Monday, September 28, 2009

An Anniversary

Last week was my 29th Wedding Anniversary! Carol and I had a wonderful day together (everyday is wonderful together). Instead of "going out" we rented a French DVD and stayed home watching and eating chocolate-chip vanilla mint ice cream.

I really wanted to get Carol something nice for this anniversary, but somehow couldn't seem to think of anything right. She surprised me and wrote a lovely poem to me entitled "Twenty-Nine Reasons Why" which got to me to say the least. I mulled a few days on this and decided to gift her with a creation of my own.

   Here it is:

A crystalline, hummingbird, dog poop world.
for Carol of our 29th wedding anniversary

No twenty-nine reasons why as
   ten to the twenty-ninth power is not enough blessing for you.
The vast span of Universes thin or broad
   not quantity nor quality true.
Deep is in your eyes that follow me with glances
   true to our visions.

See the hummingbird shimmer in the backyard
   as he flutters then rises vertical to disappear.
Smell the untended dog poop lying in the sun
   because I forgot to clean up before the trashman.
Hear the clash of the neighbors, babysitters, joggers
   parading down canyon central.

Here is our crystal world a snowball
   with a scene and flakes if you turn it upsidedown.
World a nothingness tinged with sad
   without your brightness and kiss.
Smile now for twenty-nine but expect all and more
   for thirty and beyond created evermore!

Copyright ©2009 R.E.Korns

Happy Anniversary Sweet One! May the Sun continue to shine in our hearts.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Politics Oy!

Today is "election day" in the US. I've already voted today. I have a certain angst that develops over the... status quo always dressed in new clothes by smiling public (read "my") money spenders... offered as a "choice". I'm reminded of a couple of cogent quotes:

"Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.  There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide."
John Adams, Letter, April 15, 1814


"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.  Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate for any other."
John Adams

The real truism is that you can't really improve the society unless you actually improve the the individuals and they don't improve unless educated in actual true data inspired by true leaders.

In my opinion, today they're pushing "democracy" (suicide) and a police state. Any person who knows their History should be busy restoring the right thing: A Democratic Republic with Human Rights. You are welcome to join me in this viewpoint, here's how:
  1. Learn "real" History (ferret it out for yourself, use original sources, not what you were taught in school).

  2. Know your actual Human Rights (as guaranteed, in blood, by our ancestors).

  3. Speak out on what you find out.

  4. Know that things are never as bad as they seem to be, they are only made that way by those who would profit by it.

  5. Do something politically effective. Try here: Downsize DC Org

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Feelin' The Blues

My friend composer Dwight Mikkelson brought this to my attention and as it is of world-shaking importance I relay it to you...

Many versions of this have been around for a long time – the originator may have been Dave Barry – but this one's at least one of the best.


Rules For The Blues
  1. Most Blues begin "woke up this mornin'."

  2. You can't use "Got a good woman" to start a Blues unless you insert something nasty in the next line.

       Got a good woman
       With the meanest dog in town

  3. Blues are simple. After you have that first line, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes. Sort of.

       Got a good woman
       With the meanest dog in town

       Got a good woman
       With the meanest dog in town

       He got teeth like Maggie Thatcher
       And he weighs 'bout 500 pounds.

  4. The Blues are NOT about limitless choice.

  5. Appropriate Blues transportation includes Chevy's, Cadillac's, Greyhound buses and southbound trains.

  6. Walkin' is a major part of the Blues lifestyle, as is fixin' to die.

  7. You can have the Blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn or Queens. Hard times in Vermont or North Dakota are just a depression. Chicago, Saint Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the blues.

