Lafcadio Hearn’s “A Dead Secret”

Originally posted on Essays in Idleness:

Hello,

As mentioned in my last post, this week’s posts are themed for Halloween with a Japanese twist. I am posting old stories from Kwaidan, a famous book of Japanese weird tales by Greco-Irish author, Lafcadio Hearn. In Japan he is known as Koizumi Yakumo (小泉八雲). Today’s story was something I posted before, but not in entirety. It is one of my favorite stories by Hearn, and today I am posting in entirety thanks to Project Gutenberg. I’ve added additional links and clarifications in [ ] too. Also, for reference, the title is called H?murareta-himitsu (葬られた秘密) in Japanese.

A long time ago, in the province of Tamba, there lived a rich merchant named Inamuraya Gensuke. He had a daughter called O-Sono. As she was very clever and pretty, he thought it would be a pity to let her grow up with only such teaching as the country-teachers could…

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Robin Williams and Me: The Killer Among Us.

Originally posted on Big Red Carpet Nursing:

Robin Williams  Person    Giant BombWhy Robin Williams?

I’m not a fan of celebrity worship, nor do I feel especially comfortable perhaps taking advantage of human suffering and loss by writing about a total stranger’s suicide.  That said, Robin’s suicide disturbs me. It touches a sore nerve, it hurts. He seemed a safe, reliable positive out there in the world, a source of joy and humor and, well, life. He was fine as far as I knew, just fine, then BAM!: dead. It’s shocking, saddening, makes the world seem less safe, less reliable.

Why me?

Clearly there is no “Robin Williams and me”, no relationship beyond talented performer and fan. I use the phrase in another sense. Why does his death hit me harder than most? What does it mean?

Events’ meaning partially come from our reactions to them, our responses. Like so many, I have thought over Robin’s many fine performances, the incredible eruption…

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A look back at the cabin design progress

It’s coming along. I promise.

This is just a timeline for me of how my ideas fleshed out over time. Progress made and lessons learned. I’m still in the middle of designing the basics of my “Kleinhaus” (small house) and this is a bit of a timeline how we came to the current phase. From newest to oldest:

2014

2013

2012

So there you have it. I’m still in the process of putting ideas to paper which will be posted here soon. In the process of creating these posts, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to real architects and discuss ideas on modularization. I.E. I want to be able to make incremental changes as technologies and codes change without affecting the rest of the structure.

Part of that process has been creating a “Utility Wall” which will house the majority of the plumbing and electrical circuits. Since the kitchen and bathroom share this wall, I feel this will be the most sensible approach to this. The wires in the walls for outlets and switches will all congregate in the upper section of this utility wall. The majority of the plumbing will be toward the lower section separated from the electrical panel by at least two stud widths in case there’s a leak.

I’m not the first person to come up with a utility “module” of sorts as I came across these videos recently :



I think that gives a brief glimpse of what’s possible and since my Utility Wall will be larger than this, I’m sure I can work in the electrical hookups with ample room to spare as well as improve safety. Since the utility wall wouldn’t be load-bearing, we can cut as many holes as needed in the studs without compromising structural integrity.

An additional benefit of the modularization would be being able to move the kitchen and bathroom to either side of the utility wall. This will also enable moving the stairs and front door to either side as well, without changing the rest of the structure. Considering that I’m designing this not just for me, but for anyone interested to take and run with, I feel having this kind of flexibility is essential to adoption.

I haven’t worked much on the roof yet as that’s proving to be a trickier affair. Supporting a fair amount of weight while maintaining a simple profile is proving to be a challenge. A single slope roof would be the simplest to design, but building it in a safe manner would be a bit of a challenge. Multiple slopes is easier, counter-intuitively, easier to build in some ways as the methodologies are well established, as are the building techniques. More pondering is in order.

