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Entries in review (5)

Tuesday
Mar232010

Wood Glue Gives New Life to Old Vinyl Records

After reading Use Wood Glue to Clean and Restore Old LPs, I just had to try it out on some of my unplayable records I've accumulated over time.

I started out with my Dad's old copy of Cream's Disraeli Gears, which I've cleaned thoroughly multiple times (with my special record cleaner recipe), repaired all the scratches manually by hand, and it still sounded pretty messy. I knew that even if this experiment didn't work out, it wouldn't have been that big of a loss.

The result was astounding. The record was playable for the first time in years, removing almost all noise generated from years of accumulating dust and debris in the record's crevices.

I moved on to something a little more treasured, which was the US Mono release of Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow. While I've always loved the way "White Rabbit" sounds on this recording, at its peak on the record it is dissatisfying when shrouded in the static white noise cluttering the recording. After the wood glue treatment, it sounded perfect, beautiful, powerful, and all those other adjectives that express awesomeness.

I've started going through my Sinatra collection applying the glue in the evening and then peeling off the plasticized layer in the morning. It's the best record cleaning solution I've come across, for its thoroughness, time efficiency and cost efficiency. I highly recommend it to anyone out there looking to restore their LP collection. For more info on the process, watch the YouTube video with the Lifehacker post.

Wednesday
Mar102010

5 Reasons Why 750Words.com Rocks

It may be a little too early to call this one, but I think 750 Words is on to something great with their website. I’ve been using it for the past week, and the experience has been nothing but pure awesomeness (which was going to be the original phrase that Wednesday was holding, but it didn’t quite fit).

1. WRITING BECOMES A GAME

If you’ve ever read a “How to Write” book, chances are somewhere in there was something like this:

“If you want to be a writer, sit down at your computer and mash the keys until you have written 3 pages. Then tomorrow, rinse and repeat.”

You’re motivated and determined and this lasts a couple of days, two weeks max, before you trash the work, start over, give up all together, take a day to break, which becomes a year-long vacation, until you’re back to where you started. Sometimes writing becomes a chore, and it shows through, which only makes the editing process that more tedious and painful. So how do you make something that becomes a chore fun again?

Turn it into a game.

That’s one of the main reasons for the success behind Wii fitness, is that it takes the labor of working out and turns it into a video game. And that’s exactly what 750 Words has done, they’ve taken the labor and chore out of writing and made it fun again, and consistently.

2. SCORES AND ACHIEVEMENTS

For writing something down, you get 1 point. For writing 750 words, you get 2 points. But the key is consistency, because that’s how you unlock achievements like the first one I just got, the prized 3-days-in-a-row TURKEY. And I’m now heading toward the Penguin and learning about the various other status-creature achievements that can be obtained.

When you’re writing, this changes your whole mindset of what you’re working on. You stop worrying about whether or not, you should trash this section, because it doesn’t fit in with the rest of your book, or not counting a free write because it doesn’t contribute to the big project your working on, and on, and on. Instead, you sit down and write the 750 words, to put a big X in that empty square space at the top of your profile.

At the time of this writing, there are no bonus points, free vacation day passes, that give you points for not writing, which is great because the only way you can stay in the game is by consistently writing.

3. LINGUISTICT ANALYSIS

I was not aware of this feature before signing up, but to me, this is possibly one of the funnest parts of the website. At the end of your writing, there is a series of little graphs and charts that target what you’ve been writing about. Here’s some of mine:

4. PUBLIC SHAME / PUBLIC GLORY

Every month there’s a challenge to write everyday, all in row, without missing a single day. If you complete the challenge you unlock some awesome achievements, but if you fail, your name goes up on the Wall of Shame, to show everyone out there on the internet how much of a screw-up you are. I haven’t got the guts yet to sign up for April yet, but maybe in May. I think everyone likes being awarded for their hard-work, and awards for that daily, solitary, 3 page, writing routine rarely receives any… until now.

5. YOU CAN CUTOMIZE IT

The clincher for bringing the whole thing together, is the user’s ability to customize their interface to their liking. Here are a list of the fonts you can currently use at 750 Words:

  • Arial
  • Courier New
  • Georgia
  • Meta
  • Obliqua
  • Palatino Linotype
  • Sharktooth
  • Tahoma
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet
  • Verdana

For me, I use Google Chrome to use the website. I’ve found that when working in FireFox and IE8 that there’s a pause, when the website saves my work. So I’ll be writing… (A few seconds pass)… and then the rest of the words type themselves out in sequence after. I haven’t had this problem in Chrome. This issue may be mine alone, but if you experience something similar try Chrome.

I leave the rest of the settings the same, but type in “Georgia” with the font size being 16. It has a nice look and feel to it, and is easy on the eyes as well.

So if you still haven’t checked it out, do so, it rocks.

Tuesday
Mar092010

Have You Heard The New Hendrix Album?