  8. The following colors do not belong in the Blues:

  9. You can't have the Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong.

  10. Good locations for the Blues:
       The highway
       The jailhouse
       An empty bed

    Bad locations for the Blues:
       The Gap
       Gallery openings
       Weekends at the beach

  11. No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit unless you are an old black man.

  12. You have a right to sing the Blues if:
       Your first name is a southern state (Georgia)
       You're blind
       You shot a man in Memphis
       You can't be satisfied

    You DON'T have a right to sing the Blues if:
       You were once blind but now can see
       You're deaf
       You have a trust fund

  13. If you ask for water and baby gives you gasoline, it's the Blues. Other Blues beverages are:
       Irish whiskey
       Muddy water

    Blues beverages are NOT:
       Any mixed drink
       Any wine kosher for Passover
       Yoo Hoo

  14. Appropriate places for Blues deaths include:
       Cheap motels
       Shotgun shacks
       Stabbed in the back
       Electric chair
       Substance abuse
    Death during liposuction treatments is NOT an acceptable Blues death.

  15. Creating a Blues name:
       Name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Asthmatic)
       First name or name of fruit (Willie, Bessie, Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, Melon)
       Last name of a US President
          Example - Cripple Lemon Clinton

    People with names like Sequoia, Savannah or Sierra will not be permitted to sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

  16. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. Adults sing the Blues. Blues adulthood means you're old enough to get the electric chair for shooting a man in Memphis.

Pretty good huh?
Blind Ray Jefferson Jackson

Friday, October 5, 2007

Darth Buddy

My daughter has a pug named Buddy. It is a little fur-ball that has been in motion for the last six years (at least). I swear, I've seen that dog quiet and asleep only once. She wanted a cute lap dog, what she got was a meteor.

Buddy had, as a puppy, a habit of being able to jump straight up in the air about four feet (nearly to eye level) to be able to get your attention. Buddy grew up with our dog Winston. Winston is a husky/shepard mix, about 68 pounds and four times Buddy's size. Although Winston is a quiet, conservative dog, Buddy taught him this vertical jump and huge Winston does jump to eyelevel scaring the crap out of some visitors.

Buddy breathes like Darth Vader through his facemask. You can hear it now if you listen: Shhhhhhh Twoooosh, Shhhhhhh Twoooosh. If he ever sleeps, then I'm sure if you sleep nearby you might feel better keeping your light-sabre handy.

Recently, I've met a couple of people like Buddy. Going and going and going. You wonder if they ever stop to reflect on any of their actions or on anything for that matter! Most, fortunately, are just energetic in achieving their goals, but some seem to work for the Evil Empire Emperor. One just wishes that they would add the "Darth" appellation to their business card (and the costume and mask would help too).

Can you just see meeting "Darth Fred - Sith" in a dark conference room, looking at his business card (and costume) and knowing you might be in for a tough time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Good 'Ole Summer Time

It's been hot here in Los Angeles, but that's not surprising--it's summertime! The advent of the hot weather brings on the yearly crisis: "To fix the air-conditioner, or not to fix the air-conditioner?" that is the question.

We live at the bottom of a (roughly) north/south canyon. The morning sun is late hitting the house and by mid-afternoon the sun no longer is directly on the house as well. There usually is a gentle breeze blowing up the canyon. This keeps the house cool in the summer for 99.8% of the time, and keeps the air-conditioning bill at $0. This is very, very cool as well.

We have upstairs in a strategic position one of those huge 220 volt through-wall air-conditioning units with enough BTU's keep the whole house like a deep freezer. When it was operational it also required hocking the family jewels to feed $$$ to the DWP (Department of Water and Power--for you non Californians). Even so, there were approximately 2-3 days per year when we didn't care what it cost, then the monster broke down--the cooling part still works, but the fan motor shaft warped from overheating so the fan won't work.

A friend, accountant type, suggested I do a cost analysis before spending any money, so I did. The unit is used 3 days a year, or 72 hours. There are 8,760 hours a year, so it's utilized 0.8% of the year. The best estimate I can get to repair the unit is $380. which means that to keep cool in August this year will cost $5.30/hour + electricity. Hummmmm?

As I sit here in my underwear sipping ice water writing this, I really have no problem with temperature at all!

Friday, July 27, 2007

What's In A Name?

A funny thing happened to me on the way to Bejing in 2008...

This last week I was caught in one of those funny cross-cultural things that can occur which if not caught can lead to later consequences.