Binaural Beats Experimentation

For the last few days, I’ve been running a few tests on myself as part of an effort to cure my chronic insomnia. For the last few months or so, the insomnia has gotten quite bad to the point that I’ve spent a day or two without any sleep at all and spent the day immediately afterward in what seemed like perpetual aggravation. I’m not sure of the efficacy of binaural beats as there are many conflicting sources all over the place so I started off doing some tests on myself to see if they work.

Preparation

I tried testing a couple of headphones first. My trusty JVC HA-RX300 which I’ve had for years and take everywhere and a new set, a Sennheiser HD280 Pro.

I have a tiny head (contrary to what I’ve been told repeatedly) and the HD280 felt a tad too big, but it produced the best range of sound so far. The RX300 seemed to struggle with the lower frequencies and I often had to increase the volume to the point distortions began to appear.

In my search for binaural tracks, I came across a vast swath of very shrill and harsh samples that I felt were the wrong fit for me. Plus some of them gave me a pretty severe headache after a couple of minutes of listening. Some even gave me a nauseous feeling and that’s definitely a sleep killer. I figured I’d write myself (and anyone else listening) a little disclaimer before going about this.

When listening, please ensure the volume starts low as high levels may cause permanent damage to your hearing. Use a pair of good quality headphones (circumaural, noise-cancelling preferred) which can reproduce frequency responses between at least 25Hz – 10,000Hz and that are light and fit comfortably.

Do not engage in intensive exercises immediately following a listening session.

If any dizziness, light-headed sensation or nauseous feeling were to occur, stop listening immediately, take a sip of cool water and lay down.

This track is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat any illness or physiological or psychological condition.

Now I just needed to create those tracks.

Binaural selection

Rather than creating one track and hoping for the best, I tried creating a selection starting with the lowest frequency I’m comfortable with. According to Wikipedia, the human hearing range starts at 20Hz so I decided to create a base frequency binaural track at 30Hz (to accommodate us mere mortals before catering to the superhuman).

The 30Hz track was OK at first, but that too became uncomfortable at the 5 minute mark. I think maybe the volume was a bit too high for me at the time, but it soon felt like someone was squeezing my head. I then went on to 50Hz, 70Hz, 90Hz and finally 110Hz. The 110Hz turned out to be more comfortable than the rest, but your experience may differ. Considering I haven’t figured out the correct volume yet and the HD280 hasn’t been “broken in” (audiophiles and detractors, please hold your flaming) I’ll need to experiment more.

I wanted to create a pure tonal track of at least 2 hours to start off. I felt 2 hours was the upper limit in duration to preserve my hearing and sanity. Your experience may vary considerably depending on the volume, the headset, the ambiance of your listening room, the amount of fluids you’ve had etc… Try to start slowly if you intend to follow along in these experiments with me.

I intend to try out non traditional approaches to this whole binaural thing and may go with alternating (left to right sweep) white noise to approach the mythical 1/2Hz Goldilocks Zone of “sensory resonance” if that has any benefit at all. Who knows, this kind of experimentation may become a new hobby. I’ll keep adding to this playlist as the experimentation goes on.

Our solar team sets a hot and steamy world record

Originally posted on News @ CSIRO:

The run of sunny weather we’ve had in south-eastern Australia over the last few weeks has been breaking quite a few records – and not just on the weather charts.

A team of solar thermal engineers and scientists at our Energy Centre in Newcastle have used the ample sunlight flooding their solar fields to create what’s called ‘supercritical’ steam – an ultra-hot, ultra-pressurised steam that’s used to drive the world’s most advanced power plant turbines – at the highest levels of temperature and pressure EVER recorded with solar power.

Heliostats.

The heliostat array, as viewed from Solar Tower 2.

They used heat from the sun, reflected off a field of heliostats (or mirrors) and concentrated onto a central receiver point to create the steam at these supercritical levels. The achievement is being described in the same terms as breaking the sound barrier, so impressive are its possible implications for solar thermal…

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