBs aren’t happy unless they can make queer kids as miserable and broken as possible. It’s what they live for.

And yet, somehow, we’re the supervillains. jfc.

I think I’m gonna go work more on that song now.

shotgun microphone

I really kind of want to make one of these shotgun microphones from an Electronics Experimenter’s Handbook of many years ago:

Look at that thing, is that amazing or what? The frequency range isn’t as wide as it could be, but I don’t even know whether that matters too much in these sorts of applications. It’d be fun regardess! And maybe even actually useful in field recording. So frequency spectrum isn’t what I’m worried about.

I more worry about getting shot on sight by some cop after some idiot calls in a sniper.

I really wish I wasn’t making that up, but I’ve already been warned once that I’m inviting bullet danger with this thing. I’d say maybe I could paint it orange and put a big NERF sign on it, and that might work for me, but it wouldn’t work for everybody I know, because racism fucks everything, and I might, you know, want to loan it out or have somebody else adjust it and who even knows, right?

As impacts of the national-security fear state go, this is a pretty low-grade one, but it still sucks. And this is a case where being a supervillain doesn’t even help, because this is something you’d need to do in civvies, and secret identity blah blah blah why do I even have one if I can’t use it to MAKE FIELD RECORDINGS WITH AMAZING MICROPHONES THAT LOOK LIKE GIANT LASER WEAPONS OF THE 1960s?!


We have a visitor at the lair! So I’m a bit distracted at the moment. Also, I’ve been doing a little field recording of interesting sounds – rain, pottery breaking, glass breaking like gunshots, things like that. It’s fun!

I’m going out with Leannan Sidhe in a couple of weeks to do more serious field recordings, and I’m very new at all of this, so that will be educational.

But yeah, busy. So have a little landscape photo I shot the other day. I liked the layer of petals in the grass.

(click to enlarge)

monday was weird

Monday was weird. I mean, aside from the 15F record heat and ambush summer. That was part of it, tho’. Maybe setting the table.

I made a papercraft optical-illusion K-9 from Doctor Who Sunday night, and the video I posted early Monday morning has been played like 30,000 times already, because the official BBC Doctor Who tumblr reblogged it.

Two roofers apparently decided independently “eh, showing up is for other people” so now my lair improvements are problematic again. GUYS DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW THIS WORKS I CAN PAY YOU IT ISN’T EVEN STOLEN

Also, I think I am being trolled by China.

On the plus side, the new music store near the lair – Kennelly Keys, the one that used to be a gun shop and before that was custom window shutters – carries Black Widow merch. So… I guess that’s… still a little weird? But in a good way. At least it’s not Generic Stormtrooper.

More than Target

So, yeah. Monday was weird.

anechoic thunderdome

Thanks to Sean Zimmerman, who I met at Conflikt, I got to go poke around at and in Microsoft’s anechoic chambers! One of them just recently set the world record for the quietest place on earth. And it was really cool.

The Building. Massive. Brutalist. Stoic. Waiting. Quiet.

Sean and Christian, Our Tour Guides

These rooms are called “anechoic chambers” because they are rooms that don’t echo sound. (An-echo-ic: An – negation, “echo” – echos, “ic” – characteristics thereof.) All normal rooms echo sound all over the place, as I’ve talked quite a bit about previously. These… pretty much entirely don’t.

Microsoft actually built four of these chambers, at different sizes, for different purposes. Two are tiny – far too small to walk into. Those are for various kinds of small device testing. But the two we’re looking at today are both much larger.

The first one, which I’ll call the Green Room, has a really big door!

Not that door, you clowns, the other one!

Yeah, this one!

It also has a metal grate floor which brings the noise level up a bit. It’s like -8db from 0 reference, which doesn’t give you much of an idea of scale – but for pretty much everyone, 0db is completely inaudible. Anything below that starts getting crazy, and the lack of sound reflection will start freaking some people out. Sound just kind of …collapses. It dies around you. That’s the territory we’re in, and we aren’t even in the world record room yet!

The absolute minimum for sound in this measurement scale is brownian motion in air – the sounds produced by random collisions of gas molecules. That’s -23db, and more or less the absolute zero of sound in a standard atmosphere.

