It’s Such a Beautiful Day

I learned about a film by director Don Hertzfeldt, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day.” Online descriptions of it are very glowing. It’s available on the Criterion Channel but I haven’t watched it yet.

I checked my library and their consortium doesn’t have that movie available, so I searched for Don Hertzfeldt and found the disks “The Animation Show” volume 1 and 2 coming from a touring show of animations from 2003-2008.

One of the animations is directed by Corky Quakenbush about the character Ricardo. Ricardo is about 4 and describes a few humorous events. He finds a pornographic coffee table book about Madonna (Madama) and ties up the cat like he saw in the book. Of course, his mom was not amused; she washed his mouth out with soap when he described the book. He describes a few more episodes in the brief animation. A YouTube copy of video The Adventures of Ricardo. As a four year old, he doesn’t understand everything but he’s really enthusiastic. The animation isn’t very sophisticated but it makes up for that with charm.

There’s also a trilogy of shorts by Adam Elliot on The Animation Show: “Brother,” “Uncle” and “Cousin.” They’re available on the Adam Elliot website. These have a droll description of a child’s relatives. Each of the trilogy features a pet graveyard and the observations that a child might make. Very matter-of-fact and to the point.

Another entertaining short from the collection is Rockfish directed by Tim Miller about a fishing trip of subterranean “fish” that take the protagonist on a ride, pulling him across the desert like a shark or whale might in the ocean.

One of the directors in the video is PES. He has a short film Fireworks that is an animation of a candy fireworks show. PES has an additional animation, Kaboom! that is presented as an extra feature on Animation Show 2. The Kaboom! short is about a war climaxing with an nuclear attack on a city. The city and all of the items in the video are created from different antique household objects. YouTube has other videos by PES that I had watched years ago but didn’t know the connection. PES has an account on YouTube and his website is pesfilm.com

There are additional disks, Animation Show 3 (2007) and Animation Show 4 (2008).

Gardening philosophy

My mom suggests that giving garden plants a lot of water in the early summer keep them from developing a sturdy root system and that will hurt the plants later in the year.

My philosophy is that by watering them more, they are strengthened and grow bigger faster so that they are more productive in the harvest season. My plants will be lusher and have more foliage to grow produce with.

The trade-off is that I may need to continue watering more, but the resulting plants will be more robust and more productive

I have experience with that for several years with tomatoes. I go out and water them almost every day unless it had just rained. I joke that I go out to water them when the forecast is uncertain to help make sure it rains.

My tomatoes last year were so much more successful than what other people had reported. That is true again this year. Now my pepper plants are growing strong as well. I have a more and bigger bell peppers than in the past. This year’s jalapenos are also very successful.

While it isn’t proof that watering them is a win, the extra effort stemming from my watering philosophy seems reliable: it yields more produce.

It was like a whole library burned down

Laurie Anderson on the album Bright Red sings that when her father died, it was like a whole library had burned down.

When a library burns, it is a loss for the whole community. The Eckhart Public Library was burned by an arsonist in 2017. It had an awesome collection of resources that were gone overnight. At first, the hope was that some of the more valuable books could be cleaned and rescued but that wasn’t practical. The books are gone, rare edition or paperback novel, popular or ignored.

When someone in my family passes on, their stories and wisdom are gone. My grandpa’s knowledge of hatcheries and business management is unavailable. His stories of being a manager at Coca-Cola during WW II and helping neighbors exceed their sugar quota are just memories now. I can’t ask him what he saw when he visited China in 1978. My nephews and nieces’ kids won’t hear his stories, sense of humor and love of snowmobiles. Others in my family have also died. Their libraries were also burned down by cancer or old age.

The past two years, so many libraries have burned. So many people suddenly gone.

On a personal level, grandchildren may never learn from their grandparents. Children are without a parent to share love and hope with. Marriages have been violently torn apart by a virus. Parents who won’t be able to see their child graduate from college, get married and start a career.

On an economic level there are skills and expertise that can’t be replaced. The future cannot benefit from over 600,000 people’s insights and knowledge; they’re gone. The cost is inestimable.

If someone was carrying a torch into a library, they would be stopped at the door. The freedom to carry a torch is not of a higher order than the need to prevent arson.

