Remember that year when you quit drinking, went to Burning Man, was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, spent months in and out of the hospital, saw Australia burn, the President get impeached, watched a global pandemic kill more than 400,000 people, giant locus swarms in Africa, survived a liver transplant operation, Saharan dust clouds, protests, civil unrest, riots and violence in cities around the globe, and Kanye West announced he was running for President with support from the guy who both designed your car and helped return America to manned Spaceflight? Here’s to one year of sobriety!
One thing I share with my Cousin Dave is a common love of Seinfeld. So we email each other random Seinfeld trivia questions just for fun. One of my recent trivia questions I posed to him was: “What does Jerry think should be on every table next to the salt and pepper shakers?”
He correctly answered “cinnamon”. The line was from season 5, episode 13 “The Dinner Party”. Jerry and Elaine go to a bakery to buy some chocolate bobka to bring to the party. They are out of chocolate bobka and only have cinnamon bobka. Elaine calls the cinnamon bobka “lesser bobka” but Jerry defends the cinnamon bobka saying that cinnamon is the secret ingredient in everything. Which reminded me of my own related bobka story.
My most recent girlfriend (we broke up about a year and a half ago) was named Amber. Amber had the hots for me but initially I didn’t reciprocate. I was firmly comfortable with my single status and wasn’t looking for a long term relationship… something I could tell she really wanted so I kept myself at (what I thought was) a safe distance.
Anyway.. before we started dating she was going to visit friends in New York. Knowing she was going to NYC and that she would do anything to get on my good side, I gave her $20 and put her on a mission to go to a specific bakery in NYC that was rumored to be where they based the famous bobka episode from and buy me a chocolate bobka.
I was emphatic “Don’t get the cinnamon bobka! It’s lesser bobka!”
Mind you, Amber was not a big Seinfeld fan and only knew I wanted some strange chocolate bread. My buddy Dave (not cousin Dave) was there and snickering the whole time.
Amber comes back from New York without bobka. Completely and utterly Bobkaless. I don’t remember exactly what happened but she ended up not being able to find the place or something. I feigned being really upset and disappointed and pissed with buddy Dave laughing all the way along. “Wow,” I said, “you couldn’t do this one thing? It’s all I asked you to do! I was really counting on that bobka! It’s all I wanted for my birthday!” (I laid it on extra thick)
So this girl, Amber, goes and buys all the ingredients and spends an entire day learning how to properly roll and twist dough to bake the perfect chocolate bobka! It was amazing and delicious.
It was only then I started thinking…maybe I SHOULD date this girl? Initially it was a silly joke, but her bobka won me over. It’s true…the way to a mans heart is through his bobka…or Seinfeld obsession… one of the two.
Anyway, I tell Cousin Dave the story…his response:
“Hahahaha. That’s Great. True life, often funnier than made up. You should marry that girl.”
It was sad to hear the news today that one of the victims of the Covid-19 virus is Cirque Du Soleil as they declared bankruptcy and laid off thousands of workers. All of their shows have ceased operations due to the virus and the company incurred massive amounts of debt. Hopefully the company will be able to restructure and resume operations of some of its shows but with the recent resurgence of the Virus in the United States, it doesn’t look like they’ll be resuming productions anytime soon. Which very well could spell the end of my favorite Cirque show, the Beatles masterpiece, “Love”.
I’ve seen Love a total of three times and every time am blown away. The Love Soundtrack alone is mind-blowing for any Beatles Fan. To create the show’s lush soundscape, producers Sir George Martin (RIP) and his son, Giles, worked at Abbey Road Studios with the entire archive of Beatles master recordings.
The Beatles LOVE
1. Because (LOVE Version)
2. Get Back (LOVE Version)
3. Glass Onion (LOVE Version)
4. Eleanor Rigby/Julia (LOVE Version)
5. I Am The Walrus (LOVE Version)
6. I Want To Hold Your Hand (LOVE Version)
7. Drive My Car/The Word/What You’re Doing (LOVE Version)
8. Gnik Nus (LOVE Version)
9. Something/Blue Jay Way (LOVE Version)
10. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!/I Want You (She’s So Heavy)/Helter Skelter (LOVE Version)
11. Help! (LOVE Version)
12. Blackbird/Yesterday (LOVE Version)
13. Strawberry Fields Forever (LOVE Version)
14. Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows (LOVE Version)
15. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (LOVE Version)
16. Octopus’s Garden (LOVE Version)
17. Lady Madonna (LOVE Version)
18. Here Comes The Sun/The Inner Light (LOVE Version)
19. Come Together/Dear Prudence/Cry Baby Cry (LOVE Version)
20. Revolution (LOVE Version)
21. Back In The U.S.S.R. (LOVE Version)
22. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (LOVE Version)
23. A Day In The Life (LOVE Version)
24. Hey Jude (LOVE Version)
25. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (LOVE Version)
Why does the sound on everything stink today? TV’s, Tablets, computers, cells. (Corporate greed! Oh, buy this special sound component.) My Stupid Samsung Smart TV, brand new, on 100, the highest it goes, is just audible on some channels. And my hearing is perfectly normal.
