Dynamic Range

One of my favorite YouTubers is Steve Guttenberg. He does a daily show that covers sound equipment and his experience in the high-end audio industry. He sometimes/often includes a music review. I don’t always like his choices, but I have found some music that I really like by listening to his recommendations.

In a recent daily show, Steve mentions a Frank Sinatra recording, The Concert Sinatra. After watching Steve’s show, I searched Spotify for the recording and found it.

As I write this, I have the music playing as well. I am struck by the dynamic range of the recording. What I mean by that is the range between the softest and loudest passages of each song.

The dynamic range is huge! It is so musical and such a contrast to so many recordings of popular music. In his daily show, Steve mentions Beyoncé and a recording she produced that he liked. (But that recording was not sufficiently memorable that he recalled the name of the album.) He contrasts the liner notes from the Beyoncé and Sinatra recordings. In the latter are details about the recording process, the musicians, and the studio. In the former… nothing.

As an aside, one of the reasons I like classical music is the dynamic range in the recordings. A big part of the presentation is the range in volume that the music is played. There are markings on the score to indicate the composer’s intent (for loudness). Dynamic compression of classical recordings is either not done or is limited. This gives classical music a completely different sound than most popular music. (There are exceptions, of course.)

I am not knocking Beyoncé. She is a talented and successful entertainer. There is nothing wrong with her musicianship. But her focus on not on being a musician, but an entertainer. Sinatra was an entertainer, but I think he was principally a musician. It shows in this particular recording.

I do not have any Sinatra in my collection. That is a lack and something I am going to rectify. I think a good beginning will be The Concert Sinatra. It is a beautiful recording of some classic songs. I am going to bet it will be dynamite on headphones.

Linear Interpolation

Back in the old days, we used tabulated values to compute values of transcendental functions so that the results could be used in subsequent computations. We had tables for logarithms, trigonometric functions, and the like. There was no calculator or computer with which to enter a value and press log10 to estimate the logarithm of the number.

The method I was taught in high school (I think, it was a long time ago) is called linear interpolation. The assumption is that a straight line between entries in the table is a reasonable approximation for values in between.

That is not strictly true, because all of those functions are actually curves and deviate from a straight line between any two points on the function (according to the graph of the function). But, use of interpolation is certainly sufficient for scientific and engineering calculations.

Therefore, I learned to use linear interpolation to estimate the in-between values. The process is simple, computationally. The bounding values from the table are used to estimate a slope of the line between the two values. That slope multiplied by the fraction of the distance between the interval endpoints of the desired value of the independent variable is added to the initial interval endpoint of the dependent variable. The result is the estimate of the dependent variable on the bounding interval.

Probably 20-years ago I was working on a spreadsheet to route a runoff hydrograph through a reservoir. The algorithm is called modified Puls and is an expression of the conservation of mass principle of the hydrograph through the reservoir with the assumption that the slope on the reservoir surface is zero (it’s flat). The process involves generation of several tables of values and then using those tables to execute the algorithm. Most of the time the desired values from the algorithm fall between tabulated values. Therefore, interpolation is required.

The brute force technique would be to hand code each cell of the spreadsheet to advance the calculation. I wanted a more general (and perhaps elegant) solution so that I would not have to hand code each cell. I thought it should be possible to write a general formula using the built-in search function of the spreadsheet over the range of values in the table.

I recall working on this for a couple of days. I was a professor, so I could afford to spend the time on the problem. I constructed a solution using a function in Microsoft Excel called VLOOKUP. I am not going into the details here (I have a white paper here), but it is sufficient to say that I did the work, solved the problem, and forgot about it.

I also forgot where I put my notes on how I constructed the solution. As it turns out, I needed (or rather wanted) to use this approach to solve an engineering problem I’m working on. I couldn’t find my notes. A couple of weeks ago I hand-coded the cells just so I could get a solution. But last it became apparent that I might have to make several solutions of the problem using the same tables.

I needed to regenerate the general solution, once again. I did this a couple of days ago. Then, yesterday morning, I woke early and was unable to go back to sleep. So, I rose, made coffee, and wrote my notes so that I would have a reference should I need to use the solution again. (Hence the production of the white paper above.)

