FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 16th through 18th 2018

Fireball Saying of the Day

Be strong, I whispered to my WiFi signal.

 

Yanny vs. Laurel

I hear Lauel!  In the tremendous rush to understand the single greatest topic of conversation since that time nobody knew whether a dress was blue and black or actually white and goldPopular Science has taken up the cause. Brad Story is a professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences at the University of Arizona, and he did a quick analysis of the waveform. That first waveform is of the actual recording, which features the primary acoustic features of the “l” and “r” sounds. That leads Story to believe that the voice is really saying “laurel.” The fuzzier image below shows that the recording is of the third resonance of the vocal tract. As your vocal tract changes shape to form different sounds, it produces specific resonances, or natural vibrational frequencies. It’s these resonances that encode language within a sound wave (and thus how you can analyze a waveform and determine speech sounds).  He also recorded himself saying both words to demonstrate how the waveforms vary. You can see (though maybe only with the added arrows and highlighting) that the acoustic features match up between the actual video recording and the recording of Story saying “laurel.” It starts relatively high for the “l” sound, then drops for the “r” and goes back up high for the second “l.” Story explains that the “yanny” sound follows a similar path, just not with quite the same acoustic features. That wave also goes high-low-high, but the whole thing is shifted into the second resonance—not the third.  Britt Yazel, a researcher at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, agrees. “I honestly think after looking at the spectrograms and playing with some filters that this is just the word “Laurel” with some high frequency artifacts overlaying it,” he says. At first he thought it was two overlaid voices, but then he started cleaning up the audio a bit. Now he thinks that the overlaid frequencies above 4.5 kHz are what sound like “yanny” to some people.  So what started off as just a fun thing has degenerated into just way way too much information.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 16th through 18th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 12th through 15th 2018

Fireball Saying of the Day

Today I was a hero. I rescued some beer that was trapped in a bottle.

 

Fireball on China and North Korea

I’ve mentioned several times here in FOD that I believe one of the worst things that could happen to China, from their prospective, would be a fall of the North Korean family business/government of Kim Jung Un.  A reunification of North and South Korea would result in US and/or western aligned troops on the border with China, a prospect much feared by China. Additionally a North Korea experimenting or threatening with nuclear weapons is one thing, but a North Korea with a real nuclear delivery capability is likely to foster the development of western supported nuclear capabilities in South Korea and eventually Japan.  And dare we mention Taiwan in that nuclear soup?  Such developments would realign the balance of power in Asia to China’s great disadvantage.  Remember just a few months ago Kim Jung Un made that mysterious train trip to China?  Since that time we have seen a distinct change in North Korea’s behavior.  No further missile testing, no boasting of eventual war with the US and/or other nations in the region.  And now President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un on June 12 in Singapore, the US president announced Thursday.  I think it possible Kim Jung Un was called upon Xi Jinping’s proverbial red Chinese carpet during that train trip.  Xi says, “OK Kim dude, it’s perfectly fine for you to play with your nuclear toys, but threatening the US and other countries in the region upsets my plan for dominance in Asia long term.  So here are your choices: make a deal with the US and soon before they export nuclear weapons to both South Korea and Japan and before they develop additional missile systems capable of shooting down your weapons and by extension my ICBMs in my backyard; OR, I will find a new family to operate North Korea.  Now go back home and execute my command.  We saw where North Korea has promised to allow the world to watch it blow up some of their nuclear test facilities.  Likely that already happened.  Back on 3 September when North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test on Punggye-ri registering 6.3 magnitude on earthquake sensors.  Several minutes later however, geologists detected a smaller 4.1 magnitude rumbling.  That got scientists speculating as to whether the nuclear test site, hidden inside a mountain, actually collapsed.  A massive collapse could render the test site useless for future nuclear tests and may even increase the risk of radioactive gases escaping from the rock and into the air, scientists said.  The case for this so-called “tired mountain syndrome” was bolstered three weeks ago, when North Korea announced that it planned to shut the main testing facility at Mount Mantap where five of the six tests, including the last explosion, took place. A few weeks ago, a group of Chinese geologists claimed in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters that the mountain had collapsed following the latest nuclear test. Of course the Chinese might be lying.  That wouldn’t surprise me either.  Now we see Kim Jung Un has cancelled recently scheduled talks with South Korea after the failure of the South and the US to cancel scheduled military exercises.  Then again he has always been unpredictable.  We can expect the unexpected.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 12th through 15th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 16th through 21st 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Give a man a beer and he drinks for a day.  Teach a man to hang out with guys who brew beer and he has beer for a lifetime.  Thanks Friend of FOD Roger for a great FOD Saying of the Day suggestion.   This evolved from the famous fish saying:  Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he’ll buy a boat, poles, reels, waders, tackle, bad boat beer, and numerous ‘fish whisperer’ guides; all far surpassing the cost of buying fish from your local fish monger.  But – when you catch that fish – it’s all worth it.  This parable goes along with sell a man a streetrod and he has a car to show and be proud of.  Teach a man to build a streetrod and he’ll spend years and thousands of dollars trying to build a better one, or two or more of them.  What’s up with that?