Is that title correct? Didn't Jimi die? Oh, it's probably one of those junk, exploit-the-dead, releases where all the tracks are poorly mastered and they get sloppy musicians to play on top of Hendrix.

And Yes, these were some of my first thoughts as well, but on the contrary this collection of material is AWESOME! in every one of its tracks. Here's Why:

Sound Quality:

Clear. Significantly so. The album is almost an antithesis of "Electric Ladyland", where Hendrix was experimenting with so many different sounds that in some tracks, you longed for the time when it was just Hendrix and his guitar playing. The recordings themselves mirror that of The Beatles "Let it Be... Naked" album, a stripped down representation of the band playing together and jamming.

Track Selection:

If you're a die-hard Hendrix fan, there's really nothing new here. By now you've found all these tracks on bootlegged vinyl records, collector's boxsets, etc. So you'll probably pick this up, for anyone else looking to see another side of Hendrix I stornly urge you to take a look at picking this up.

Cover Design / Packaging:

Egh. Not really a big deal, not iconic like the earlier covers and packaging. Even the Woodstock and Live at the Filmore East covers surpass in design, aesthetic, coloring. Even the font choice is poor and makes the product feel cheap, but don't let this detract you from the quality of these recordings. And in time, I'm sure there will plenty of fan covers you use to replace this one in your iPod.

Conclusion:

Don't listen to my opinion, I'm biased. I love Hendrix, and he is my vote for the best guitarist of all time. So if they released an album of Hendrix playing scales, practicing, I would probably pick it up. Instead I encourage you to listen to it for yourself and make your own decision about these recordings. At the very least you'll get a chance to hear Hendrix in new way, which is always a geat opportunity.

Tuesday
Oct062009

Readernaut: The First Cool Book Club I've seen

Over at Readernaut, you can follow what books I'm reading, what I've read, what I plan to read, as well as quotes, notes, etc. on the books in my library. They're in beta right now, but it looks to me like it's going to be the facebook of bookclubs. Feel free to join up and follow me over there. Take care.

Friday
Sep252009

Readspeeder: Comments from DailyBlogTricks

Today, there was an online conversation between myself and the creator of the software program "readspeeder". Thus far, this was his comment in response to my "Learn to Speed Read" video. I will post updates, if any follow:

  1. Dave on September 24th, 2009 11:27 pm

    Vocalization is not a bad habit!

    It is a common habit to vocalize, or at least sub-vocalize while reading. This practice will prevent you from reading any faster than you can say the words. But vocalizing isn’t really just a habit. It actually does help you understand what you read. Sentences are usually made of multiple phrases. Each phrase is an idea, or a separate thought. When you hear a sentence spoken, there are sound clues that indicate these phrases. You may not be aware of it because it’s as subconscious as walking, but listen carefully to the previous sentence when it’s divided into phrases…

    When you hear — a sentence spoken, — there are sound clues — that indicate — these phrases.

    If you listen carefully to the spoken words, you will notice that the first word of each phrase is spoken in a lower pitch, like a lower musical note. Lowering our pitch indicates to the listener that this is the next thought being presented and this makes our spoken sentences easier for the listener to understand. This lower pitch tells the listener that a new part of the sentence is coming. But these audio clues are not available in written text, and so we have a tendency to sound out the words to listen for them ourselves.

    There is a free online application which will take any text and convert it into its natural phrases. It will then display these phrases one after the other at your control or automatically with an adjustable speed control. Go to http://www.ReadSpeeder.com and try it out.

    Although there is often more than one way to break a sentence into phrases, ReadSpeeder’s patent-pending process does a good job of quickly finding the natural, meaningful phrases. When the sentence is presented to you in this way, you no longer need to internally sound out the sentences. You will instantly grasp the meaning of each phrase at a glance, just like you grasp the meaning of words at a glance, without thinking of each letter. Faster understanding will lead to faster reading. This method is really the opposite of most attempts to read faster. The usual advice is to push your reading speed, and try to maintain comprehension, with the hope that, with practice, the comprehension will improve. With ReadSpeeder, you understand faster to begin with. Use ReadSpeeder and no longer will you be restricted to reading at the speed of speech. You will be reading at the speed of thought.

    If you have any questions, you can write me at dbutler@readspeeder.com

  2. Kris Madden on September 25th, 2009 12:07 pm

    I have to say that I disagree with your line:

    “But vocalizing isn’t really just a habit. It actually does help you understand what you read.”

    But research continues to show that sub-vocalized reading does not increase comprehension. This is dating back to 1900 with:

    Secor, W. B. (1900). Visual Reading: A Study in Mental Imagery. The American Journal of Psychology, 11(2), 225-236.

    And the computer program “read speeder” is built to eliminate subvocalization through pushing the larynx to say things faster than it physically can, which then allows the eyes to begin taking in information. So, I don’t understand why you would make a case for subvocalization, when your product helps to eliminate it.