I am reminded that there are many times we work out a problem, or we learn something that challenges us in some manner. But then, with the immediate problem solved, we move on and never take time to note what the problem was, what the constraints were, what the solution was, and what we learned. We are carried away by the pressing current of other tasks, other duties, or just the ebb and flow of life.

Then, weeks, months, years, or decades later, we find ourselves facing a similar problem that, hopefully, would have a similar solution. In a frantic whirlwind of energy, we search for the solution we know we found but cannot recollect. We know we solved the problem. We remember working on it, struggling intellectually or emotionally, and the expenditure of intense energy grinding toward the solution. Then, solution found and the immediate need passed, we remember having moved on without taking the time to reflect. We curse our impatience, or failure to document what we learned, and our stupidity.

But we know, having solved the problem once before, we can find the solution (or an equivalent solution) again. So we pick up the trail, work out the solution, and solve the problem once again.

Then what? The wise will set the brake, pause, and make note of the problem, the constraints, and the derived solution. I know that I learned my lesson on this one. Will I make the same error again? Probably. But I won’t make this same error again. I have my notes. I know how to solve this problem.

What about you? What is the problem you’re faced with? Is it one you solved before? Did you pause to make notes after developing the solution? Will you make the same mistake that I did?

Fall Colors

The cottonwoods are donning their fall colors. I love walking along the Carson River, particularly in the fall.

The Girl and I always enjoy our walks. But when the fall comes, the weather cools and our walks get even better. She does not burn out as quickly and loves all the fall scents.

I love the way the light changes as the sun falls in the sky. The quality of the light is less harsh, even during the midday hours. As the leaves change, the light is filtered not by the green of summer foliage, but by the warmer colors of the change. The yellows and reds warm up the light and the change excites my eyes. I almost always carry a camera, but I am really motivated in the fall.

Yesterday morning did not disappoint me. As we walked one of our favorite trails along the Carson River, the late-morning sunlight filtered through the gorgeous yellows of the changing cottonwoods. I was happy that I carried the Fuji X-H1 with the Fuji 18-135mm lens with me. That camera is a game-changer for me. The lens is one that has been in my kit from early in my Fuji experience. It is one of the better walk-around lenses that I have used. It certainly did not disappoint me Sunday morning. I came home with at least a handful of keepers.

I think this one is one of them. It reminds me that the time moves on, the seasons change — those outdoors as well as those inside us. The last few weeks challenged me. A project I am working on is a significant technical challenge. The struggle is reverse engineering a hydrologic system to determine how what happened came to be. The time pressure to get through the analysis is a secondary challenge and can add significantly to the pressure.

But, I think I have the system mostly figured out. A change in the schedule is taking some of the pressure off. I was blessed this weekend to have a few hours to just breathe. That breath was a most welcome relief and a reminder that the seasons change. Projects come and go, like the seasons. But there is more to life than just the work and the time outdoors this weekend was another reminder of that. I am blessed to live where I do and I am thankful.

Monk versus Oldfield

Many years go, Pastor John would refer to Thelonious Monk in one context or another. I was not familiar with Monk and sometimes wondered who he was and what his role in music might be. I wondered if he was an aphorism, much like Dad’s reference to Barney Oldfield, who came up often when I was a young man and learning to drive.

I had not thought about either much until a few days ago (about a week, in fact). A favorite reviewer of audio equipment, the Audiophiliac, mentioned Monk in a music review. I streamed his suggestion (Thelonious Monk plays Duke Ellington) a couple of times on Spotify and was sufficiently intrigued to find a copy of the CD and purchase it.

The disc arrived today. I ripped it to ALAC (lossless Apple) and pushed it to my iPhone. I’ve been listening to it this afternoon. The material is not typical Monk (much to the chagrin of the critics of the time) but is Monk doing his thing interpreting some of the standards of the time.

The material is familiar to anyone who likes music. The recording was remastered in 1987 for this particular disc. I find it amazing that this was recorded in 1955. I was two-years-old. I’m going to enjoy this recording quite a lot. If you like jazz standards, it is worth finding a copy.

