Friday? Good!


Apparently it's been Easter this week. I honestly wouldn't have known if it hadn't been for one of those ten minute "Jesus is nice" TV programmes we get around this time of year.

Sometimes I thank the Lord (capital L) I live in a country of godless hellbound heathens. Though I'm never quite sure what a heathen is. Someone who lives on Hampstead Heath, presumably.

Today's Spam in my Inbox:

* Weight Loss with Viagra - All my favourite meds, discreet and "No_Prescripti0n_Needed!". So how does one lose weight with a drug that inhibits production of the chemicals needed to lose an erection? Or shouldn't I ask?

* Dear Beloved in Christ - The heart-rending (or gut-wrenching) story of a christian woman with terminal cancer who wants to put her dead husband's USD7.5 billion into my bank account. Provided I use it for good christian purposes.

* URGENT REPLY NEEDED PLS - A barrister is writing to me in his professional capacity at work, asking me to email him in his personal capacity at home, about a professional matter. USD25 million.

* CONGRATULATIONS!!!Batch: 074/05/ZY369 - News that I have won 350 thousand euros in the Irish Lottery. Strange, I didn't know there was one. Last week I won the Norwegian Lottery.

* WINNING NOTIFICATION!!! - I've won the UK Lottery too.

* IDENTIFICATION NUMBER:CPEL/OWN/9876 - Twice.

* Confidentiality Required...(Proposal) - This time it's a bank that wants to store millions in my account. Don't they have any of their own?

* BLESSED BY "THE BLESSED TERESA OF CALCUTTA " - Unusually for spam, this one isn't trying to get money off me. It's just a link to a document written by a paranoid fantasist, seemingly about how the "saffron brigade" are watching and intimidating him.

Defrauding and derangement - that's the internet today.


One of the monitors is gone.

Starting Tuesday next week, a private company contracting out from the civil service will spend two weeks intensively educating me about how to search for job vacancies, how to prepare for job interviews and how to impress employers.

That's right, it's another wanky government scheme for the long term unemployed.

So, for two weeks I won't have time to do anything useful.

Cutting a variable width groove on a rotating wax disc is a downright weird way to record sound. At least so it seems now. The disc is fragile, the playback equipment prone to malfunction, and the pickup device degrades the coding every time it's played.

Encoding a soundwave as a series of polarity variances on what is essentially powdered rust glued to a plastic strip...is only slightly less bizarre. You tend to get softknee compression whether you want it or not, plus saturation effects and a constant red noise rumble, and you lose any crispness to the higher frequencies. This is now fondly referred to as "analog warmth" by people who don't have to live with it.

So much for vinyl records and compact cassettes. Radio was just was strange.

For the first two decades of my life, I listened to radio transmissions where the progression of instantaneous amplitudes of a sound wave were encoded as variations in the amplitude of a carrier wave - Amplitude Modulation. It was muffled and monophonic.

Then in my late teens radio switched to the more complex system of encoding the same points on a sound wave as variations in the frequency of a carrier wave. And I bet you can't guess what this new system was called. The sound was shimmering and stereophonic in comparison.

Now, radio and personal listening are all digital - though there was a period where DJs played CDs while you listened in FM, which rather defeated the point of the exercise.

Now when I hear records they sound like they're being played through a cocoa tin, and cassettes sound like they're underwater. I can't remember the last time I listened to a broadcast in FM, let alone AM. There are still low quality digital broadcasts of course, via some web radio, but their distortion doesn't resemble anything you'd find in the world outside.

The point of all this? Well, it just struck me that we, listening to ten year old pop music on our mp3 players (because most of the stuff produced more recently is rubbish), are now able to hear what the studio engineers originally heard. With high bitrates, VBR and remastering, we can now hear familiar music as it was supposed to sound, instead of filtered through old technology.

It's a little like taking off sunglasses after you've been wearing all day, or, better, losing those drops of water that have been clogging up your ears since you went swimming.

So don't anyone tell me that storing points on an oscilloscope reading as bunches of 16 semi-redundant binary logic pulses on solid-state bubble memory...is a strange way to keep music.

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