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October 9, 2019

Dōtaku Bell

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From Corinna da Fonseca-Wolheim's recent New York Times essay on the history of music's negative spaces a.k.a. silences: 

One of the most arresting objects on display in the musical instruments galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a 2,000-year-old bell from Japan that was built to be mute.

Dōtaku bells such as this one still puzzle historians, but we know they were made without clappers and buried in earth, probably as part of a ritual designed to bless crops.

The first time I saw the Met's dōtaku, I stopped dead in my tracks.

The expectation of sound had been turned into a sacrificial act of silence.

From inside two slits high up on the bell, I thought I saw the ghost of John Cage smiling out.

Cage’s "4'33"" may be the most notorious act of silence to be offered as music.

But it fits into a long lineage of efforts to endow silence with artistic meaning.

In Japanese music, the term "ma" suggests the space in between sounds that a performer must master.

Debussy wrote that the music is not in the notes, but in the spaces between them.

In a similar vein, Miles Davis said, "It's not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play."

As social beings, we are hard-wired to interpret breaks in the flow of human communication.

We recognize the pregnant pause, the stunned silence, the expectant hush.

A one-beat delay on an answer can reveal hesitation or hurt, or play us for laughs.

A closer listen shows musical silence to be just as eloquent.

October 9, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What's your computer speed tipping point? I may have just reached mine


Long (literally) story short: This morning I decided to upgrade to Catalina, which was released Monday.

The first sign things weren't going great was that it took over two (2) hours to download and install.

That was followed by a couple of pop-up windows regarding "Relocated Items" and "Security."

After I finally figured out how to get past them, I thought I was home free.

Well, I got it half right: I was home, but not anything like free.

My 2019 iMac, which cost me only $999 because — as my friend adt pointed out, it's still using a now-obsolete hard drive in lieu of flash — is now so slow I might as well be back on dial-up.

I get a 5-20-second-long spinning beach ball of death (top) when I attempt to do anything, even crop a picture.

I know I've remarked before about having pathological patience but I'm not sure how much longer I can take this pain.

It's not easy being a fanboi.

October 9, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Want people to think you're smarter? Smile more.


Keep reading....


According to Christopher Ingraham's Washington Post story, "The good news is that people can't tell how smart you are by how good you look. But the bad news is that they think they can."

Below, excerpts from his article; above, graphics that accompanied the piece.

This post's headline's in the final paragraph.


As reported last month in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers had 40 men and 40 women take a standard test of intelligence. They then took photographs of their faces, instructing them "to adopt a neutral, non-smiling expression and avoid facial cosmetics, jewelry, and other decorations." For the next step, they had 160 strangers review the photographs. Half of these reviewers rated the photos according to how smart the subjects looked, while the other half rated according to the subjects' attractiveness.

The researchers found a strong relationship between how attractive a person was rated, and reviewers' assumptions about how intelligent they were. This relationship was especially strong among women. But when it came to actual intelligence, there was a significant gender gap: reviewers were able to accurately gauge the real intelligence of men, but not of women. They're not exactly sure why this would be, but one possible explanation is that women are simply judged more pervasively on their looks than men are: "The strong halo effect of attractiveness may thus prevent an accurate assessment of the intelligence of women." The finding of a much stronger relationship between attractiveness and perceived intelligence among women seems to back up this claim.

On the other hand, when the researchers looked at perceived intelligence versus actual intelligence, as measured by the subjects' IQ scores, they found no relationship whatsoever. In fact, visual assessments of a persons' intelligence seem to largely be based on stereotypes related, at least partially, to notions of attractiveness. To test this, the researchers constructed "intelligence stereotypes" for both men and women, based on the observers' assessments of subjects' intelligence:

"Our data suggest that a clear mental image how a smart face should look does exist for both men and women within the community of human raters. The intelligence-stereotype shows the same transformations in facial shape space for both men and women. In both sexes, a narrower face with a thinner chin and a larger prolonged nose characterizes the predicted stereotype of high-intelligence, while a rather oval and broader face with a massive chin and a smallish nose characterizes the prediction of low-intelligence."

These assumptions carry centuries of cultural baggage, and more to the point they're simply wrong: the researchers ran a bunch of regressions and found no relationship between these facial stereotypes and a person's actual intelligence. While "men and women with specific facial traits were perceived as highly intelligent," the researchers conclude, "these faces of supposed high and low intelligence probably represent nothing more than a cultural stereotype because these morphological traits do not correlate with the real intelligence of the subjects." Notably, the study was conducted in the Czech Republic and doesn't say a word about the race or ethnicity of study participants or observers — it would be fascinating to see to what extent these findings are consistent across different cultures.

So in the end, where does this all leave us? While it's comforting to know that there's no real connection between brains and beauty, we nonetheless form opinions of each other as if there were. This can have measureable, real-world consequences: Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas found that being attractive "helps you earn more money, find a higher-earning spouse (and one who looks better, too!) and get better deals on mortgages." All told, the lifetime earnings difference between people at opposite ends of the attractiveness spectrum averages out to about $230,000, in beauty's favor.

Finally, the research does suggest one thing we can all start doing to boost others' assessments of our intelligence: smile more. "There seems to be a correlation between semblances of emotions of joy or anger in perceptions of high or low intelligence in faces, respectively," the researchers write. "The 'high intelligence' faces appear to be smiling more than the 'low intelligence' faces."

October 9, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Real-time 3D Tokyo subway map

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"Sublime" works too.

October 9, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fuji on the Rock Ice Maker — "Mountain shape ice block"


From the website:

Toast with Japan's most famous mountain in your glass with the Fuji on the Rock Ice Maker.

This special ice block maker will form the shape of the mountain, including the iconic tip of snow at the top.

Having a drink on top of Mt. Fuji is a bit of a dream come true for Japanese people.

While the Fuji on the Rock lacks the altitude of the real thing, it makes up for it in charm and convenience.

And as with the best cute things, it's also super easy.

Just pour in water. Close the lid and freeze for a few hours, and then you have a mini version of Mt. Fuji to pop in your glass.

Perfect for drinks during the summer climbing season!


Features and Details:

• Freezing time: 8-10 hours

• Fuji ice rock size: 4"H x 3.5"Ø

• Instructions: Japanese (but easy to use)


$21 (glasses and vodka/gin] not included.

October 9, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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