The Great Egret

This beautiful bird, the Great Egret (Ardea alba), is one of the birds I see regularly on my walks along the Carson River. I was able to capture this wonderful photograph one day.

Early this year, while Older Son was visiting and helping me around the house, we took The Girl out for a long walk along the Carson River. We staged from Riverview Park, which is at the end of Fifth Street on the east side of Carson City. The weather was a beautiful winter day. There was plenty of water in the river, although nowhere near flood stage. That meant all the wetlands were, well, wet. The wetland wildlife were out and active on that beautiful winter day.

We came across this beautiful Great Egret, (Ardea alba) working the ponds in one of the wetland areas. I had only my Olympus OM-D M10 and a Wollensak cine lens with me. The lens was long enough, but I couldn’t get the capture I wanted. I was left with, well, only feathers.

The Girl waited patiently while Older Son and I made our captures. When she detected that we were done, she started toward the water, accelerating as she got closer. The egret watched her from his watery perch. (I knew she wouldn’t get into the water.) When she got close to the water’s edge, she bounced and uttered a single “Woof!” The Egret calmly flew off a few yards, settled back down, ruffled his feathers, and continued fishing.

Since that time The Girl and I have seen this bird, or another like it, several times on the river, fishing. If I’m in a blind, then the bird goes on without noticing me. They have very sharp eyes, however, and will spot me (or The Girl).

A couple of weeks ago I had the Fuji X-H1 and the Fuji 100-400mm super telephoto zoom with me. The Egret was perched on Mexican Dam. The Great Blue Heron flew away as I approached the dam. The Egret watched me for a bit, permitted me to make a few captures, and then flew a few yards away to a sandbar. There it continued watching me. I made a few more captures but didn’t really like any of them.

I like birds quite a lot. They fascinate me. I like being along the river, too. The new equipment provides me some capability I did not have. It has opened some of the world for me to capture, like this Egret and the Heron.

Jóhann Jóhansson

There is no question that I listen to a lot of music. My taste is quite varied and I will listen to almost anything that is good.

This week is saw a tweet from the American Contemporary Music Ensemble of a song they shared on Jóhann Jóhannson‘s birthday (Wikipedia link: Jóhann Jóhannson).

The song is Flight from the City and is on his Orphée recording. The entire album is worth a listen or two, but this particular song (and the accompanying video) is extraordinarily beautiful. It is a simple song and reminds me much of the Romance music from long ago.

This led me to listen to some of his other work and it is all good. One of the things I like about social media is that I discover new music.

Jóhannson died in February of this year. It was a loss to the art. It makes me wonder what he might have produced had he lived longer. He was certainly a talented and productive artist.

No Perfect Solution

Although there are signs this hole was recently occupied, nobody was home.

I walk a lot. One of my preferred hikes is along the Carson River at the Silver Saddle Ranch from the River Park staging area up to Mexican Dam and return. There are a number of paths on Silver Saddle Ranch, but during the summer months, my preferred path is along the river. There The Girl has access to water for cooling off and drink. I like the green of the willows and cottonwoods and the sound of the birds.

Lately, I have been listening to music while walking. I gave up on my Bose QuietComfort 20s because I just cannot deal with wires. Because I carry a camera (actually two) and a bag, I am constantly fouling the wires of my headset. Then I jerk the plugs from my ears and get generally pissed off with the whole thing and lose the moment.

So I bought a set of the Bose QuietComfort 30s, which are wireless. They have a necklace that lies over the shoulders and provides the housing for the electronics and battery. They have the Bose sound, which I’m OK with. The noise cancellation is adjustable and effective. I can turn it off so I can hear what is going on around me. (I still like to hear the outdoors even if I am listening to music.) They do not hang up as badly as the wired units, although there remains some interference with the camera and bag straps.

They are not a perfect solution. I have to carry my iPhone in a case on my belt or in the camera bag. I cannot slip my iPhone into my back pocket. I have the occasional skip or drop. But, they are better than the wired units. They are a sufficient improvement that I think I’ll keep them and sell the 20s.

