Saturday, October 2, 2010

Can I write a paper for academic publication?

I was recently presented this possibility by Phil Fry of the Business and Economics Department at BSU.  He brought it up out of the blue, so it took me a bit by surprise.  I always looked at academic publication as something that would be a forceful process (like my thesis), rather than something I would enjoy doing; but I think he has a point now, so I'm seriously considering topics that might be worthy of that sort of research/work.

I have been meeting with Phil on statistical matters concerning Booklamp for over a year now.  He has helped me refine the S.I.F.T. Engine that I developed with Booklamp - the math and mechanics behind the current internal version of Booklamp's recommendations.  He has helped me with ideas regarding economic modeling of the data I have available, and other more specific statistical curiosities - i.e., quantile regression.

The thought of publishing something left my mind after I finished my masters thesis, which was a brutally stressful process.  When that was over I just said, "finally, I can go to Booklamp and do what I want to do."  Well, it's been a year now and I do feel I have something to add to the broad world of academic knowledge.

Our Director of Research, Matt Jockers, is in town for a regional conference on Irish literature to present a paper.  I went to the block of presentations that he was a part of and it is interesting to hear academic presentation from people that are not economists... the talks were much more "real" than the major abstractions that can be difficult at times to listen to from the field of economics.  The presentations were pretty entertaining, to say the least.

The first presenter talked about literature as a "technology of the settled," making references to the knowledge that settled peoples develop language and this technology differs between different "settlements."  I'm paraphrasing, but that's what I got.  She also mentioned the "profit" of literature, but in an abstract sense - not necessarily in terms of money.  These two ideas, the technology and profit of literature, are inspiring some interesting thoughts from an econ education.  I can certainly come up with some unique substance concerning, "Literature: Technology and Profit."  A topic like this very much reflects the sort of abstract sense of value that I've developed in and after grad school.

If you are thinking, "literature... technology... what?" then I think it is important to realize that literature is very much a technology.  The Internet, for example, is produced entirely using a form of algorithmic literature - no words (think, code), no Internet, period (at least as we know it).  When we think about "literature" though we don't necessarily think code, we think 'books' and 'emotional stimulation', or academic literature brings to mind intellectual stimulation.

The "profit of literature" is something that is probably much more difficult to define.  It is easy to say that we really enjoyed a book, but... "how much did you enjoy the book?" is an entirely different question.  I would argue that, unless you read on a constant basis (a book a day, or so), most of us would have a difficult time answering this question.

Then, as a economist, I want to know how much did the book cost, which is not to be confused with only price.  The cost of a book includes price, but also the time commitment, and possibly other factors.

So... what is the profit of literature?  These irish studies academics seem to have an understanding of it.  I figure I can find something to talk about here.  We will just have to see.

Pick o' the Post: WYLF (What You're Looking For) by Mofro on JJ Grey and Mofro

I really like me some Mofro... love the blues and they do it so well and make it all sound so diverse (to me).  I guess my favorite albums from them are the first two Lochloosa and Blackwater.  I got a bit annoyed when they split the credits between JJ Grey and Mofro, but meh...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tongue Switching... what is it?

Hello world.  we're still doing cool stuff at Booklamp, but I want to talk about my ideas for advancing harmonica technique today.

I've been on a mission for the past ?2 years? to explore a harmonica technique called "tongue switching," which is usually referred to as a "shimmer" in a traditional context.  For example, you can play the following riff, and this would be a tongue switching riff.





These are pretty basic.  The idea is that, with tongue switching, you can play non-adjacent notes.  The innovation, if you can call it that, is the idea that at any time your mouth can cover 3-4 (?5?) holes at once... why not have all of them at your immediate disposal.  The biggest difference between a tongue switching approach to the harmonica is that there is much less head movement.  Phrasing takes on a whole new perspective when you have 3 different ways (tongue-block left, tongue-block right, and lip-purse) to play a single note, or a series of notes..

I was exposed to a lot of metal in college (death, tech-death, prog-tech, etc.), and the harmonica seemed like it was stuck in some rut of tradition.  The only real outsider is John Popper, and his technique is so far beyond the rest of the field (in a different way, to be fair), that no one's really tried to replicate it.  Well, LD Miller is as close as it gets, I guess.  I don't follow the profession as much any more, so there could be some others I'm not giving credit to.

I feel a bit unique in my ideas, but I could be wrong there also.  Breathing aside there are 4 basic tongue switching moves that I've discovered:

1) tongue-block left (blow/draw out of the left corner of the mouth) to tongue-block right.

2) tongue-block right to tongue-block left

3) tongue-block left to lip-purse

4) tongue-block right to lip-purse.

... of course, then you add the two breathing directions to make 8 individual moves, then the overblows and overdraws that are available at certain places on the harp, which makes for a lot more moves and a lot of necessary practice.  Once you get use to the those first 4 pretty clean, then the speed depends on your breathing.