Let me explain.

Those of you who have done business with Japanese or been to Japan know that for American ears Japanese names can be difficult to pronounce and remember (they seem so similar). For this reason, Japanese businessmen usually pick an American moniker which they print on their business cards so that Americans may use this moniker to address them without embarrassment. For example, a businessman named Yoshi Nakamuro might print his name on his business card as: Yoshi "Ted" Nakamuro so he may be addressed as "Ted" (but chances are our Yoshi doesn't know that "Ted" is short for Theodore).

My wife and I are preparing to go to a music conference in Bejing, China in 2008. The English orchestral score, program notes, etc. have been translated into Simplified Chinese characters for submission to the conference committee. I am mentioned in several places wherein people who assisted in the score preparation are acknowledged. This means: I need a "Chinese" name for translation.

Our expert translation team thought long and hard to come up with my new Chinese name. Finally they settled on two characters that signify: "Mighty Song" and I was pleased that they thought so much of me to give me this moniker. My wife got her new Chinese name and our music editor also got his new name in the acknowledgments. Everything was done. We were ready to print hardcopy and send softcopy to China via the Internet when...

The sister of our chief translator, who has recently been to mainland China, called in a panic. "Had we printed the score yet? Whatever you do don't send it!" The two characters of my new name bothered her. She seemed to recall seeing them used in China, but couldn't recall the context. Finally early in the morning, waking she recalled, "Mighty Song" were the two characters used to market VIAGRA in China!

Needless to say, I now have a new new Chinese name. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be introduced in Bejing as "Mr. Viagra" This was all fixed up and everyone's now happy.

All I can say is... OY!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Jury is Out

This past week I was called for Jury Duty. And while I can't say anything about any case I might be involved in, I can say something about the overall experience and I must say I've been pleasantly surprised!

I have been placed in a "standby" position for Jury Duty many times, but never have had to actually report until now. A few years ago being asked to report in California meant one had to be at the court in a jury pool everyday for two weeks. You could wait your two weeks and on your last day, 10 minutes before being dismissed, be called by a court and impaneled for an entire trial case (and maybe a second case), oy! There were also many reasons by which one could be excused from duty.

The California legislature in it's wisdom passed a law changing the jury duty system, loosely called: "1 Week, 1 Day or 1 Trial." Basically, it means you need to be "on call" for a week, if not asked to report within that week; you are finished with your duty. If you are told to report and are not chosen to serve on the day you are required to report; you are finished with your duty. If you are impaneled, you are only required to serve for one court case. There are few excuses for not serving. The new system uses a lot of people. The clerks told us that in all of LA County 10,000 potential jurors are called to report each weekday. Wow!

I have been very impressed with the efficiency of the new system and how well the court personnel administer their system. First, they've made it possible to register for Jury Duty via the Internet, further you can query the court via the Internet each evening before you may have to report to determine whether your service will be required the next day.

On our 1st day to report, I estimate there were 225 people in the pool for the courts to utilize all within one of the downtown LA court buildings. The judges in the various departments tell the clerks when they need jurors and any special instructions. The clerk's computer selects jurors from the pool randomly. Everybody is called by number. The entire system was well explained by the clerks and all questions answered. Also, one of the department judges welcomed us and thanked us for serving. One thing we learned was that no two days at the court were alike. On my day I was selected as the last panel of the day (darn!) and there were less than 50 people left to be dismissed and finish their duty.

About 65 of us in the panel went to the department for our court. This gets narrowed down to 12 actually seated to try the case plus 2 alternates. The court clerk was very clear in her instructions. The judge, prosecutor and defense attorneys were all pleasant, courteous and the judge clearly explained all procedures and pertinent data to us. This is about all I can say at this time, but as one who has practically nothing to do with courts and litigation, I have been made to feel welcome and an important part of the system that protects and preserves our freedoms here in the US.