With an infectious disease, carrying a viral torch can start many fires. No one can know who is in danger, but it’s society’s prerogative to protect libraries. It is civilization’s duty to keep them safe.

Although the analogy isn’t perfect, wearing a mask and getting vaccinated are how I can avoid carrying a torch. They also help me not ignite others torches. Some libraries are more flammable than others, requiring more caution. When the winds are strong, it may take more effort to protect libraries than on a calm day.

I don’t want any more libraries to burn. Libertarian logic is incompatible with public health. It ignores how past disease outbreaks are defeated. Polio and smallpox were conquered because the needs of the community exceeded personal preference.

Some restrictions can be an affront to personal liberty but there is no right to carry a torch into a library.

What’s next after hitting bottom?

In addictions such as to alcohol, drugs, gambling, work, nicotine, etc., the process of hitting bottom can be a pre-requisite for recovery. One cliché is that your bottom is where you stop digging. But, what happens after you stop digging?

The first action is to do something to improve the situation. Or, at least, start moving in a new direction. A supplementary process is to notice what you have and protect it. If you don’t value it, you’re more likely to let it go cheaply.

The successes, no matter how small, are something to value and preserve. It becomes an intuitive sense that one wants to maintain them.

It’s a transverse attitude to their focus on recovery systems and techniques. The idea is “I’ve lost everything but now that I’ve found a little better part life; I want it to stay with me.”

Abstinence and fear are repelling forces. Push away the danger; push it all away.

A desire to protect becomes an attraction that leads into the newly opened world.

Low key

I just saw the last episode of the Marvel mini-series Loki tonight.

It was pretty cool. During the main confrontation in the show, there were continued accusations that a character was lying which left some details in doubt. It certainly gives plenty of grist for a discussion by Marvel fans. I don’t think he was completely dishonest, but that’ll become more obvious as Marvel continues develop its Phase 4.

Some of the mysteries from earlier episodes weren’t really solved. They were just left in the dustbin and replaced by newer mysteries in episode 6. However, you don’t need to spell out everything in block letters to carry a story. More discussions…?

It was fun to watch it with my sister. We knew the story well enough that we didn’t have to keep asking each other questions about the plot. We’d been spending the last couple of weeks saying “Where are you?” “Have you seen episode 5?” etc. We did well at not revealing spoilers to each other. Once we were done, I paired my phone with the TV so that we could watch a few YouTube commentaries.

Mobius (Owen Wilson) is my favorite characters in the series. Mobius’s low-key humor and self-satisfaction were entertaining. He was always smug and one step ahead.

My favorite YouTube commentator is Emergency Awesome. It was nice that his videos make it easy to avoid spoilers. He also had videos about the trailers for the upcoming episodes, but I avoided those also.

It wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without an obligatory fight scene. The “green” flashes that were used later in the fight seemed to be “Oh yeah! I have a gun” during a sword fight. Why did the characters wait so long to pull out their magic?

Emergency Awesome said that he would be making commentaries of the upcoming What If…? Marvel animated series. imdb.com said that it’s 11 episodes would start August 11.

Proms and Honeymoons

A movie reel

Nemo (Jared Leto) and Elise (Sarah Polley) have just been married. They are on the way to their honeymoon. Traffic backs up and they are stopped in front of a gasoline tank car. The have a wonderful life planned until the tanker detonates.

The explosion kills Elise and leaves Nemo with burn scars on his face. Later, he stands in front of some photos of Elise. As he pulls away, you see a silver urn as a shrine for her in his study. It was a very powerful moment that ties together different parts of the story.

This variant of Nemo is an example of one of the worst honeymoons one could imagine.

Years ago, I was driving home from Lafayette, Indiana to Fort Wayne on Indiana 25. I passed a boy on a moped also driving northeast. For some reason, I was watching him in my rear window.

Before I got too far, the boy turned left into the path of the car following me. The 13 year old boy, William, flew through the air and landed in the berm. I stopped and ran back to where the accident was. The boy was surrounded by a huge pool of blood. I didn’t want to believe he was dead. When the neighbors came out, one covered him with a sheet.

The police warned me to be careful because after seeing an accident like that, I would be more at risk of having my own accident. I could see their point: I could be distracted by the horror of it. I told the police was looking back because I thought it was a dangerous situation.

