There Is No Cat

Groovy '60s Sounds from the Land of Smile!

Monday, June 28, 2004

Profanity therapy

The cocksucking dickweed currently occupying the Vice President's seat in Washington has defended his use of profanity in dealing with someone he disagrees with. Dickwad Cheney, a cocksmoking motherfucker if ever I saw one, took it up the ass for telling the distinguished Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, to "go fuck himself". Cheney defends the stream of shit emanating from his potty mouth, saying that he "felt better after I had done it." This shithead is part of an administration that promised to change the fucking tone of discourse in Washington. It certainly has. People who at one time might have been able to converse civilly are now telling their opposite numbers to shut their fucking traps. It's a motherfucking disgrace what these hypocritical sons of bitches do. As far as I'm concerned, the asslicker can go fuck himself with a chain saw.

There. I feel much better now.

Posted at 12:15 AM
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Saturday, June 26, 2004

The bartender will see you now

I'm looking forward to my first prescription from this place....

Uncle Mike's Ale House - Walk In Services and Appointments Available

Posted at 8:40 PM
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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Jumping up and down

Andy Baio at has announced the winners of the Dave Winer Remix Contest that I mentioned last Saturday. Imagine my surprise to find that the winner of the grand prize was, er, me. I really didn't expect that. I thought maybe, just maybe the number of entries was small enough that I might sneak into third place or something. So I guess this is my Sally Field moment. I'm glad everyone liked the chorus so much. When I laid the vibes under the sample, I knew it just worked really well.

Incidentally, I did try to make another piece, using the "glass ball" sample from Dave's second missive as Jeneane Sessum was so eager to hear. But the audio quality of that one was badly affected by the rumble of the air conditioner in the background, and it was difficult to match the samples of the first audioblog to those of the second. The ambiance was just very different. Sadly, it just points out the truth of one of the first things I learned in my audio production classes lo! these many years ago: get the audio right the first time. Some things just can't be fixed in the mix. There is no such thing as an air conditioner filter (not in the audio realm, anyway; this was actually taught to us using the example of truck noise in the background of an interview, and that there was no such thing as a truck filter). I may still try to play with it a bit just for fun. We'll see.

Anyway, that was a very pleasant surprise. I look forward to hearing from Andy about the Gmail invites I've won.

Posted at 7:00 PM
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Saturday, June 19, 2004

Marching forward for the glorious revolution

Laura and I were in the city today, wandering around SoHo (after she finished her dance lesson and I finished some genealogical research at the National Archives). On Prince Street, we came across a young Russian gentleman with a table set up and a bunch of old Soviet-era constructivist posters. I absolutely love these old propaganda posters. So I bought a couple for $10 each.

You can see the two that I bought on the site of the ETS publishing house in Russia. They sell the same posters for about $20 each via PayPal. The two that caught my eye today were a poster about security, Don't Caper!, and one with a more domestic focus, Say goodbye to kitchen slavery! Let the new life begin! I was also very tempted by the famous poster Face out a plan of great works! from 1930, but I don't think he had a paper copy of that, just t-shirts and canvas bags. ETS has over sixty posters for sale on their web site.

Posted at 11:48 PM
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Smoking Weblogs

A few days ago, I wrote about the abrupt shutdown of over 3000 weblogs at One thing I noted in passing was that Dave Winer, the man responsible for pulling the plug, had posted his explanation in audio format rather than as text. Well, an enterprising wag out there took the opportunity to remix and recontextualize Dave's talk as a dance tune. Andy Baio at loved it so much that he started a contest for the best remix. I've done some previous scrambling of speeches, but not with music attached. But I recently bought a copy of Apple's Garage Band (part of iLife '04) and wanted to exercise it, so this was the perfect opportunity.

You can listen to my contribution, "Smoking Weblogs," here, or you can go listen on with all the other entries.

Posted at 11:18 PM
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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

"They were right. It is a cult. But a nice cult."

Last weekend, Laura and I stopped at IKEA for the first time in a long time. We had just been looking at couches in another furniture store. Laura was impressed by how inexpensive the couches at IKEA were; I was looking at them and thinking about how cheaply constructed they were and how they would be lucky to last five years. (That said, I bought the desk I'm using right now at IKEA eight years ago, and it's as good as the day I bought it. But then, I paid about three times as much as one of those couches cost.) The Guardian has a lengthy, interesting article examining the company, how they make their goods so cheaply, how they find all those goofy names for everything, and their founder's early flirtation with fascism and Nazism.