I've experimented with incorporating overblows into my tongue switching, but it's really hard and I'll wait until I master some of the simpler concepts first.  Overdraws, will probably be the last thing to add.  Bending is not terribly difficult, but hitting the notes with that kind of speed, power, and precision is not easy either.

I figure the best way for me to develop my ideas is to start a band, so that's what I'm trying to do up here in Boise.  I need something other than a metronome and my own head to play to.  Till then, i'll just keep filling out my technique.  I need to start getting more into scales and modes - all in time.

Pick o' the Post: "The Beacons" by Blues Traveler on North Hollywood Shootout

Check out Popper's solo at 1:39 ... not his most super-duper, fast, note-blurring, shreddy solo, but there's something that's just very deliberate and brilliant about it.  I like it.

PS  Here's a video from about 1.5 yrs ago that might help get the basic concept across.  My technique's developed quite a bit since then.  Right now I'm using a book with harp tabs for the Blues Traveler album, Four to learn to think about the notes like John Popper does as well as to find and create exercises that cater to tongue switching.  All I'm really doing now is trying to play Run Around with tongue switching where it makes sense to economize the playing that way.  I'm about 2/3 thru the first solo; which I think is a bit more difficult than the outro solo, but I haven't gotten there yet.

Additional Note:

Just after this post, I discovered a way to tongue switch between 2 ADJACENT holes.  It's difficult because it amounts to a regular-ol-warble, but switching back and forth between right and left tongue-blocking on only two holes.  So, instead of covering 3 holes of the harp with your mouth, you have to cover only two and develop the muscle memory to tongue switch in a tighter space.

Let's say you wanted a 4D-5D warble.  Essentially, you would center your mouth over the separator between the two holes, blocking the 4D with your tongue (playing the 5D), then switching your tongue and blocking the 5D (playing the 4D), then repeat.  This can get very fast, and I feel it will provide more control than having to move the harp or your head to achieve the same effect - once the muscle memory has been developed.

I just started on this the other day, so I'll see where it goes.  Most of this technical development is an attempt to build muscle memory, since these are not obvious - and in many cases difficult - ways to play the harmonica.  Once the muscle memory is developed, then the music can flow.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guess what world??? I'm an actor! ... i48 Boise

I'm not sure nodding counts.  I do a great job being a random dude.

Check it out... my spot starts at 1:29 and goes all the way to 1:30.5

I actually had a line, but I'm not a very good actor, and I'm glad they cut it... I think it's creative and lil funny they still put a random scene there.  I did suggest the "Dirty glass for a dirty job" line though.

Booklamp's neighbors, Yellow Box Studio, did the short film for a 48 hour film festival.  There were 50-someodd entries ($50/ea), and participants receive a genre, character, prop, and one line of dialog - each of these must be used in the film... all music must be original.  And you have 48 hours to submit your short film.

Title: "Marshall Law"

Genre: Action/Thriller

Character: Casper Marshall, Attorney

Prop: white angel statuete

Dialog: "It's not like they're going to arrest you."

Marshall Law / 48hour film from Yellow Box Studio on Vimeo.

16 films made the showing last Sunday Night and "Marshall Law" was one of them.  I'd've guessed there wer 2-300 people (or more) in attendance.  Yellow Box got an award for best cinematography, and I walked down with them anyways... that was kinda cool.  I wonder if anybody was like, "hey, that's the random bartender with a coat and tie and no shirt." ... Actually that scene did draw a good laugh from the audience.

I'm happy they guys at Yellow Box let me hang around and help out where I could.  I held some lights and a diffuser and some other random stuff.  It was a good time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World Cup Tracker and Increasingly Productive Water Cooler Talk

Have something tangible to talk about around the water cooler when the World Cup takes off.  Mint Digital says it will deliver it's World Cup Tracker in time for this year's tournament.

Mint Digital hasn't revealed precisely what sort of data a user will be privy to, but I imagine a casual conversation about the US's match vs. England might call for a more informed dialog if you're using the World Cup Tracker.

Before: "The US seemed to do very well in the midfield, but Rooney was able to drop back quite a bit and help England stifle the US midfiled - England did well adjusting to our gameplan."

After: "The US dominated midfield possession in the first 15 min, 70%/30%.  But, the remainder of the half, Rooney spend 50% more time in the midfield than in the first 15 min - a calculated tactical change, of course."

I have no idea if England actually uses Rooney this way, but I think it makes a decent example.  My suspicion is that Rooney really spends most of his time on the last defenseman.  The example conversation might be more believable if it turned out that England was up 2-0 by the 15 min mark... however, if that's the case, it's very unlikely that the US midfield will have "dominated midfield possession ... 70%/30%" at that time.

Anything could happen... the US could win.

Pick o' the Post: "Ole"

Monday, June 7, 2010

Aerosmith Picks

This has very little to do with words, but the lyrics are great.  I can't believe I've never taken the time to listen to Aerosmith and Joe Perry.  Aside from the more technical side of things that define progressive genres today, I've tried to develop what "progressive blues" might be, and this is about as close as fits the path I've imagined... but it's from 1973.. ?  yeah.. i've got a lot to learn, I guess.  So far my first exposure to non-mainstream Aerosmith sounds very cool.