I didn’t realize it at first, but the driver and passenger of the car were to teenagers on their way to their prom. Such an awful prelude for what should have been a happy occasion.

The local newspaper published a photo taken after the accident. It had the two teenagers in the foreground and the father of the boy at the side of the frame. The photograph won an award.

Nemo and Elise’s honeymoon is one the versions of Nemo Nobody’s potential life. Mr. Nobody (2011) has different lives and most are full of pain. The lives that he reports are torn by crisis or disaster. A journalist (Daniel Mays) is puzzled by so many contradictory lives. His interview ends with the tape runs out.

Some of the events of life are horrible. Nemo’s honeymoon was cut short. The couple on their way to the prom were just planning to have a pleasant day. They all were faced with events turning in an unexpected direction.

Sometimes the tape is torn. When there’s no way to splice it back together, somehow the recording continues on. Sometimes it’s stronger and sometimes it’s weaker. Sometimes I have tears in my eyes and sometimes the tears in my tape are difficult. Even when I weep, I can realize there is still a ways to go.

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

Making the world a better place, one mad scientist at a time”

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories develops many gizmos to let microcontrollers help or be artists, to magnify integrated circuits into a giant-sized DIP. They are really fun and worth looking over. They celebrate the maker community and its artistic talents.

One regular series on the blog is a monthly link dump. I’ve collected links to them on a page here.

The link dumps are always interesting and I hope you enjoy them as much as me.

External drive not found in Windows 10

I had a USB hub fail yesterday. The 3 external drives connected through the hub all disappeared from my system. I almost went into panic mode when I moved the external drives’ cables to a new USB hub and they were still were not working. However, I knew some keys to the process.

tl;dr: Restart has benefits that shut down/power up do not. Make one change at a time.

In Windows, the process of moving a drive from one USB port to another can be fraught. I have seen this problem in the past. I don’t know the exact reason Windows has this behavior.

When the hardware configuration changes, the naïve way of just unplugging the drive from one port and installing the cable in another doesn’t always work. When there is a problem, Device Manager might show the drive, but it could have a error flag. [See below for an easy way to launch Device Manager.]

Before pulling out the heavy guns on the problem, it might be that some simple steps are enough. Some actions unlikely to succeed:

  • Device manager’s driver uninstall.
  • External hardware manager software.
  • Registry changes
  • Disk management changes
  • For emphasis, making changes in Device Manager, even if you see errors there
  • Modifying BIOS settings

Some of these are suggested as the first line of defense, but I’ve found them unhelpful when USB drives are not recognized.

Device Manager can show your progress but you do not need to make any manual changes there. Especially true: Online help that says you should download and install special tools shouldn’t be trusted.

The two keys are

  • “Shut down/power up” is not always equivalent to “Restart” when it comes to USB devices.
  • Only make one change at a time.

Shut down/power up is safe but sometimes a restart is still needed.

The steps I took to successfully transfer the drive is as follows. It’s wiser to disconnect/reconnect while the power is off, but Restart is still needed after the power is turned on.

  1. Power down and unplug the drive from their old ports.
  2. Power up and Restart the system
  3. power down and put the drive’s cable into its new USB port
  4. power up and restart the system again.

At this point the device manager showed the external drives under the “Disk drive” category.

I was disappointed that, at first, Windows didn’t show the drives in Explorer and Device Manager didn’t show any errors. To fix this didn’t require any extra magic steps. I did an extra restart and shut down the system and turned off the power strip. I did not change anything in administrative tools nor device manager.

My point in this description is to explain that the error when I moved a drive from one USB port to another required some extra steps but no wizards hat.

A similar problem can happen when you move a USB hub from one USB port to another. That also requires multiple reboots. You just make each change one at time.

Fortunately, changing usually works without any trouble. Unfortunately, when you do have trouble, many online help sites give identical suggestions that don’t work. The pedestrian steps of change, restart, change, restart can be enough.


To launch Device manager in windows 10, just go to search in the taskbar and type Device Manager. You can also search in the configuration tool (the gear in the start menu). You don’t need to remember the name of the tool’s file any more.

The New Yorker Fiction July 2020

Two of the fiction in the July 2020 issues of The New Yorker are Jack and Della by Marilynne Robinson was published July 20, 2020 and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, originally published June 26, 1948 was republished July 27, 2020.