    Personally, I think the computer program is neat because it has a nice chunking feature for beginners, but once you’re reading above 800-1000 words, the feature becomes relatively useless.

  3. Dave on September 25th, 2009 1:30 pm

    Thanks for your reply Kris. I suppose you’re right that ReadSpeeder is primarily for beginners. I can see your point that it would be much less useful for those reading over 800 wpm.

    I am not familiar with that 1900 study, but wouldn’t you agree that when you read a difficult passage, you naturally go back and vocalize it to better understand the meaning? Most people read in the 200 wpm range, and they tend to vocalize everything for this same reason.

    I look at it this way. We’ve had spoken language way longer than printed language, and therefore are much better at communicating with the spoken word. The spoken word has lots of additional information in the form of pitch, volume, and rhythm, which is missing in text. Sounding out the text is an attempt to replace this information. Compared to the spoken word, text is like watching a video in black and white, with low resolution, and poor sound.

    Now, if you are referring to ‘chunking’ as simply groups of words, I would not see much benefit to ReadSpeeder other than just pushing you to read faster. But what makes ReadSpeeder work is that it actually finds the natural, meaningful phrases. This is what makes the reading easier to understand; each phrase is a separate idea, and can be instantly recognized without thinking of the separate words.

    I’m not trying to make the case or vocalization. Vocalization restricts your reading speed. But if the reader is presented a complete, meaningful phrase, they will not *need* to vocalize. The meaning of the phrase can be instantly grasped in the same way the meaning of a word can be understood without being consciously aware of the individual letters.

    Anyway, it’s interesting to hear from someone with an interest and knowledge in this topic. Your comments indicate to me that http://www.readspeeder.com needs to improve its descriptions and explanations. If you have any suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again for you comments.

    Dave

  4. Kris Madden on September 25th, 2009 4:34 pm

    In constructing my responses, I have written a dialogue of sorts between Dave and myself to better organize my thoughts on Dave’s comments and software:

    Dave: “Wouldn’t you agree that when you read a difficult passage, you naturally go back and vocalize it to better understand the meaning?”

    Kris Madden: No, I don’t agree. More and more research points to the fact that re-reading hinders comprehension. Are you familiar with psychology professor, Mark A. McDaniel, research?

    The following is from The Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.com/article/C.....ite/31819):

    “Don’t Reread
    A central idea of Mr. McDaniel’s work, which appears in the April issue of Psychological Science and the January issue of Contemporary Educational Psychology, is that it is generally a mistake to read and reread a textbook passage. That strategy feels intuitively right to many students — but it’s much less effective than active recall, and it can give rise to a false sense of confidence.”
    Dave: “We’ve had spoken language way longer than printed language, and therefore are much better at communicating with the spoken word.”

    Kris Madden: To judge a system of communication based on the length of its history, reduces the importance of developing new ways of communicating with one another. It’s like saying, “We’ve ridden horses longer than we’ve driven cars, or flown airplanes, therefore it’s much better to travel by horse.” Or, “We’ve driven combustion engine cars for longer than hybrids, therefore combustion engine cars are better for travel.”

    Dave: “Compared to the spoken word, text is like watching a video in black and white, with low resolution, and poor sound.”

    Kris Madden: Comparing the quality of text versus speech, seems to remove the beauty of Helen Keller’s writing and suggests that the written word is an inferior form of communication. I think speech and text both have significant qualities to offer in means of communication, which is why the world still writes and talks, because we need both. I’ve stayed up late reading books that captivated my imagination and at the same time read books that put me to sleep. And I’ve listened to speeches that inspired me, and others that bored that produced less than a “black and white, with low resolution, and poor sound.”

    Dave: “But what makes ReadSpeeder work is that it actually finds the natural, meaningful phrases.”

    Kris Madden: Using “read speeder”, with the book “A Christmas Carol”, the program divides the line: “… and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.” into”

    “And Scrooge’s name”
    “Was good upon”
    “‘Change,”
    “for anything he chose”
    “to put his hand to.”

    To me, it seems like Dickens already divided the line into meaningful phrases using commas. The program seems to only subdivide the Dickens’ original phrasing into the way the computer thinks it should be divided. For a computer to rephrase Dickens, seems presumptuous in my mind.

    From Dave’s webpage: “Today, typing and email are so much faster than the old methods of hand-writing and postal-mail. Why should reading still be slow?”

    Kris Madden: I agree, “Why should reading still be slow?” I don’t think having a computer divide text into smaller “meaningful phrases” is the key to accelerating a person’s reading speed and comprehension. I think there are more internal factors to take into account than external in development of a person’s reading capabilities. 

  5. Dave on September 25th, 2009 5:25 pm

Thank you Kris. You’ve been very generous with your reply. I see exactly what you mean in each or your responses. I think that perhaps I have not made my point as clearly as you have.

But thank you very much anyway. And thank you for trying ReadSpeeder and giving it your careful consideration.

Dave