The Green Room is neon green on the outside. It needed painting for protective purposes, but nobody specified a colour, so when this chamber started going up they asked the contractor ‘why this neon green,’ and the contractors were all ‘you got something against the Seahawks?’ XD

Green Room connects to the building HVAC, but has its own control zone and is baffled heavily inside – which means it can be completely cut off from building HVAC when in use. From memory, I think it completely blocks out everything external below 180Hz, and almost everything below that as well. That may and may not sound super-impressive if you don’t know how this works, but trust me – it’s impressive.

This is an 80s Doctor Who set, right? Quickly, Tegan – this way!

But this isn’t even the big story. The bigger chamber you haven’t seen yet? That one holds the world record. It certified at -20db for the Guinness Book. When people talk about Microsoft’s Anechoic Chamber, they mean the bigger one.

The record holder is basically a separate isolated building. It’s completely surrounded by the large cement building pictured up top, including overhead, and has its own separate HVAC system. There’s a gap of about a metre between the two structures. The only common point is the ground on which the two buildings rest, and the power and sound cables, which are, themselves, sound-insulated nine ways to hell and back.

Mind the gap:

Looks like a Vault-Tec utilities corridor. Supermutants, probably. Careful.

This – okay, few people remember this, but there was a time when home audiophiles of the particularly batshit sort would do this sort of thing for their turntables. No, seriously, they’d cut a hole in the floor of their house, and pour a cement base and column, onto which they would mount the turntable, for complete isolation. And as goofy as that is in a home audio environment – I mean seriously, what? – it is meaningful here.

Anyway. The floor in the big chamber is just fun to walk on. It’s a coarse square mesh that feels like walking on a trampoline. Bouncie bouncie! Obviously, this is a flats-only room, no heels here:


Below that is a super-thin fine mesh which catches dropped objects, and below that, more of the same sound baffling as used on the walls. Then – in all directions but down – the aforementioned gap separating the two buildings.

The Microsoft audio-testing crew want to put a tentacle in the gap space, or at very least an inflatable alligator. (This came out after I said that in Fallout 3, that gap would have water in it. And ghouls.)

Both walk-in chambers use special lighting. I don’t know the technical details, but they’re designed so what incredibly tiny amounts of noise they might make is at 40,000Hz, well outside human hearing. This to avoid the 60Hz hum of many light bulbs – even incandescent. I don’t know if they’re supplying DC power or very high frequency AC or whether that’s possibly a trade secret. Could be!

Quietest photon cannons on the planet

Oh, wait, you didn’t know light bulbs made noise? Surprise! When lighting out my studio I went through several different bulbs, testing for quietness. I didn’t go to the extremes shown here, of course, but still.

I did the same for my computer monitors, which is one of the reasons why I’m afraid to upgrade my digital audio workstation to widescreen – I don’t know what kind of noise profile the new ones might have, and going to a store will not help. Everything below air horn sounds quiet at Best Buy.

This room, like the green one, also has a Really Big Door. This one opens inward, instead of outward, which creates a problem – and check out how the back of this door interfaces with the wall it has to open into as a result. It’s pretty cool.

That interfacing is important; those wedge panels are interlinked. Damage one, and you have to disassemble all the way back to the door to replace it. Bill Gates once sent a memo to Microsoft Security saying, “Yes, the developers are allowed to play golf in the halls,” but that would not apply here.

That door – and the walls, and everything else, of course – mean that all sound above 150Hz is blocked completely out of the room, as is damn near everything below that. Then the wall treatment takes care of anything generated inside. And the microphones and mic preamp combinations they use for testing cost like $10,000 each – well more than my entire studio!

I’d like to say that I fruck out a bit when they let me stand in there in the dark and in quiet, but really, I didn’t. I found it calming and nice. They only kept the doors closed and lights off for four or five minutes; they say people can get pretty antsy in that short a period of time, but I was still rather enjoying it. To me, it sounded like a very quiet studio, just… lots more so.

I’d’ve liked a couch or something to lay down on. And would no doubt have fallen asleep almost instantly. No Sith Lord would have anything on me!

