The U.S. Vs. G Dub

A few evenings ago I watched The U.S. Vs. John Lennon, a documentary covering Lennon’s post-Beatles years as a medium for peaceful messages. The footage of Lennon is remarkable; he’s so clever and quick, and also so passionate without ever seeming grim or humorless. He and Yoko were brilliant at deploying their attentive members of the media to serve their pointed, and creative, purposes. Together they were fervent, optimistic, energetic, and loud. And their opposition–those who sought war–took them to be a very serious threat.

The footage compelled me to sit less idly and more actively in my moderate-sized abode. Inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, I set in to create some new slogans in the vein of “War Is Over (If You Want It)” — slogans that will resonate throughout the country, that will inspire people and make them more optimistic about our future. However, I’m not a genius, and so I’ve yet to think up a strong one. I’ve only come up with one that is closer to humorous and ironic and, perhaps, pessimistic (though I choose to believe that the tendency to miss total sincerity is not a result of my own pessimism and pervasive sense of irony, but instead is a result of my sense of humor–a sense that Lennon possessed in exquisite quality and quantity–and my station in these hyper-media savvy times), rather than, as Lennon/Ono’s slogan/song was, riveting and resonating and resounding.

A clip of in the movie Nixon has striking parallels to what we are hearing come from our current dear leader. Nixon, in his Great Silent Majority speech from 1969, states:

As South Vietnamese forces become stronger, the rate of American withdrawal can become greater.

I have not, and do not, intend to announce the timetable for our program, and there are obvious reasons for this decision which I’m sure you will understand.

But just like today, when those noble goals are backed up pathetic policy, the phrase “No Timetable” gets reduced, at best, to a gag, and at worst, to a synonym for incompetence.

(This, of course, is referencing Bush’s occasional casual advisor.)

Can you come up with any?
Next up: wheatpaste and a catchy song.

Organ Cycling Practice

The space in my practice space is tight, and so things are arranged like a jigsaw. To play my electric organ I have to sit on the Exe-Trak Cycle. It’s a good way to get exercise while playing around, and also a good way to play around while getting exercise. Today I made a short video of me doing just that.

The sound was a little low, so I boosted it a smidge in garageband. I’m on dial-up, so I haven’t watched this since uploading it. (Also, this is the first video I’ve put on youtube! Expect more. I wish it didn’t take me 30 minutes to watch a single video… I’m missing out, I know it.)

Most of the keys on the organ do not work. So I don’t have a lot of range with those beats. Also, on the bottom keys I can’t press more than one at once. The top set of keys all work at different volumes. These limitations, though, allow me to almost get away with having no piano skills.

Morse Code Ringtone

Quick summary of post: this post describes, in a long-winded way, how to make your own morse code ringtone. I’ve made a few myself, and they can be found on this page. They are free, and in mp3 and mmf format. If you want a different one, tell me, and I’ll probably do it. I’m better at making them now.

The eight months I spent waiting for the Core 2 Duo processors to come out in Mac laptops–waiting until I could certify myself as a convert, waiting to take advantage of all the fun applications–provided me with ample time to come up with many little, and often odd, ideas about what I would do with the computer. And now that I have the computer, and now that I’ve equipped my desktop with both a blinking Christmas tree and a dancing Hula Jesus, I felt that the time was right to actuate some of those ideas.

One of the ideas was to use Garageband and my synthesizer to make music. But since my specialty on the synth is, at my current skill level, noise — often of the blip bleep bloop variety — I thought I’d start out by making some short, simple, ethereal, ambient ringtones (perhaps I got this idea after being blown away by The Wolfram Custom Ringtone Generator — ringtones can be cool and fun). Then somehow I thought to incorporate morse code into the ringtones. The code, I imagined, would say things, things that, to us non-Hobby Hams, are kind of secret. Things such as Ring, Telephone, or Answer Me.

But first I needed some inspiration. I found it first with an article from Wired that provided some basics on making your own ringtones.

I then located this free morse to midi ringtone generator. Users type in text, and out comes a morse translation, plus a file of it to put on your phone. It provides users with the traditional morse tones. From the comments it appears that many of the users are interested in getting their ham radio call sign as their cell phone ring.

Next up I found Phil Tulga’s Morse Code Music page. On this great site, users punch in some text, then choose either Drums, Tones, or Voice. You then press play and are rewarded with looping morse music. The drums are especially fun. It’s very easy to forget that the loops are comprised of words — two times removed, I suppose. They sound just like music. I’m definitely going to be coming back to this page.

With the preliminary research accomplished, and the inspiration located, the second thing this endeavor required was a program that’ll turn text into morse audio (edit: um, I guess I actually already found that with the generator mentioned above, but I wanted one an non-web app). There were quite a few to try out. One’s a convenient little widget, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for — the morse output is spoken by those those built-in Mac robot voices. That might be useful in the future — especially the Zarvox voice — but for now I just want straight di dit and dahs. Fast Morse ended up being just what I needed. Just about, at least. It’s very simple (some of the other programs are big on providing lessons for learning morse code). The problem is that you can’t save and then export the output as an audio file.

I got around this picking up the output as it comes through the speakers with the laptop’s built-in mic, and recording it straight into Garageband. I then repeated it a bunch of times, then used a few tools to tool around with the tones (it had a pang to it that I can imagine annoying too many people as it emanates from a cell phone) — tremolo, echo, and some other things. I then moved it into Audacity, and with Lame converted it to mp3.