Well, Dave, there are several factors. But it basically boils down to two: audio compression and format.
Almost all recorded audio today is compressed. CD-quality was established as an audio standard when CDs were first released. The quality is crystal clear and typically mixed to be presented as stereo sound with 2 channels (Left and Right). The problem is that the data files are really big and you can only fit about 80 minutes of music or 700mb. That’s about 35mb for a 3 minute song.
Then the Internet became a thing and people very quickly realized that downloading a song took FOREVER. So one guy said, hey, since humans can’t really hear EVERY frequency why don’t we remove some of that “extra data”? And so he set to chopping out the bits (compressing) HE deemed weren’t important. So now we have a whole generation of kids that only grew up hearing compressed audio (MP3’s) and don’t know any better.
This same compressed audio is used in streaming movies and television today because of the same logic. Some stations and streaming platforms compress the fuck out of the audio and/or picture. The only way to get really really good quality picture and sound is to buy the Blu-Ray versions and play them on a really good home theater system.
That’s the first thing: compression. The second thing is audio format.
Unless you have your smart TV connected to a fancy home theater audio system, you’re likely hearing plain old (compressed) stereo sound. If the source of that audio was originally mixed for stereo, it probably sounds fine. But if it was mixed for more than 2 speakers… such as Dolby 5.1 Surround, you are likely not hearing some of the mix.
5.1 refers to the number of speakers that an audio track is mixed to. In a typical 5.1 set up you would have Front L and R, Front Center, Side L and R, and a subwoofer. The Front Center would typically have the majority of dialogue where the sides and subwoofer would have music/Sfx and so on. This is how they create that “surround sound”.
The problem is, if you don’t have that center speaker, you’re probably missing much of the dialog audio. Most smart TVs attempt to compensate for this with some audio trickery but it is inconsistent because there are so many different ways the original audio can be formatted. It’s like if someone were to listen to early Beatles with all the treble down and all the bass up…it would totally sound fucked up.
Your smart TV likely has a few different audio settings (check your manual or look at your remote). You may try switching to a different format that sounds better to you for whatever you are watching at the time. Or you can start investing in a home theater system and spend thousands of dollars and thousands of hours learning the finer points of audio engineering.
I recently watched the FX-produced “limited series” Devs on Hulu. It stars Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson from “Parks & Recreation“) as the “mad genius” and Sonoya Mizuno as the protagonist trying to uncover the secret behind her boyfriend’s sudden and inexplicable disappearance. I might add that Sonoya Mizuno may very well be my new favorite actress. If you’re not familiar with her work, watch this: The Rise of Sonoya Mizuno
The roughly 8 hour show (broken into 8 segments) is the brainchild of writer/director Alex Garland, who also wrote and directed Annihilation and Ex-Machina and wrote 28 Days Later. Garland has been on my radar for several years and has brought some of the most intriguing science fiction to both the big and little screens in recent years. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook after seeing Annihilation a couple years ago:
After being a little late to the game on Devs, and despite the fact that I had seen the name pop up as recommended by several friends…I never went digging enough to find it. I saw it once on Apple TV+ but it wanted me to buy it…then I realized it was on Hulu for free! So I binged all 8 episodes in about 2 Covid quarantine days.
The story goes like this: A russian-born software security developer working for a Silicon Valley tech giant gets recruited by the company’s Founder/CEO, Forest (Offerman), to join an elite team within the company called “Devs”. Shortly after he joins Devs, he disappears and his girlfriend, Lily (Mizuno) suspects foul play, leading her on a journey that weaves international espionage, high-tech, quantum computing, determinism and the concept of a multiverse.
The Multiverse theory is a very real theory that has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy and basically postulates the multiverse is a hypothetical group of multiple universes. Together, these universes comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, energy, information, and the physical laws and constants that describe them. The different universes within the multiverse are called “parallel universes,” “other universes,” “alternate universes,” or “many worlds.”. The ideas of a Multiverse have been debated by physicists and philosophers alike, and has been the subject of many modern science fiction works, including the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Trek, Family Guy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chronicles of Narnia…and many, many more.
In Devs, the multiverse is explored as a predictive tool. If every action has a cause, say you drop a pen, the pen will fall to the floor. It’s predictable and quantifiable. Devs takes it a step further by saying that if the pen is already on the floor, you can calculate how it got there, essentially peering back in time to the initial drop. Once you can visualize it being dropped, in theory, you can continue predicting backwards (and forwards) further and further, using massive computing power to predict all possible scenarios and accurately visualize the most likely outcomes.