Meditate on this, Darth Asthma

Relatedly, Minion Paul doesn’t like being in my studio for long, because even that is too quiet and it freaks him out. So there you are. 😀

All in all: super-cool experience, and I can 100% legit say I have stood in the quietest place on Earth. Pretty awesome day. Thanks again, Sean! And as always, larger versions of the pictures are on Flickr.

floral riot

I haven’t posted a flower picture in a while. I like it when flowering plants grow together like this. Click to enlarge:

station II station

Station II Station
(photo Christian C.)

A few weeks ago, I got to go to visit Microsoft’s anechoic chambers. This was super cool, particularly since I got to visit the world record holder, which was neat. A lot of people find them eerie and/or creepy; I just thought it was awesome. I have a big post queued up next week, with lots of pictures.

But I also wanted – since I had a unique opportunity here – to snap a thematic variant of David Bowie’s icon Station to Station album cover, from his Thin White Duke era, wherein he is also walking into an anechoic chamber. Mission accomplished!

(I wanted originally to do a straight-up re-creation, but the setting was too different. Science of sound damping has progressed since 1978! 😀 And inversion and variation is better art anyway!)

I’m really pleased with it. Thanks for the help, Christian – and, for that matter, the tour, Sean! And I’ll post about the whole experience next week.

vox day, eric raymond, and the lambda conference blacklist

LambdaConf – a functional programming conference – invited an active and overt white supremacist as a speaker. A bunch of people signed a petition protesting that; LambdaConf told them more or less to fuck off. Now the neofascists are targeting all the petitioners, and Eric Raymond, noted open source developer, has jumped in endorsing a do-not-hire blacklist.

What makes this vaguely relevant here is that our old white supremacist and neofascist Hugo Award-scamming pal, Vox Day, has jumped in on the side of the neofascists, and is the one organising the blacklist. When I went checking to verify that Eric Raymond screencap, I also checked comments, where he’s stridently defending Vox. What a clusterfuck of horrible people this is!

And somehow, at the same time, you have the Horror Writers Association appointing fascist David A Riley to their award jury, and people are fighting over what’s wrong with that.

Now, Nick Mamatas argues that there’s a bit of a difference, in that awards are specifically bringing an entire aesthetic to a function, and Moldbug – the LambdaConf white supremacist speaker – was only going to be talking about code. True, but for me, it’s not really different, just different in degree, because developers are making decisions that affect the aesthetics of real life, all the time.

Take that flap recently where a GeoIP company sent every person looking up an IP address’s geographic location to a specific address in the middle of the US if they didn’t have an actual, correct hit for that IP address. They literally chose an old woman’s farm as their default, because it was the nearest address to geographical US centre.

As a result, she’s been facing years of abuse from strangers, because the company never thought somebody would look up some woman’s address online and go harass her.

They outright said that. Tell me that’s not bringing an aesthetic to software.

And just as much as that sort of programming aesthetic, there’s simple flat out personal safety. White supremacists – like misogynists – don’t believe that everybody in the room is an actual person, right? Unless the croud is whites only, or male only, or both, of course. Preferably both.

Take Dave Sim as an example of an overt misogynist. I won’t be in the same room with that man. Preferably not the same building; certainly not at the same event. That’s because he quite literally believes that women are not people, and that women exist only to drain off of real people, meaning men.

If I have to be in the same room with him, I want a gun, because I don’t trust him not to attack me or some other woman. I think it’s very unlikely, of course. But I’ve read his writing about women, and I would not rule it out. And if we woke up tomorrow and found he’d cut up some woman and put her parts in a dumpster, I would have exactly zero surprise.

And given that this shit happens, and happens routinely, I don’t think that’s irrational. I think it’s called real life impact.

So in the case of an overt white supremacist like Moldbug, you’d have to be profoundly stupid – on an emotional/empathetic level at very, very least – to think people of colour aren’t going to have the same reaction. Because that also happens, in real life.

And I don’t think most of these people are stupid. I just think they’re fine with that.

Which is much worse.

This is part of a collection of posts on racism, sexism, and homophobia in geek culture, covering a variety of specific subtopics. A sorted list of posts can be found here.

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