Saturday, 31 October 2009

Quick Peep (Oasis)

Only bits and pieces sound like the original. Not too happy with what I have. I blame youtube for not having enough video lessons.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin)

I recorded "Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin. It's the longest piece I have done till date.

Although I don't feel it was too tough, when faced by the camera I got the "heebie jeebies". My heart would be racing, my hands would be shaky, I would be perspiring (well that could also be because I switch off the fan while recording -- otherwise you can hear its constant hum resulting in bad audio).

So I had to do quite a few takes. I'm happy with what came out, but I feel that I play it much better when there is no camera. I just hope, going forward, I can deal with the camera-fright.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Usain Bolt Bowling

Bolt performs with his characteristic mild arrogance ... and delivers!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Predictably Irrational and Stack Overflow Careers

After finishing "Without Fear" I have picked up Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational". The book is on behavioral economics and, broadly speaking, tries to determine what influences human decisions which, if looked objectively, sometimes seem irrational. I'm not even through chapter 2 and find it an interesting read.

Jeff Atwood, the author of Coding Horror and one of the programmers behind Stack Overflow, had written a blog post describing the gist of the book. It was that post that prompted me to buy it.

In the post, while summarizing the 1st chapter of the book, Jeff wrote:
Realize that some premium options exist as decoys -- that is, they are there only to make the less expensive options look more appealing, because they're easy to compare. Don't make binding decisions solely based on how easy it is to compare two side-by-side options from the same vendor.

While reading another of his newer posts, I came to know that the Stack Overflow bunch have started a new site -- Stack Overflow Careers. The idea is to let active Stack Overflow members, who are looking for a job, post their resume on Stack Overflow Careers. The catch here is that in Stack Overflow Careers, the job-seekers will actually have to pay to make their resume available to the hiring-managers! Their reason:

When hiring managers search through CVs, they want to know that they’re looking at active, serious job applicants. If it were free to post a CV, a lot of applicants that weren’t looking for jobs, or who knew that they had no reasonable chance of getting a job, would post them, making it harder for the employers to find serious applicants.

Of course the other and maybe the real reason is so that Stack Overflow Careers can make money. Also, I'm sure that the other side, which looks at the CVs, also gets charged. Win, win, win!

But wait, how much does it cost? Well here are their rates:
  • If you’re a student, a 1 year membership is free
  • Until November 9th, 2009, a 3 year membership is $29
  • After November 10th, 2009, a 1 year membership is $99

See what they did there? The $99 option is a decoy (go and read Jeff's excerpt above), albeit a temporary one.

But I think the biggest trick which they are playing is making the service paid. That combined with their brand name is actually going to make people rush to it. Hell, I might try it out of curiosity!

To make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.
-- Mark Twain

Fur Elise

I have been trying to play the classic piece "Fur Elise", by Beethoven, for almost a week now. Yes, you have heard it. Maybe when a car was reversing, maybe when a door bell rang, maybe when you were sitting in a fancy restaurant waiting for food ...

It's a soothing tune, composed to be played on the piano.

I don't think I have done justice to it. The least I can claim is to have captured my effort.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Without Fear -- Glaring Mistake?

On my flight from Bangalore to Delhi I finished reading the auto-biography of Gandhi and immediately picked up "Without Fear" -- a biography of Bhagat Singh by Kuldip Nayar. Apart from recounting the life stories of Bhagat Singh and his companions, the author tends to glorify the revolutionaries' role and importance, rather than let the readers form their own opinion.

One part of the book just seems plain wrong.

In page 64, when the author is recounting the details of the plans being set by the revolutionaries to bomb the legislative assembly, showcasing Bhagat Singh's frustrations, he writes:

... Bhagat Singh too was tired of violence being associated with them. Gandhi's description of them as 'irresponsible young men' irritated him.

Had Gandhi ever tried to sit around an evening fire with a peasant and tried to gauge what he thought? Had he spent a single evening in the company of a factory labourer and shared his views with him? The revolutionaries knew what the masses thought.

The two questions above, related to Gandhi, are posed rhetorically and are intended to make the reader believe that Gandhi didn't know the problems of peasants or the factory worker. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Gandhi led successful Satyagrahs in Champaran and Kheda (for the rights of peasants), and the mill workers' strike in Ahmedabad (for the rights of factory laborers). In all these three places Gandhi was amongst the people, trying to understand them, helping them. The author also doesn't substantiate his statement that "The revolutionaries knew what the masses thought."

Deeply disappointed.

Update: I stand corrected. The two questions posed are actually derived from Bhagat Singh's article "The Philosophy of the Bomb" under the section "DO THE MASSES BELIEVE IN NON-VIOLENCE". Reproduced below to give the complete context.

Gandhi has extended his tour limit to where a motorcar can take him, the practice of staying only with the richest people in the places visited, of spending most of his time on being complimented by his devotees in private and public, and of granting Darshan now and then to the illiterate masses whom he claims to understand so well, disqualifies him from claiming to know the mind of the masses.

No man can claim to know a people's mind by seeing them from the public platform and giving them Darshan and Updesh. He can at the most claim to have told the masses what he thinks about things. Has Gandhi, during recent years, mixed in the social life of the masses? Has he sat with the peasant round the evening fire and tried to know what he thinks? Has he passed a single evening in the company of a factory labourer and shared with him his vows? We have, and therefore we claim to know what the masses think.