Grooveshark just grooved on over to "Write Me a Letter" and the progressive sound is composed so well around a very traditional blues sound.  Stephen Tyler's voice is just plain cool.  Very briefly, this track felt a bit slow, but the whole band keeps making up for it in pristine blues rock 'n roll.

"Movin Out" just started.  Reflecting on this track (and the ones up to here), Clutch sounds very similar; still not Aerosmith.  "Moving Out" is okay.  It's very 'steady', but probably my least favorite track to this point - it has it's moments, but they're brief.

Also, if didn't know this was Aerosmith, I'd guess that the first track, "Make It", was a KISS song - tyler's voice is a giveaway tho.

Pick o' the Post:  "One Way Street" by Aerosmith on Aerosmith (1973)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

American Idol Non-sense

Pick o' the post: (see below)

Just tuned into my first american idol today, so I'm not sure where they are in the season.  It looked like there were contestants left.  Each sang a song of their choosing, and a song picked by a judge.

Everything was carrying on as I'd recalled from previous encounters... song tracks or a couple instruments accompanying the singers; except for the final singer who got an orchestra and 5 or 6 backup singers.  The song was Hallelujah.

The singing was much more than I can do, but from the moment the singers flowed in from behind him, there was no way this guy was not getting a standing-O.  To be honest, I don't remember any of his singing, except for the end (because the end was replayed).  All I heard was the orchestra, choir, and the entire audience.

I'm calling bullshit on American Idol.

This is basically a conspiracy theory, but it's *actual* conspiracy theories that give a bad name to American Idol's mischievous goings on.

I'm speculating that the producers of American Idol have come to understand that they have the ability to influence the outcome of their contest by any number of factors... song choice, accompaniment, etc.  I don't know about song choice, etc.,  all things were not equal for these competitors.  One got an orchestra for God's sake.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Socialists are Backwards (I guess we already knew that)

Even the casual mention of the word 'socialism' sets off a flag immediately.  The word just has a negative sign next to it in my mind; and many more times than not the speaker doesn't really mean "socialism," or they're a little nutty.

Socialists have it all backwards.  Aside from the "why" in "why are we not a socialist society?", socialists imagine it is possible to strictly design society; have tried, and failed miserably.  The American economy certainly has aspects of socialism (social security, medicare, etc), but these were, at some point, last resort circumstances.

In Socialism's heyday (... I guess ...), information was very slow to travel.  From this perspective, a socialist government could have had no idea that it might someday be possible to distribute information to each and every one of it's citizens.  Even so, history probably wouldn't look too much different... corruption always seems to creep its way into command economies.  Greed gets us all - and drives our economy (put generally).

Now that we can deliver and receive near-instantaneous information almost anywhere in the world, governance and society would benefit from information systems that inform us on some of our basic activity as citizens.  The first thing that comes to mind is privacy issues - I just recently came across this infographic about Facebook's privacy policy - but that's for another blog.

Imagine if you could observe your own water consumption against that of other similar households.  Skipping the R&D, legislation, and infrastructure needed to make that happen, we can imagine that everyone knows this information and can act on it as they wish.  There would be all sorts of behavior as a result of this.

I think I would work to consume less water than the typical household of my type (1000 ft.^2; just me) - more times than not.  There will be people who don't pay attention to it at all.  On aggregate though, this information would do us more good than bad with regard to conservation and sustainability.

Of course, R&D, legislation, and infrastructure can be prohibitively expensive, but who's to say that those things won't become less expensive - whether it's monetary costs, time costs, or simply the time cost of the diffusion of knowledge (I made that one up).  I'm to say... those requirements will become less costly in time.  It might seem that at some point in the next 30 years (because I can predict the future), informing the public on whatever information the public demands will be an important part of democracy.  We are seeing the beginning of this with the attempts at transparency that the Obama administration has made public.

There's no way to know what those systems might look like, but a goal of informing the public allows markets to function on the collective will of its participants.  Nothing a government can build - on its own - will be as clean as that last sentence conveys.  It's probably more accurate to imagine the government incentivizing the market to build these systems.

We already do this to some extent, but there are some vey basic data - like water consumption - that could do a great deal of good for a market society.  The "ruling generation" can be afraid of the (sometimes irrational) vulnerabilities that this might generate and... the word, "socialism."  Even if it's not exactly concept that comes to mind, it's the idea that someone, somewhere is gonna screw you.

On the topic of getting screwed, our market economy did a wonderful job making me feel safe when I got my first employment agreement... a contract... in 'legalese'.  I didn't even have to read it - the words just screamed, "FUCK U!"  We're never gonna stray too far from legal language in our society... governed.. by.. law.  However, the biggest hurdle for a company and a potential employee is jointly determining if the labor match is a good one.

I have one thing to say: Data