I think this is the general case: There are solutions to my problem (wanting decent quality sound, no wires) but there is not a perfect solution. It leads me to think about the pursuit of perfection, which is something that has been bouncing around inside my head for a bit now. There is an essay there that I hope to write sometime.

The image is one of my captures from the Carson River walks that I do. I was struck by the texture and contrast of the materials and the fact that no one was home. This might have been a nesting place earlier this year, but now it is empty. I am seeing other signs that fall is coming and soon winter. The leaves will be changing in a couple of weeks, I think. The weather is already changing.

The cycle repeats…

The Joy of It

I often see one of these beautiful raptors working the sage and wetland area of Riverview Park in Carson City.

Over the last couple of years, I have watched these beautiful Northern Harriers work the sageland and wetland areas of Riverview Park in Carson City. It took me a couple of attempts to identify the raptor, but I finally got a view of the bird’s head and with the aid of the Merlin application from the Cornell School of Ornithology I made the identification.

They are now easy for me to identify — that big white patch on the rump is one giveaway. The second is their mode of hunting is to soar about ten feet over the surface listening for mice.

With the acquisition of the red-badge Fujifilm 100-400mm super zoom lens, I now have the capability to capture an image of these birds. They generally do not allow me to get too close, although they will sometimes glide just overhead, teasing me.

On this particular morning, I saw the harrier glide over the field. I made a couple of attempts to capture an image but was not satisfied with my attempts.

However, the bird soon began a climb, having caught a thermal. I watch it rise up and up until it was a couple hundred feet overhead. It soared in large circles, overwatching its hunting grounds.

I stood there a few minutes, knowing that the bird was not hunting but simply flying.

Many of the animals encountered during my life have shown an intelligence that is impressive. They do not simply eat, sleep, and procreate. They interact socially among their species and sometimes others. They play. They do things that please them. Otherwise, why would they waste the energy to move from place to place?

The best teacher of all is The Girl. She showed me there is intelligence without language. She often talks to me, speaking volumes without making a sound. I get it.

As I stood there on the trail, watching the harrier soaring far above me, I got it. This was not about a hunt, or about turf protection; the soaring was simply for the joy of it.

Carson City Open Space (Silver Saddle Ranch)

This guy works for Carson City Parks in the Open Space Unit. He was maintaining the trail by the Carson River on Silver Saddle Ranch when I met him. We spent a few minutes visiting and I left with a good impression.

The Girl and I spend many hours walking along the Carson River on the Silver Saddle Ranch. One morning we met Jarrod (I hope I got his name right) working on the trail. He was clearing the weeds that are no longer kept down by ranch traffic. He had paused for a few minutes to clear the radiator of his rig from the accumulation of dust resulting from the brush hog mounted on the front of the vehicle.

I learned that Carson City received proprietorship of the ranch from BLM some time ago. It should remain as open space in perpetuity. Carson City spends part of its resources maintaining these areas and I really appreciate it. As I said, The Girl and I spend a lot of our time out along the river and it is one of our favorite places.

I appreciate public servants like Jarrod, who take both their work and their relationship with the public seriously. He was willing to spend a few minutes talking about the work and the place. It was a good visit and I am thankful that he agreed to pose for an informal portrait next to his rig.

Silver Saddle Ranch

I love walking the Silver Saddle Ranch open space area. It’s jointly managed by Carson City and BLM.

Since nearly being carried away by mosquitoes at the Riverview Park, The Girl and I have spent our morning walks to south on the Silver Saddle Ranch open space area. The ranch is still a working ranch with cattle and hayfields. I often meet the ranch manager while walking as he tends the irrigation system.

The capture is my morning view of the ranch compound. At one time this was a bustling ranch with a number of ranch hands all working from this area. It is nothing of what it once was, but remains a reminder of Nevada heritage. I am thankful that it is maintained as a place where I can spend time outdoors with The Girl.

It is also a place where I see many wild animals. There are mostly birds (and I do enjoy the raptors), but we see other species as well.

I shot this image with the Fujifilm X-H1 and the marvelous Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 macro lens that was built by Tokina, otherwise knows as the “Bokina.”