This is just a simple first try. It was fun and easy. I’ll be doing more in the future. I didn’t even use the synth on this one. I had been thinking that the synth could be used to add some extra background texture.

So if anyone wants to check out this tone, here you go! It’s not annoying. It’s a bit different. It repeats the word “ring” seven times in morse code, and is accompanied by some soft effects. You can download it and listen to it first. To get it on your phone, you can either connect your phone to the ‘net and then navigate over to the url of the file, or you can download it to your computer and then use bluetooth or usb. Your phone must support mp3 ringtones — most do these days.

Morse Ring

Feel free to give me some feedback. (I haven’t put it on my phone yet… I don’t get reception at my house. I’m especially interested to know how the levels are. I’m afraid it might be a bit too quiet.)

Blue Skies, With Clouds

Observant visitors to this internet domain, and all the knotty subdomains contained herein, will notice all the addresses to be some variation of skyly phrase having to do with blue skies above us. For instance, this page right here is called Mostly Blue Skies Above Us. I think it’s a positive phrase–as opposed to, say, Partly Blue Skies Above Us. In general, I try to be a positive guy about things, and I think mostly, in this case, reflects that well.

To set the record straight for good, I’m going to clarify what Mostly Blue Skies Above Us means: it means that there are also, amidst the blueness, some clouds high up in the sky.

Now, what would you think if you caught someone or something saying or writing that they are “fighting the banality of ‘blue-sky thinking'”? You’d probably, I’m guessing, wonder if they are advocating multi-hued skies. But if you are me, you wouldn’t worry about that so much, because you know they aren’t, because you’ve read the rest of the accompanying sentences. And so what you’d do then is you’d quickly embrace them. And then you’d hope that maybe they are paying attention to the qualifications in your subdomains, and so know that you’re about more than just strictly blue skies, and so they won’t be inclined to push you off of them and then punch you.

I love clouds. And I’m proud to say that my new favorite friend–the entity behind that fragment of a sentence quoted above–is The Cloud Appreciation Society. Browsing their website and their flickr page, I feel like I’ve already been a friend forever. And I haven’t even signed up yet!

Dig their manifesto with me–it’s totally esoteric. (as of this posting, the manifesto is a page devoid of words, containing one photo of a cloud.)

The Join Us page has some written info:

You love lying in the park on a summer’s day and looking for shapes in the cumulus clouds. You think a mackerel sky of puffy altocumulus stretching off towards the setting sun is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. In short, you love clouds. And yet everyone else just seems to complain about them. Are you the only one who thinks life would be poorer without these glorious ‘patron goddesses of idle fellows’?

No, you’re not. There are others like you. And together we’ll fight the sun fascists and their obsessions with ‘blue-sky thinking’. As a member of The Cloud Appreciation Society, you’ll receive a free membership certificate and a badge (as shown to the right).

We hope you will frame your certificate, display it prominently and wear your society badge with pride at all times, including when you are in the bath.

I’m going to join TCAS. And I’m going to show them that not all people who are way into blue skies like me are blue-sky fascists! I love mostly blue skies. I love imagining blue skies. And so on. And when I’m imagining totally blue skies, I sometimes add in a cloud or two just to get some texture in there!

Membership only costs three pounds. That seems really good to me for including a badge and certificate. But maybe I don’t know what the conversion rate is right now. Members contribute cloud art, cloud photos, cloud poems, they’ve published a Cloud-Spotters Guide, and they even feature a Cloud of the Month.

In addition to that cloud photo of mine posted above, here’s another recent cloud photo of mine. So, um, I think I’m going to go the cloud poetry route in order to get across my message of tolerance and positivity for all variations of sky. I feel like I’ve really found something here. I should add a few little clouds to my banner image. I think that would be appropriate.

My Top 5 Top 10 Mac Programs

About a year ago there was a popular meme advising people to post their top 10 applications (freeware or shareware) for Macintosh computers. Each type of user had different programs that were most useful to them, although there were always a few standard applications that most everyone agreed were great. A few weeks ago I purchased/credited a Mac laptop, and so I’ve been spending a good portion of my life scouring all these lists, picking, choosing, and then trying programs for me to use on a regular basis. I’ve tried many, and many of the many are awesome and just what I’m looking for. And so it is with a confusing mix of sheer joy and solemn trepidation that I revive the meme. Except this time the stakes have been upped: instead of your Top Ten Mac Programs, the meme is now for your Top Five Mac Programs. Exciting!

Without much further ado, here’s my list of Mac programs that I’ve decided to be my favorites. My main criteria for choosing the titles is that basically they have to be awesome. I hope other people, maybe a year from now, can use this list to help maximize their new Mac.

My Top Five Programs for Macs!

(note: all these programs are free)

  • iStache
    This magical program grants the user the ability to add mustaches to people in photographs. There are many different styles of ‘stache from which to choose — Hitler, English Gentleman, Ben Affleck, and so on. I added the “Straight Gayness” mustache to this photo of my most prized Rock Card, Kip Winger. The first time I used this program, all the images I chose to add ‘staches to were really teeny in the preview window. I didn’t know what was up with that. But now they’re normal. Check out the iStache tag on Flickr.
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