We assure Gandhi that the average Indian, like the average human being, understands little of the fine theological niceties about Ahimsa and Loving one's enemy. The way of the world is like this. You have a friend: you love him, sometimes so much that you even die for him. You have an enemy: you shun him, you fight against him and, if possible, kill him.

As the section heading says, Bhagat Singh is trying to emphasize that the masses understand the means taken by the revolutionaries better than non-violence.

So yes, the questions related to Gandhi were thoughts of Bhagat Singh, but better context could have been provided by the author. I absolve the author of trying to mislead the reader, but still am skeptical of the charges made against Gandhi by Bhagat Singh.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Packington's Pound (Better Recording)

This time I recorded the video and audio separately. I used my digital camera to record the video and my Sansa Clip to record the audio. Once the recording was done I transferred the video and audio to the PC.

I prefer to start the audio recording before the video recording -- with my rudimentary equipment I can't do both simultaneously -- and end the video recording first. So there are portions in the audio track, both at the beginning and at the end, which need to be pruned. Also after pruning, the audio overlay has to be done correctly so that both video and audio are in step.

I did the pruning with help of Audacity. The audio overlay was done with Windows Movie Maker (if you have Windows, you will have it). Overall the tools did a decent job.

There are couple of mistakes in the guitaring (I'm not telling you where).

At around the 30 second mark I start banging the guitar into the Clip Microphone, and that has messed up the recording a bit, towards the end.

Transferring Recordings to PC from Sansa Clip

Most of my guitar videos have awful sound quality. This is because, while recording, the camera sits a bit far off and its mic isn't too great. So for my next cover (which is not ready yet) I decided to do the audio part of the recording on my Sansa Clip MP3 player, instead of my camera.

Although the recording came out good, I couldn't find a way to transfer the recording to my PC. I wanted this so that I could do an audio overlay for the video. Googling didn't yield any results.

I discovered a solution by myself and it's documented here.

Transferring your recording consists of 3 steps.

Step 1: Change the USB Mode Setting to MSC

By default the Sansa Clip USB Mode is set to "Auto" and that always defaults to MTP (Media Transfer Protocol). When you are in the MTP mode you can transfer music files from the PC to your Clip. But while in this mode you won't be able to see any of your recordings.

By changing the mode to MSC (Mass Storage Class) your Sansa Clip will mount as a USB mass storage device. In other words, just like any other flash drive.

To change the USB mode to MSC do the following:
  1. Go to the "Settings" page in the menu.
  2. Scroll down to "USB Mode".
  3. Select the "MSC" mode.

Step 2: Connect to PC

Pretty obvious. When you connect it, the device should mount as a disk drive and not a MTP device.

Step3: Transfer Recordings

Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the drive which says "SANSA CLIP". Inside that drive you will have a folder called "RECORD". Anything which you recorded will be a WAV file within a sub-folder called "VOICE". You can copy this recording to your machine.

Note: I didn't see the songs on my Sansa Clip when opened in the explorer. My guess is that you will have to change the mode back to "Auto" to transfer music files.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Packington's Pound -- Video

I made a video of me playing Packington's Pound. The recording is pretty bad. Leaving the fan on was a mistake, but even if it wasn't who could have stopped the honks and the neighbor's TV. Side note: I should get better recording equipment.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Packington's Pound

I always wanted to play a classical music piece on the guitar. So yesterday night, when I couldn't go to sleep, thinking I was pretty good at finger picking, I started (trying) to play various songs provided at; only to find I was quite inadequate.

Thus, I googled for "easy classical songs" and "Packington's Pound" came up. After one night and one day of laborious practice, I now know the notes of the song but I'm still very choppy (easy ... yeah right!) Maybe once I'm decent enough, I will put up a video.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Routine Post

Obama won a Nobel and I have a cold. Here goes:

  • I have been cooking for almost three weeks now and it's been going good. I can do Dal, Sambar, Pulao/Biryani, and some vegetables. All my cooking is done on a small gas stove. There have been no major disasters in the kitchen yet (touch wood). In fact, I invited couple of friends over for dinner yesterday and they quite enjoyed it. I had cooked Dal, Egg Burji, Aloo Jeera, Rice and Semiya Paysam. All simple stuff and it came out well. Turns out, I enjoy cooking and cutting vegetables. Washing utensils: not so much.
  • The BSA Bangalore Cyclothon is tomorrow and unfortunately I will not be attending. Reason? On Monday, I decided to go for a morning run. As I was planning it to do in the office campus, I got up early (5:30 AM) and left. The morning was cold and I was not wearing a jacket. To add to that, there was no traffic and I was zipping on my bike. I ran a 5KM, but by the end of the day I had a sore throat. Fast forward to today and I still have a cold. Given my past sickness, I don't want to push it and thus will be sitting out of the event. Second in a row -- first was KTM.
  • I'm planning on applying for a MS again this year. Last year's debacle -- I applied and didn't get selected anywhere -- could be attributed to my confusion and procrastination. This year I'm not confused, just procrastinating.
  • I have had been playing Farmville the entire of last week. While I was in Delhi, I had started playing it, but gave up after three days thinking "what's the point?". I started again, watching my roommate play it everyday. I gave it up yesterday (again), thinking "there will be no end to it." Let my crops wilt, let my trees cry, let my animals die.