The large pool of 1st day jurors really, really truly represented a cross-section of the diversity of Los Angeles which I love so much about living here. We had Chinese, Caucasians, African-Americans, Latinos, Armenians, Vietnamese, Koreans, Israelis, Persians and ethnicities I didn't recognize. We had youngsters barely voting age, housewives, middle-age men, janitors, car mechanics, doctors, insurance adjusters, realtors, technicians, managers and pretty much any profession you'd find here. I was heartened by their willingness to serve.

Perhaps the gloomy, vested-interest nay-sayers who trash the country in the daily rags are just that: gloomy, vested-interest nay-sayers. They have no power except that which we grant to them by believing them.

Looks like the basics of Freedom are still here, all we need to do is revitalize our true purposes as a nation. Will this occur? The jury is out.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Farmdale Symphony

For the past two weeks, I have had the pleasure of working with brilliant Hollywood music editor and musician Steve McCroskey on a project I have wanted to see completed for a decade.

What do you do if you are an orchestral composer--and you have no orchestra? This can be a really difficult proposition. It's the proposition that my wife, composer Carol Worthey has wrestled with since I've known her. The answer is (of course): get an orchestra. Not a problem if you have Bill Gate's budget, simply hire a symphony. Most orchestral composers are usually associated with a university or music school or other academic connections where they have at least a testing ground for new works. Getting works performed can become an occupation in itself.

Years ago, as a computer expert, I knew there should be a way to duplicate a real orchestra utilizing computing power--and there was. The early attempts utilized synthesizers with limited numbers of channels and tape looping to re-create an orchestra (rather badly I might add). Later, in order to improve the quality of the speaking instrumental voices, "sampling" was invented. In this mode an actual instrument, say a violin, was recorded or "sampled" with an expert player playing single notes throughout the range of the that instrument. Each of these notes were then turned into individual pitched segments that could be "played" by the computer, thus permitting the computer to sound like a violin. Sampling now improved the way it sounded, but not by too much. There are nuances in each instrument, effects and performance conventions learned by human musicians but not particularly available to a computer musician. For example, the violin has pizzicato (plucking the strings with the fingertips), vibrato (a wavering of the tone produced by shaking the hand while holding a string), tremolando (a vibrating tone produced using the bow). If you want the sound of a real performer, then each of these effects have to be sampled as well for every note (pitch) in the instrument's range. This takes a lot of bandwidth.

Several other factors need consideration. Typically there are 25-30 different instruments that comprise an orchestra. Also, there are groupings within an instrument, e.g. Cello I, Cello II, Cello II. This means more channels and a need for more technical capability.

Technically, the ability to create an orchestra on a computer has paralleled the increase in computing speed, available disk space, available memory and available digital to analog (i.e. computer to audio) hardware interfaces. Early on, this not only was unsatisfactory sounding but very expensive (hundreds of thousands of dollars). Fortunately at the same time the capability has increased, the cost has reduced.

There was a time, not long ago, when a number of low-budget Hollywood films used entirely computer generated film scores to save money. They saved money, but generated such awful public response and musician response that this soon stopped. Clearly the technology was not good enough to hack it. Today, not only has the technology improved, but live musicians are routinely mixed in with sampled tracks not only saving production bucks but producing a pretty good overall product.

Carol has a new symphonic work headed to China in 2008 recently completed. We really, really wanted to preview it--saving the world premiere for 2008. Carol, I might add, composes and hears her works in her head then notates the music directly to computer. She has done this since 1984 being a very early adopter of computer technology. Thanks to the help and support of concert pianist, Mary Au we connected to Steve McCroskey and the Farmdale Symphony.

Who are the Farmdale Symphony?

The more appropriate question is: "What is the Farmdale Symphony?" It is a computer piloted by a master editor running at the edge of affordable capability. Conducted by Steve, we transformed Carol's full orchestral score to an audio performance using sampled sounds. It sounds pretty darned good too! Not the LA Philharmonic as yet, but an acceptable performance not easily discernible as a computer performance.