I was tempted by some of the lamps, and may return to get some, but I would have a hard time living with most of what they sell. All the reading I've done on modern design and looking at how furniture is made have really raised my appreciation for items that are well made (and added to a desire to make some of it myself so I know that it's well made, or not, as the case may be). That and a desire to not ever live like a college student again. Lamps and Daim chocolate candy and maybe a long wall shelf were about it.

Posted at 11:40 PM
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Tuesday, June 15, 2004


David Weinberger lifts a great cartoon about the legacy of Ronald Reagan, the second worst President of my lifetime. The panel about Reagan being the kind of guy you could sit down and have a beer with is a close relative of one of the claims that most stuck in my craw back in the day, that Reagan was the kind of guy you would be glad to have at your barbecue.

The only way Ronald Reagan would have been welcome at my barbecue is on the spit.

It sucks to be blessed with such clear memory of those days, but not nearly as much as it must to have the kind of amnesia the media has displayed in recent days.

Posted at 10:41 PM
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La compagnie, รง'est moi

Much grinding of gears and gnashing of teeth in Blogistan over Dave Winer's decision to disenfranchise 3000+ bloggers in one stroke by just stopping hosting them. Dave posted his excuse in an audio blog; Jeanane Sessum transcribed it to make it more accessible. Dave says that he can't afford to host the sites by himself, that he's only one person, and that his health won't let him do it. Okay, that's perfectly reasonable. Nobody (reasonable) wants Dave to kill himself. Not really.


Except there's one question here. Why are the 3000+ web sites Dave's responsibility? When those sites on were created, they weren't presented as being hosted by Everyone's Buddy Dave, your plastic pal who's fun to be with; they were presented as being hosted by UserLand Software, Inc. The agreement made it crystal clear that this was a service provided by UserLand. When you signed up, you became a UserLand member. (Of course, UserLand also disclaimed any responsibility "in any manner for loss of data resulting from the use of this system.") When did UserLand abandon Manila users to the person of Dave Winer? Did they bother to explain to anyone that the service they once provided was now the responsibility of a single person rather than of the company?

I'm sure they didn't think about it at the time. Back in the day, it was very easy to conflate UserLand Software, Inc., with Dave Winer. Dave really made no attempt to draw distinctions between himself and his company. The perception that they were one and the same was set in stone, and still holds sway today, as can be seen in Dave's need to point out in his audio blog that there is a difference between the two.

So now 3000+ webloggers have been summarily evicted with no notice. Dave has perfectly reasonable excuses for his actions. But he has no excuse for the lack of action that led to this. And UserLand really screwed up as a company by surreptitiously abandoning a huge user base to the fortunes of one person with a bum ticker. I guess when you play with a cactus, you're bound to get pricked.

Posted at 12:07 PM
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Thursday, June 10, 2004

No I said no you won't no

Suw Charman notes that James Joyce's grandson has quashed the annual Bloomsday celebrations where fans of the book Ulysses get together and read aloud from the book on the day on which the events in the book take place. Said grandson wants his piece of the action and threatens anyone who engages in a public reading of the book with legal action for copyright violation.

I think the only proper response to this would be for the people who would normally attend one of these readings to show up at their appointed times and places with copies of Ulysses, and simulataneously read the passages that would have been read aloud. To themselves. In silence. I think that would be a neat protest.

Posted at 11:00 PM
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Panacea or same old same old?

Doc Searls brings my attention to an interesting development in antennas: a man in Rhode Island, Rob Vincent, is claiming to have come up with a novel and effective way to shorten antennas, which have to be monstrously large at low frequencies. Rob Vincent was a frustrated ham operator with an interest in the 160 meter band, just above the top end of the AM (medium wave) broadcast band. AM stations typically load up their towers to get maximum signal. A station at 1500 kHz, for example, would need a tower about 50 meters high (say, 160 feet) to resonate at a quarter of the wavelength of the transmitter signal. Few hams operating on 160 meters can afford to erect a tower 40 meters high to get that quarter wavelength. In fact, generally speaking, the antenna of choice for DXers interested in medium wave and the low end of shortwave (up to about 5000 kHz) is a long wire about ten feet above the ground, known as a Beverage antenna after the man who invented it in the early 20th century, Harold Beverage. At my last house, I erected an antenna that was long enough to start to show the characteristics of a Beverage antenna, and at the new house I've erected a similar antenna that's even longer, about 90 meters long, that shows promise. Not everyone has the ability to put up long or tall antennas, however, so anything that promises to shorten antenna length and mediumwave and shortwave frequencies would be of great interest.

