Version 24.1
Posted August 23, 2015, 7:08 p.m.
Looping Back

Looping Back

Many years ago, I took an interest in video and purchased a camcorder and a copy of Apple Final Cut Pro. These ended up being a complete waste of money; I rarely used either the camcorder (which I eventually sold) or the software (which was eventually obsolete and worthless).

Final Cut Pro 4 also came with a companion application called Soundtrack, which Apple had designed as a tool for non-musicians to create royalty-free music for their videos. Strangely, this ended up being the part of the Final Cut Pro suite that I used the most. It was fun and effortless to throw together neat little songs from the 5,000 included loops. In 2004, I used Soundtrack to become one of the hundreds (thousands?) of Internet personalities making songs featuring former Governor Howard Dean’s (D-VT) infamous scream.

Some time around then, I also started attempting to use Soundtrack to make music for some of the lyrics and poetry I had written. This was part of my on-again off-again efforts to turn some of my written work into sung work . . . efforts that have very occasionally resulted in poor-quality demos up here on the site . . . demos that I promptly delete when I soon realize that they really aren’t good. I still plan to produce something someday, but I no longer commit to any time-line. They may be next month; they may be in thirty years.

As far as I can recall, I never released (even temporarily) the work I did in Soundtrack. Although I liked what I had made, it didn’t feel right to release music built from loops of other musicians’ work, even if I arranged it myself and had the legal right to do so. I also only recorded a couple vocals, and wasn’t very happy with the result (in large part, I now realize, to the poor equipment I was using). So, eventually, I put all of that stuff aside and decided that if I ever released a demo, it would not be based on royalty-free loops (except perhaps here-and-there to add some depth).

But for all these years, sitting in my archives, I’ve had almost an album’s worth of songs without vocals . . . songs I put a lot of effort into, once upon a time. I rediscovered them again recently, and when I played them back I realized I still kind-of liked them. Maybe it’s time for them to see the light of day . . . not as a long-awaited demo, but as an experimental album of instrumental music, and as a sort of sample of my musical tastes. Think of it as a tenuous sketch of what an eventual ‘real’ album might sound like.

Two of these eleven songs—Mood Swings and Clubbed—were always intended as instrumentals. Clubbed was intended as a sort of joke hidden track, and so is completely stylistically different than the rest. The other nine songs were all meant to have lyrics, and so they have parts where the music pulls back to allow the vocals to come to the fore. I have severed any link between these songs and the lyrics that were originally meant to pair with them; they have new titles and a new order. The entire collection is forty-five minutes and twenty seconds long, which I still think is about the ‘sweet spot’ for an album (although most modern albums are much longer). Enjoy. Read More…

Posted in Life, Songs
Posted August 23, 2015, 11:23 a.m.

Ashley Madison is a well-known web site explicitly designed to help married people have extramarital affairs. Their trademarked tagline is: “Life is short. Have an affair.” They describe themselves as “the most famous name in infidelity and married dating.”

They have also been the victim of one of the most attention-getting hacks in recent history. A group calling themselves “The Impact Team” was able to illegally obtain gigabytes of Ashley Madison internal data, including a complete dump of their user accounts, and threatened to release the data if Avid Life Media—Ashley Madison’s parent company—did not shut the site down. The site stayed up, and, on August 19, the hackers made good on their threat.

Thirty-seven million user accounts were exposed. Many public figures in entertainment and politics have already been found out and publicly shamed, and more are likely to come. And it is almost certain that, shielded from the public eye, hundreds of thousands of families have been thrown into turmoil by the revelation that a loved one signed up on a cheater site.

Millions are clamoring for a way to avoid getting caught up in the mess, and Off on a Tangent is here to help. Here are ten sure-fire tips to help you avoid getting caught up in this or any future hack of a cheating web site:

  1. Don’t cheat on your spouse.
  2. Don’t even think about cheating on your spouse.
  3. Don’t sign up on web sites dedicated to cheating on your spouse.
  4. Love and respect your spouse.
  5. Love and respect your family.
  6. Love and respect yourself.
  7. Really, just don’t cheat on your spouse.
  8. Keep the promises and oaths that you make.
  9. Don’t be an idiot.
  10. Don’t cheat on your spouse.
Posted August 21, 2015, 12:18 p.m.


