Archive for March, 2010

I’m always embarrassed to admit my favorite classical composer is Mozart — it’s just such a cliche. But the fact is, he is, and even his lesser works have a grace and charm about them — like the above piece for the glass armonica — a contraption that takes advantage of the same frictional qualities you can get by rubbing a wet finger along the rim of a wine glass (it works better with red wine on your finger, because the tannins — that’s what makes it “dry” in your mouth — increase the friction).

Benjamin Franklin invented it — it’s weird to think about great musical figures in Europe and great political figures in America existing at the same time, but they did — Mozart was already famous as a child prodigy performer (and had composed a few “Great Works”) by 1776 (he turned 20 that year), and he died just a few years after the Constitution was ratified, during George Washington’s first term as President, in 1991.

Of course, the armonica isn’t the only way to play Mozart on glass:


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Just which of these gentlemen is the subject of JoCo’s “Mr. Fancy Pants”? Seems to me like it could be any one of them.

Maybe this is the “You’re So Vain” puzzle for the post-millennial generation.

(pic via Amy Oops)

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In honor of Ada Lovelace Day honoring women in tech, let me give a shout-out to a “woman in tech” who helped me out a lot at a time when I really needed it: Laura Lemay.

Though her website no longer boasts the slogan “Killer of Trees,” it’s an appropriate moniker for someone who’s published reams of pages on HTML and other techie subjects. Her HTML 3.2 book was my bible back in the mid-’90s when I was struggling to build the first-ever website for a small newspaper in Maryland (it’s grown since then, as you can see, but it’s still at the same URL I registered in 1996).

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The ever-awesome The Oatmeal explains why an octopus is more awesome than your mom.

NOTE: He’s talking about YOUR mom, not mine. Mine’s totally awesome — and I’m not just saying that because she’s coming to visit in a few days.

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Canine camera

Talk about wagging the dog! Fuji has new technology especially for taking dog or cat pictures (very Web 2.0 of them), and they’ve helpfully provided a guide of which sort of cat or dog you should obtain for best results with their camera. So, sorry Fluffy, you’ve done good with with your fetching and cat-chasing, but these modern times demand more technologically compatible pets, so I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go. You can pick up your severance kibble at the door.

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Looney tuning

Symphony in J-Flat is a nice Boston Globe article (with demonstration video!) on making music with the Bohlen-Pierce scale, which is kind of (but not quite) like what you’d get if you just played whole steps all the way up.

It’s interesting that the clarinet seems to be one of the favored B-P instruments, since (WARNING: technical acoustic discussion ahead) unlike most woodwind instruments, which overblow at the octave (blow hard on a flute, sax, oboe or bassoon playing middle C and you’ll get a high C), the clarinet overblows at the 12th (blow hard on middle C and you’ll jump an octave and a half-ish to high G). So a B-P “octave” is more like the clarinet’s natural acoustic tendencies than like those of most other instruments.

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Crash Blossoms” is the term for headlines with unintended double meanings that make you think something else is happening (e.g. “Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim”). We need a term for headlines that make you think you are (or wish you were) dyslexic. Am I the only one who thinks that in a just world, that headline would be backward?

(pic screenshot via Comcast)

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