But when I read a little further, I became a little skeptical. The New York Times article about the antennas mentions the use of loading coils as being crucial.

Loading coils?

Antennas based on loading coils have been sold for decades. Commercial antennas like the Alpha Delta DX Sloper and the Eavesdropper Sloper use loading coils to provide short antennas for installation in middling-sized suburban yards. I've been a shortwave listener for 27 years, and I don't remember there ever being a time when loading coils weren't a prominent feature on certain well-considered antennas. This is nothing new, and certainly nothing patentable. The University of Rhode Island press release about the antenna calls it a "distributed-load monopole antenna". Heck, that sounds like the broomstick antenna long pushed by Radio Havana's Arnie Coro, which gains length by winding wire around a dowel or a PVC pipe so that you get lots of wire into a small space.

The Times article says that Mr. Vincent's design improves on conventional designs in several ways. That may be so. I certainly look forward to reading the patent when it's published to see if this is anything more sophisticated than what's described in the article. Because given that the Times only compares Vincent's antenna to broadcast towers, I'm not sure if "conventional designs" refers to those towers, or to the longstanding practices of the type shown in the sloper antennas. There are certainly innovative and unique design approaches coming out in recent years for antennas. Fractal antennas were a surprise. The BLAST antenna arrays developed at Bell Labs show great promise at very short wavelengths such as those used by cell phones. (Neither of these designs work at the frequencies of interest to me and to Mr. Vincent, by the way). The article quotes someone at the ARRL, the organization of amateur radio operators. He seems skeptical. I share that skepticism. Maybe there's something new here. Or maybe it's just a reinvention of the wheel. (Not that that's stopped the patent office in recent years....)

Postscript (added 10:49 pm): I ran this by a friend of mine who is a longstanding engineer, shortwave listener, and ham, and who writes a technical column for the NASWA Journal, the monthly publication of the North American Shortwave Association. (Disclaimer: I am on the board of NASWA, and help publish the Journal every month.) He points out that the Times article talks about an antenna that melted when fed with 100 watts. He says, "Antennas melt because they are inefficient and change RF energy into heat. A truly efficient antenna would not melt." He's been in to radio for many more years than me, and points out that loading coils have been around since the 1920s. Doc's suggestion that these antennas might replace AM broadcast towers seems unlikely to me; cooling the heat generated by such an antenna would likely take more money than just building the full tower in the first place.

Posted at 10:19 PM
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Wednesday, June 9, 2004

When the moon hits your eye

In Naples, they take their pizza seriously. They have a law dictating the size and ingredients of Neapolitan pizza. That hasn't stopped the proprietors of the pizzerias there from continuing to feud about what makes a pizza a pizza. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that I believe that the pizza of Antica Pizzeria Brandi della Regina d'Italia, mentioned in the article, just has to be the best. No question. And some day I'll get to go to Naples and prove it.

Posted at 6:45 PM
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Saturday, June 5, 2004

Nigritude Ultramarine

At work, search has been a priority lately. We've been talking with our clients about how to improve the search results on our site, and even a little about how to improve results on external search engines like Google. It's become an issue with some visibility. I was simultaneously pleased and appalled when I heard our clients were going to be talking to some consultants about (external) search engine optimization. Pleased because it's an indication that they're taking the issue seriously, but appalled because so many of the people working in that field are peddling snake oil and recommending ethically questionable and even counter-productive actions. So when I saw Anil Dash's post about the subject, I was interested. He's entered a contest where search engine optimizers are competing to see who gets the top rank when people search for the nonsensical phrase "Nigritude Ultramarine". I suppose he's trying to prove that clean semantic code, proper writing, and being linked to (ideally on merits, but since there are no merits to be judged when it comes to Nigritude Ultramarine, he'll settle for Google-bombing) are the best approach to search engine optimization. That's a sentiment I can definitely get behind.

Posted at 3:15 AM
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Friday, June 4, 2004

Questions you don't want to know the answer to, part 1

When Posh Spice (Victoria What's-Her-Name) was pregnant with David Beckham's child, did the kid kick a lot?

(Laura came up with that.)

Posted at 7:57 AM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2024, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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