The story Jack and Della is a melancholy story about a young man who had recently been released from prison. He meets the teacher Della, and has a positive relationship with her. The story ends very sadly and the desperation and loss really touched me.

In the article, Marilynne Robinson on Expanding the World of ‘Gilead‘ also published July 20 discusses Jack’s position in the “Gilead” series of novels. In the first novel in the series, “Gilead,” Jack is a respectful and mysterious man who comes home to his family and then disappoints his family by leaving abruptly. He isn’t able to explain himself to anyone other than the minister John Ames. The fiction Jack and Della is adapted from the fourth book in the series, “Jack.”

The Lottery is disturbing and has the distinction of generating the most mail for a fiction piece. (“The Lottery” Letters) To me it ends very unsatisfying. The events that conclude the story are taken so matter-of-fact by the community and the anticipation of a horror as if it were a natural fact of life.

[Many of these links may require a subscription to The New Yorker.]

Sirens of Titan

I wanted to explore my speaker’s directionality by making a jig that could hold the microphone in fixed relative positions to the headphone. My overarching goal was to be able to isolate the behavior of the microphone from the behavior of the headphone speaker.

This is what I came up with. The use of hard, rigid, flat surfaces is significant, but not in the way I anticipated.

Jig for holding desktop microphone inside frame and speaker in position.

The slotted food boxes make a rigid frame with holes to allow the microphone to be placed in different positions. The shipping box is marked with a pencil outline so that the headphones can be placed consistently. The edge of the box fits against the slotted structure. I only used the speaker on the side that faces the microphone. I didn’t use the perpendicular speaker nor the microphone on the headphones.

Again, I did a sweeping sine wave. When I analyzed the results, I found an interesting waveform around 120Hz. In the first graph, the frequency was sweeping from about 118.8 Hz to 121.2 Hz. At first I thought that what I saw was some kind of audio interference pattern. But that didn’t make sense because the graph shows large changes between slight frequency changes (and thus slight audio wavelength changes.)

This graph covers about 33.5 seconds of recording. By slowing down the rate of change of the frequency, there are more samples over the course of the transition and noise interferes less. (The spike to the left was due to noise from a car passing or me moving on my chair.)

Magnitude of the sound recorded as the audio frequency swept from 118.8 to 121.2 Hz.

I was trying different adjustments to the configuration to identify the parts that are responsible for the resonance. My first try was apply force to the front wall of the food containers. This had only a small effect on the behavior. My second adjustment was to place crayons on the box out of the line of sight between the speaker and microphone. The resonance was completely gone in that case.

The third adjust I tried making was to put some weight on the box, also out of the line-of-sight. I placed several CD discs on the box. The lower one had some CDs laying on the box and there is an obvious change. The graphs aren’t synchronized.

Top sweep with unmodified setup, bottom with CDs on the shipping box

What I understand now is that these effects are due to resonances within the box that the headphones are on or between the headphone’s strap and the box. Changing the forces on the box caused substantial changes.

Another way that I visualize the data is to break the signal into equal sized blocks of time and perform a Fourier transform of the block and plot them as an image. Pixels closer to the bottom edge of the graph represent lower frequency components of the signal.

I found this strange shape in the first graph I created. I created graphs from other runs and none of them had anything like this.

Part of a chart showing Fourier transform of recording a siren passing

Then I remembered a fire truck siren that I heard a few blocks away when I was recording one of the results. It’s interesting to see the shape. It’s a repeating pattern of the tone rising rapidly, followed by the tone falling more slowly. I notice that that the same shape is repeated twice with difference delays which indicates there were two sound sources cycling at different speeds.

I had other things happen that I wasn’t looking for as well.

A “thump” from me moving the chair or coughing

I received a text while I was recording.

The tone for a text on my phone “Glass”

There were several smudges like this next one in the plots. They are due to cars passing. I was recording in the daytime so there was more traffic than at night.

Car passing

There is an unlimited list of sounds that I could analyze to see more interesting patterns.

I ended up finding another rabbit hole just by looking at one position of the microphone and haven’t explored how other positions differ. However, I may have seen enough to know that I haven’t found the key to need to isolate the speaker from the microphone. Without a more sophisticated setup, the environment is going to be a confounding effect. In addition, my jig only works with one microphone and different speakers can’t be positioned with an equivalent geometry.