It very quickly gets sticky and mired in the ethics of this technology…and the concepts of “free will”, determinism and quantum physics are all blended nicely in the Devs Universe. Forest is driven to build this technology due to a great loss he suffered and hopes to use it to recapture what he lost. Lily works for the same company and uncovers the mystery of her boyfriend’s disappearance and the truth behind Devs but begins to question her own thoughts and reality along the way.
The series is visually stunning, filled with religious imagery and themes of death and rebirth. The Devs soundtrack is fantastic as well, with one notable episode starting and ending with a song called Congregation by Low. Every episode starts and ends with a unique song. It’s quite a fun watch, and I highly recommend it. But…could it happen for real??? Some physicists say perhaps.
“It’s easy to take time’s arrow for granted – but the gears of physics actually work just as smoothly in reverse. Maybe that time machine is possible after all?
“An experiment from 2019 shows just how much wiggle room we can expect when it comes to distinguishing the past from the future, at least on a quantum scale. It might not allow us to relive the 1960s, but it could help us better understand why not.”
“The second law of thermodynamics is less a hard rule and more of a guiding principle for the Universe. It says hot things get colder over time as energy transforms and spreads out from areas where it’s most intense.
“It’s a principle that explains why your coffee won’t stay hot in a cold room, why it’s easier to scramble an egg than unscramble it, and why nobody will ever let you patent a perpetual motion machine.
“It’s also the closest we can get to a rule that tells us why we can remember what we had for dinner last night, but have no memory of next Christmas.
“That law is closely related to the notion of the arrow of time that posits the one-way direction of time from the past to the future,” said quantum physicist Gordey Lesovik from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
“Virtually every other rule in physics can be flipped and still make sense. For example, you could zoom in on a game of pool, and a single collision between any two balls won’t look weird if you happened to see it in reverse.
“On the other hand, if you watched balls roll out of pockets and reform the starting pyramid, it would be a sobering experience. That’s the second law at work for you.
“On the macro scale of omelettes and games of pool, we shouldn’t expect a lot of give in the laws of thermodynamics. But as we focus in on the tiny gears of reality – in this case, solitary electrons – loopholes appear.
“Electrons aren’t like tiny billiard balls, they’re more akin to information that occupies a space. Their details are defined by something called the Schrödinger equation, which represents the possibilities of an electron’s characteristics as a wave of chance.
That’s the fancy title of a new report by Kazuki Takeishi and other scientists who have successfully created miniature human livers from stem cells and put them into mice. I won’t get into the details, mostly because I don’t understand them, but here’s a picture:
About 17,000 people are currently waiting for a liver transplant in the United States. This number greatly exceeds the amount of available, donated by deceased donors. Meanwhile, organ transplants can be prohibitively expensive. In 2017, patients receiving a liver transplant were billed an estimated $812,500. That includes pre and post-op care as well as immunosuppressant drugs to keep people’s bodies from rejecting the transplanted organ.
I am one of those liver transplant recipients. My donor passed away on May 12th 2020, and in the early hours of May 13th, my dying liver was removed and replaced with the donor’s healthy liver in an operation that lasted about 4 hours. That was exactly three weeks ago, but I could have been much more unlucky. Each year an estimated 2000 people die while on the national transplant list…there are just not enough donated livers to keep up with demand. And you can’t live without a functioning liver…it is one of the most important organs and supports over 500 key body functions.
While the science isn’t quite ready for prime-time, scientists expect that within 10 years, liver donations will be a thing of the past.
As I write this, I consider myself very fortunate. I was diagnosed with End-Stage Liver Disease in October of 2019 and spent the past six months in and out of the hospital, in the ICU having life-extending procedures and taking drugs to keep my damaged liver from completely shutting down. I was officially placed on the National Donor list in late February, a list with 16000+ other transplant candidates and a list in which 2000+ hopefuls sadly pass away before finding the right organ.
So I waited, battling the symptoms that made me weak and sick, draining fluid from my abdomen and chest cavities, suffering periodic life-threatening ammonia spikes that could cause me to become unconscious without warning, drops in hemoglobin, anemia, kidney failure, internal bleeding…The symptoms kept getting worse and tested my resolve many times.
But then at about 10:30 pm, Vanessa, my Liver Transplant Coordinator left me this message:
I was beside myself and shaking with this news. I was scared, but this was what I was waiting for. My buddy Jack came and picked me up and we drove to Advent and checked into pre-op (called the “Rapid In/Out” or “RIO:” department. Shower, Chest X-Ray, Blood tests, Covid-test, wait, wait, wait.