I've wanted this capability for decades and at last it is real, do-able and within reach. I'm really pleased.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blue Moon 'Round Midnight

Have you seen the full moon? I was walking the dog after midnight last night thinking about the moon. Okay, you could call me luney. It's that once in a Blue Moon you've heard about. Yes, about once every two-and-a-half to three years there occurs two full moons within the same calendar month. This is called a Blue Moon (see here).

We're talking lunar calendar here. The term month comes from one full moon to the next full moon (about 29 days).

The Blue Moon was the exception. Do you realize the other full moons had names? They are: the Wolf Moon, Snow Moon, Worm Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon, Strawberry Moon, Buck Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Harvest Moon, Hunter's Moon, Beaver Moon and the Cold (or Long Nights) Moon.

Why is this important?

You need to switch modes from the high-speed, urban, electronic life, out of touch with seasonal, living growing things and switch to an agrarian form of thought. Things like planting, harvesting and surviving Winter occupy a great position of importance. The moon names are said to originate with Native American tribes and adopted by the New England farmers (see here).

Only the Harvest Moon and perhaps the Hunter's Moon names have generally survived into contemporary times--I think that is a shame. Perhaps we should re-name the months for the moons they represent. Think of it, months named for the great ebb and tide of growing things, of fertile, dynamic life--instead of named for Roman Emperors and Roman Gods of a decadent, hated empire.

Why stop there... Gregory and Augustine were pretty lousy astronomers and timekeepers and had hidden agendas. Their calendars keep getting out-of-sync and you have to add a day every blue moon or so, we call it leap year. Let's adopt our new calendar from Tolkein's sensible hobbits. The hobbit calendar is pretty much like ours, but each month has the same number of days (30). The days of the week don't change from year to year. So, for example, if January 4th is Wednesday, it will be Wednesday year after year. But wait--you ask--the actual astronomical year is 365+ days long, what do we do with the extra days? (otherwise after a few decades The Seasons will be out of whack) We do what the hobbits do, proclaim an extra 5 (or 6) days as a special time at the end of the year named: 'Yule'. We all take time off and have a grand party, celebrating that we, our friends, our planet have survived and enjoyed another year.

As this Strawberry winds to a close, have a great Buck.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

AJAX Adventure

For over a week I've been building, and just completed, a web-based website content editor. All of my client website's content exists in MySQL databases and all of their pages are dynamically generated XHTML/CSS w3c compliant pages. Until now, the connection has just been PHP. The availability of great Javascript AJAX libraries encouraged me to undertake this project.

I wish I could say everything is taped out and it's just a matter of putting some blocks together... but it's not! Often doing some of the simplest things with the web monster can be frighteningly complex. If you wanted to be 100% competent on web development, you have to know all about server-side languages and database interaction and client-side browser interactions and all of the different quirks of the five or six main browsers and their earlier versions and new releases and how each handles CSS1 and CSS2. Even then, certain things fail. It's a 90% technology that's never finished.

The problem really isn't the software, the problem is (as usual) people. Incomplete communications, erroneous communications, missing data, conflicting opinions and even greed, jealousy, envy and other destructive emotions all regarding the methods, means and tools to use our glorified "universal" interface called the Web.

I have right now only one user for my simple content editor, so I've debugged and set it up for Firefox. Works great! IE squishes table columns, completely alters the dimensions of submit buttons and refuses to refresh windows--usable but ugly. Opera renders incorrect font sizes, may or may not refresh pages--again, usable but ugly. Haven't tried Mozilla, Netscape or Safari, don't want to.

Ths same conclusion again presents itself: Fine tech if you don't do anything too fancy. Most public pundits belie the level of complexity. If you're a non-techie, try right-clicking somewhere on the background of a webpage and select: "View Page Source". This will popup a window to show you what has been sent to your browser to display the page you are looking at. It could be the tip of the iceberg as every piece of that page's code could be generated by multiple programs accessing multiple databases that exist on the server that served-up that page across the Internet's virtual space.

I'm not knocking the complex, just holding out to have all you developers out there at least consider simplicity and clarity for the rest of us--please!