Bass Wars

S Aufrecht

When your upstairs neighbor’s music or movie or videogame or whatever is thankfully inaudible except for the low bass, but that low bass is too perceptible to tolerate so you have to put your noise-canceling headphones on and just be thankful, well, first that you have noise-canceling headphones, and second that ‘noise-canceling headphones … work best with low-frequency droning sounds’1, and that bass signal is tracked in a spectrum analyzer app2 and also graphed over time, it looks like this:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, this kind of thing started wars.


  1. New York Times, The Pros and Cons of Noise-Canceling Headphones, 2019-05-07.
  2. I use Spectroid (Google Play (disclosure)), which is pretty great. You can see one bad UI flaw in the screenshot: while the x-axis for both thh top and bottom charts is correctly labeled and scaled as Hz, the y-axis for the historical graph is time, but the labels running down the bottom left side is decibel level. Which is necessary, since decibel level is shown as a third dimension, color. But confusing, and it would be nice to at least be able to toggle to a time scale.

Successful Craft Project

S Aufrecht

Simple successes are often the most satisfying.

The 2020 version of the Desk

S Aufrecht

After about eight years of on-and-off tinkering, the Sit/Stand/Walk/Flowerpot Desk is now a Sit/Stand/Play-Piano Desk.

From experience with my desk in the office, I realized that a standing desk you can sit at is much more useful than a sitting desk you can stand at. That is, with a high desk and a stool, you hop up to sit, and it’s very natural to hop down—without moving the desk, keyboard, or mouse if possible—and keep working. And then when you get tired, you hop up. Whereas with a regular chair and a liftable desk, inertia and gravity join forces to keep you down. I swapped in an Aeron Stool1, and now the monitors only need to slide up and down a few inches, which freed up peripheral space which led to a cascade of other changes from the last version:

The piano keyboard slides out, and the new flying2 mouse tray flips down and out of the way; other changes include splitting the counter-weight in half so each pulley is individually weighted; building a sliding keyboard tray and a box for cabling; a lot of cable management; replacing the 30” monitor with a laptop holder and swapping sides for the laptop and the Roku display (this skips the whole period of the Roku display on the horizontal arm, but that may return); a rudimentary footrest, sustain pedal, and pedal that doesn’t do anything yet but will eventually; a light to fill in the half of my face that isn’t lit by the window on the right of the desk, when I’m on video calls; a Big Red Button and a Big Red Switch Dial That Makes a Pleasing Tchkk When Rotated, for the monitors and some more lights, respectively; a pinch of LED backlighting; a vise grip for small projects; various experiments in finishing, from children’s painting efforts to Stuart Semple’s Black 3.0 to leftover steel tubes I used as drying racks and then left outside to rust on the balcony until later putting them back into use; the Matrix Cube Alarm Clock on stand; an upgrade to the monitor bar, which now slides up and down the vertical tubes much more smoothly thanks to metal sleeves; … that might be everything. As of today.


  1. The only redeeming feature of the 2nd Internet Boom in San Francisco is the abundance of used Aeron chairs
  2. Flying in the sense of extending, like a flying buttress.

Things I Didn’t Like About Gideon the Ninth

S Aufrecht

Spoilers follow for Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir.

In collecting my thoughts, I found it much simpler to list everything I didn’t like about the book. So, Things I Didn’t like about Gideon the Ninth:

  1. This late in the equinox no light would make it here for months
    Conventionally, an equinox is a point in time. SF books often redefine common words to set atmosphere, but that doesn't seem like the intention here. The only other use of the word,
    blotting out the ever-fainter light of the equinox
    clarifies nothing.
  2. Behind her stood the Lady of the Ninth House, watching her with no satisfaction.
    The context suggests that this was intended to be the phrase, 'no little satisfaction'. I think?
  3. … boring slats into the bottom of the trunk so that she could squirrel away her … longsword, packing it like precious contraband.
    The slats I've met have all been objects: long, flat, and skinny, like vertical blinds, or parts of a wall. I don't know how to read 'boring slats'. It seems to want to be 'boring slat-shaped holes', but it doesn't say that, and a sword would only need one slat-shaped hole.
  4. … Gideon had known that the fight … was hers to lose.
    I've only ever heard the construction X's to lose in the sense of, X will win unless they make a mistake. The outcome, the context, and later references indicate the opposite meaning here. If this is not the idiomatic use, then 'hers to lose' parses equivalently to 'hers to eat' or 'hers to take': she is going to lose. That text frames a three-page swordfight, and our sense-making of the next dozen paragraphs requires knowing what Gideon thinks of her chances.

    This and the previous examples frustrate because they undermine our confidence in the author's words, adding unsatisfying work to what was pure pleasure. Fortunately, this concludes my list of apparent flaws of diction; the last problem seems to be a continuity slip:

  5. “Griddle,” said Harrow, “I have not puppeted my own parents around for five years and learned nothing.”
    Harrowhawk is 17, and she preserved her dead parents at age 10.

More lists to come as I look for excuses to reread the book over and over while waiting for June 2nd.

Overheard in SF

S Aufrecht

His tab was thirty-five hundred. Todd told him […] We didn’t have an after party so he told him […] He just closed a really big deal and his commission was like fifty kay.

What good is bad data?

S Aufrecht

The advertisements in San Francisco are very localized but have much higher budgets and production values than typical local business ads for car dealers and real estate agents. This one is my new second-favorite bus ad of all time1. The small text reads, “What good is bad data?”.

Bus advertisement: large text: Go Dodgers.  small text: What good is bad data?

  1. First-favorite: An ad for a Seattle regional bank competing with Wells Fargo, which read, “Have wild horses dragged you to the wrong bank?”

Sometimes failure is not an option

S Aufrecht
List of constants: DEBUG, INFO, SUCCESS, WARNING, ERROR

(source1)


  1. Django Software Foundation and individual contributors. (2019). The messages framework. django Documentation. Retrieved from https://docs.djangoproject.com/en/2.2/ref/contrib/messages/#creating-custom-message-levels

Advertising is lies

S Aufrecht

Wells Fargo continues its holiday advertising tradition with an encore of “The Stagecoach & The Snowmen” — a television commercial that struck a chord in its 2013 debut with themes of selflessness and working together.1

But actually

Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland began an investigation six months ago into allegations that some of the banking corporation’s stagecoach horses were subject to abuse, drugged, ill-trained and, at times, put bystanders at risk. The decision to suspend the program came only weeks after the stagecoach’s most visible event: The Rose Parade. 2

Homeless Blockchain

S Aufrecht

“We have at least 1,400 homeless people in our city, and that includes many right here at UC Berkeley,” Bartlett told the class. “So how can we use blockchain to fund a new prosperity? That’s a challenge I’d like you to take on.” The course, taught by visiting professor and former venture capitalist Po Chi Wu, is among a growing number of classes and research initiatives on blockchain technology emerging at universities.

https://www.wired.com/story/latest-course-catalog-trend-blockchain-101/

Biden, like SFUSD, like White San Francisco parents, like most Democrats, does not support busing

S Aufrecht

We’re now having a debate about Biden’s opposition to busing in the mid-1970s, and whether that is beyond the pale for a Democratic nominee in 2019. But the fact is that virtually no Democratic elected officials – certainly very few at the federal level – have supported the federal government using busing as a tool for desegregation for the last forty years. So I think in effect Biden’s position has been the position of the vast majority of Democratic elected officials for decades.

—Josh Marshall1

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