Weather Radar Dome

Weather Radar Dome

You probably take radar for granted. It’s just one of those commonplace, everyday technologies that you interact with—one way or another—all the time. When there is severe weather in your area, the television weathermen and online sources all put familiar Doppler radar images front and center. We know when and where it will be raining or snowing, can estimate how much precipitation we’ve received, and can even track wind patterns, determine if a tornado is forming, and issue critical warnings before they strike.

Weather radar is the kind that we ‘regular folks’ interact with all of the time, but it’s not the only kind. Police departments use car-based and handheld radar systems to find and catch speeders, which may or may not be a good use of their time (and our money). Scientists can use ground-penetrating radar systems to study the Earth’s crust. Boat- and ship-based marine radar systems are an essential part of navigation and collision avoidance, especially in poor weather, and in many harbors the ‘vessel traffic services’ use radar (and other) systems to manage traffic and improve safety.

Radar systems, small and large, also form an integral part of our aviation network. The air traffic control system relies on radar (combined with other technologies) to keep track of the aircraft overhead and help ensure that they reach their destinations safely. Controllers can guide aircraft away from ground obstacles and each other, and give instructions that lead pilots to their intended destinations even in the most adverse of conditions.

In addition to these ground-based systems, commercial aircraft have multiple radar systems operating on-board the aircraft itself. Since 1965, commercial aircraft operating in the United States have been required to have on-board weather radar systems (14 CFR 121.357). And in the aftermath of the 1974 crash of TWA Flight 514 (see a previous article in this series), they were also required to have a ground proximity warning system (39 FR 44439). These proximity warning systems have been implemented in the form of a radar altimeter . . . a device that, using radar, monitors and reports to the pilots the actual distance between the aircraft and the ground, and sounds warnings when the plane is too low.

There are two important radar sites located in Loudoun County, Virginia, and one more located about seven miles beyond our borders in Fauquier County, Virginia. Read More…

Posted August 3, 2015, 5:04 p.m.
Flag of Puerto Rico

Flag of Puerto Rico

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a United States territory located in the Caribbean, has defaulted on bond repayments to the government-owned Puerto Rico Public Financing Corporation (PFC), paying only $628,000 of the required $58 million. Most of these bonds are held by ordinary Puerto Ricans through local credit unions. In addition, the Puerto Rican government has suspended its scheduled monthly deposits to its general obligation redemption fund.

Puerto Rico is more than $70 billion in debt, and its economy continues to contract. Faced with economic uncertainty, many Puerto Ricans—who are United States citizens—have been leaving the territory and migrating to the mainland, breaking records that have stood since the 1950s. Like Greece, which defaulted on its obligations last month, Puerto Rico created this crisis by providing levels of government service that far outstrip its tax revenues. The situation has been exacerbated by a shrinking population and an under-performing island economy.

At earlier stages in the crisis, White House officials categorically stated that there would be no federal bailout of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States in 1898 following the end of the Spanish-American War, though—in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment—Puerto Ricans were not granted United States citizenship until 1917. It is a self-governing United States territory, subject to U.S. sovereignty and managed much like a state, but because it is not a state it does not have voting representation in Congress, nor does it participate in presidential elections. Puerto Ricans have repeatedly voted to continue as part of the United States, though in the most recent ballot they voted in favor of becoming a state. The U.S. Congress has not yet taken action on the request, and another referendum may yet be held.

Subjects: ,
Posted in Briefly, Reports
Posted July 30, 2015, 12:28 p.m.

Although I have been (again) neglecting to publish posts regularly, there are things going on here on Off on a Tangent. I promise.

Part of why the posts have slowed down is because I have several long, in-depth articles and essays that I am working on and I got sort of ‘backed up’ with those. I am hoping that at least one or two of them will be finished and ready for publication soon. Also, I have been working behind the scenes on a number of other projects . . . including supporting No-Nonsense Weather and moving forward with development there, and some ‘continuing learning’ efforts.

But I did want to take a moment and describe some of the things that have been happening here on the site, though you might not have noticed. Read More…

About Scott Bradford

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.