Beyond the Barline
Rather than focusing on a particular topic this month (as nothing in particular stood out for me), I will present a series of random observations:
The Zen of Graduate School
I’ve spent the last few months preparing for and taking my comprehensive exams, so that I would be advanced to candidacy and gain “permission” to begin my dissertation. One of my professors once commented that I would know more at the point I took these exams than at any other time before or after. I looked forward to this enlightenment, as I certainly didn’t feel like I was there yet. Well, when my oral exam came (the written exam was incredibly long and difficult, but I managed to complete it), I realized that I knew nothing! Had something gone wrong? Well, to paraphrase Socrates (and probably countless Buddhist sages), “The wise man is the one who realizes that he knows nothing.” Now I am truly wise. It was still really painful, though, so it certainly lived up to advanced billing. And, if all goes well, by next month’s column I will have advanced to candidacy. So my suffering was not in vain.
Learning through Teaching
OK, this isn’t exactly a new idea (is any idea really original?), but I’ve really come to appreciate it in the last year. In that time, I’ve taught introductory classes using Symbolic Sound’s Kyma, Cycling 74's MAX (I will be reviewing the latest upgrade in an upcoming issue), and now Digdesign’s Pro Tools. While I’ve had extensive experience in all these applications through my own work, I learned much more about them as I tried to explain them to students. I’ve also figured out how to do many things that I wouldn’t necessarily do in my own work.
Aside: The Midwest is really, Really Flat
By an accident of birth, I have lived on both coasts (OK, two of three for those of you on the Gulf), but never in the middle of this great land of ours. I traveled across it by car at twelve (don’t worry, my Dad was driving) and have flown across it several times since, but until this last month, I never spent any extended time there. Well, it’s flat (no kidding!), lots more people like country music (I’m slowly gaining a respect for it), and, if my girlfriend’s family is typical, the inhabitants are very friendly, and readily welcome a Californian by way of Oregon like me.
In several past articles, I have criticized the RIAA (Recording Industry of America) for its self-serving and ultimately hypocritical defense of copyright law. The most recent case involves a Princeton professor, Edward Felten, who has conducted research on digital encryption schemes. He planned to present his findings at a conference last April, but was intimidated into silence by a group called the Secure Digital Music Initiative Foundation (a front for the RIAA and the tech companies developing encoding schemes). Now Felten is suing the companies behind the intimidation (Ha! The subpoena’s on the other f … I mean in the other h … oh, you know what I mean.) and the US Justice Department itself. This could be the long awaited constitutional challenge to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I hope the Supreme Court gets it right. (Thanks to the Chronicle of Higher Education for bringing this story to light.)
Who is Håkon Austbø?
Among my latest CD purchases were two discs of the late (and great) French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-92): “Illuminations of the Beyond” (which won a Grammy the year it was released) and a set of works (“Sept Haïkaï,” “Poèmes pour Mi,” and “Le Réveil des oiseaux”) performed by the Cleveland Orchestra under Pierre Boulez. Like most CDs, these discs were both listed in the CDDB (CD Database), which iTunes automatically accesses. In both cases, the artist was listed as Håkon Austbø. Who is Håkon Austbø? As it turns out, iTunes allows you to edit all its fields, and overrides the CDDB on subsequent playings. Still, it’s a strange coincidence.
Also in This Series
- Ready or Not! · November 2002
- The Other Petition · August 2002
- The Samples Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent · May 2002
- Record Execs Ate My Hard Drive! · April 2002
- And the Award Goes to… · March 2002
- Expos, From a Distance · February 2002
- My Resolution · January 2002
- Too Much Hype · November 2001
- And They’re Off! · September 2001
- Complete Archive