Around 7am the surgeon came in and said they were looking at a noon-ish time for surgery. He said he had not seen the donor liver yet but he needed to see it before they brought me in to make sure it was viable.
Noon turned into 2pm. 2pm turned into 4pm. At 4 pm a nurse came in and I did the final prep for surgery. Compression socks, hair net, enema…at about 4:50 the surgeon came in and, in a very somber tone said that he had finally seen the donor liver and it was not viable. It was “too fatty” and he couldn’t transplant it.
Devastation. I was SO ready and this just felt like the wind was taken out of my sails. I went back home in a daze and slept. I barely got out of bed the next couple of days. I was in a daze, but I knew this was a possibility. And so again I waited.
Fortunately I only had to wait a few days and I got another call. On Wednesday, May 13th I had liver transplant surgery. I went under about 12:30 am and woke up about 8 hours later in the post-transplant ICU. In less than 24 hours I was in a normal recovery room and eating solid foods.
With 48 hours I was standing and walking with a walker and within 5 days I was discharged from the hospital, walking out on my own two feet. It was amazing and my recovery has been quite smooth. My transplant surgeon has already reduced some of my meds and, after a couple weeks of staying with my parents, I am happy to be back in my own home and sleeping in my own bed.
I have a weekly blood test and visit with my doctor, but so far all my lab results have been good. I’m eating well and all of the symptoms of my disease have disappeared. I have a new life!
Back in the summer of 2011 I was head of marketing for a start-up called Tropo. Our team was geographically spread around the globe, but I mostly worked out of a small office on 3rd floor of a building right on the corner of Market and 2nd Street in downtown San Francisco. We had a lovely view of Market Street and I would often find myself gazing at the crowds passing by below while working on a press release, company blog entry or planning our next tech event.
One afternoon I noticed what, at first I thought was a parade heading north up Market Street towards the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building. Drums were pounding, people were chanting…I looked a little closer and noticed some were carrying signs but I could’t make out what the signs said. It certainly wasn’t a parade…and I quickly realized it was some sort of protest. Ah! but protesting what?
Since I had moved to San Francisco a year earlier I noticed three things that San Franciscans love: Getting dressed in costumes, Parades, and Protests. Sometimes all three at the same time. This particular group kinda had costumes…some of them were wearing Guy Fawkes masks, some had a cyber-punk/steampunk look…but it it was less of a parade and more of a moving crowd. The crowd stopped right across the street and circled around a Chase Bank retail location on the ground floor. I grabbed my camera and went out to investigate.
As I approached I could see some of the signs, “We are the 99%”. “Tax the Rich”, and others. Some of the protestors had entered the bank and I could see them through the window with signs, holding hands and sitting cross-legged on the floor. The crowd outside of the bank was peaceful, but clearly they were protesting something…but what?
That was my very first introduction to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The police arrived, the protestors started walking further down the street to the Federal Reserve Bank building. I was taking pictures and video, mesmerized by this protest that had seemingly popped up from nowhere. The protest turned into a sit-in. Tents were erected. A small community of protestors took up residence outside of of the Federal building, and later around the Embarcadero. Police would periodically come in and clean all the “occupiers” out by destroying their tents, pepper spray, and mass arrests. I attended protests in San Francisco and Oakland, and because my job required a lot of travel that summer, I attended Occupy Protests in NYC, Seattle, Austin, Orlando, Miami, London, Berlin and Paris. It was a global protest of the have-nots vs. the haves and stretched on for months.
Now we’re seeing a different kind of protest movement. 2020 has proven to be a difficult year. Personally, I was battling liver disease and desperately needed a transplant to live (something that thankfully happened on May 13th!). But while I was busy with my own health issues and generally thinking “things couldn’t get worse”, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. Quarantines, stay-at-home-orders, curfews, and conflicting information from scientists, doctors and politicians cause a general sense of chaos and frustration.
And just as it seemed we were emerging from the worst of the pandemic, as armed Trump supporters took to the streets to protest state lockdown orders and demand access to salons and golf courses, a few racially-charged incidents happened.
Within days, what started as peaceful protests in Minneapolis broke out into violence. Protests spread to other cities…within a week there were peaceful and violent protests in almost every major city in the United States and some international cities as well. Donald Trump flamed the fans of the fire with his (now anticipated) divisive rhetoric, causing more civil unrest. We are still in the midst of seeing this whole thing grow with no peace in sight, and no strong leadership to quell the anger and frustration.
What will happen next? Trump made an announcement today to tell local mayors and governors to stop the violence or he will use the military to do it for them. In the meantime, protests continue across the country with many cities enforcing overnight curfews.
Civil Disobedience is as American as, well, America. Perhaps Trevor Noah says it best.