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 2nd through 8th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Laughing is one of the best exercises; it’s like running inside your mind. You can do it almost anywhere and it’s even better with a friend.

 

Fireball Opinion: Better the Rule Of Law Than The Rule of Deals

President Trump is the first president in recent memory that has not emerged from the ranks of professional politicians, but rather a professional businessman.  I applaud President Trump’s efforts to “make America great again.”  I never thought we were not great!  Lots can be said regarding the current discussions regarding tariffs against China.  I do believe it’s appropriate to listen to experts or at least economists regarding the benefits of tariffs.  I have not heard from a single economist who favors or even endorses tariffs as an appropriate tool to use against China.  While no one argues the need to curtail China’s theft of intellectual property, it is important to look at each opportunity American’s companies have entered into and evaluate whether that individual company knowingly or unknowingly entered into an agreement that made  their intellectual property vulnerable to being compromised by a totalitarian regime intent on stealing every manufacturing advancement and/or technology advancement for their own benefit.  It has always been the case and has accelerated since the US allowed and supported admitting China to the World Trade Organization.  There is ample evidence to support multiple violations of nearly every rule.  Yet the US and other nations has been the beneficiary of cheaply produced goods that has continued to support the US and other nation’s economies for decades.  I would encourage the President to use the rule of law to counter China’s activities rather than attempting to make another deal.  The Rule of Deals never goes smoothly and is not consistent with our nation’s values.  And while I’m at it, I think in particularly inappropriate for the President to attack a public corporation like Amazon for what appears to be a veiled personally vindictive attack on the Jeff Bezos, who in addition to being the founder and CEO of Amazon also owns the Washington Post.  President Donald Trump lit into Amazon.com Inc. for the second time in three days with a pair of Twitter messages last week that said the online retailer “must pay real costs (and taxes) now!”  The president on Saturday claimed, citing reports he didn’t specify, that the U.S. Postal Service “will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon” and added that the “Post Office scam must stop.” Amazon has said the postal service, which has financial problems stretching back for years, makes money on its deliveries.  Amazon shed $53 billion in market value on Wednesday after Axios reported that the president is “obsessed” with regulating the e-commerce giant, whose founder and chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos. Those losses were pared on Thursday, the final day of a shortened trading week, even as Trump tweeted that Amazon was using the postal service as its “Delivery Boy.”  The Postal Service is losing money, but its package delivery service is profitable, unlike its letter delivery.  The Postal Service is required by law to cover its costs for delivering competitive products, such as packages for Amazon. The Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees the service, set the appropriate share of the costs of package delivery at 5.5% a little more than a decade ago.  Since then, the service’s delivery of packages has grown substantially, and the United Parcel Service argued in a submission to the commission in 2015 that a realistic appropriate share of costs for those deliveries should be about 24.6%.  A Citigroup analysis last year found that that difference would amount to about $1.46 per parcel, which might serve as the basis for Trump’s $1.50 figure. An op-ed penned in July by Josh Sandbulte in the Wall Street Journal cited that analysis in arguing the Postal Service’s estimate of costs for delivering packages should be revised. In response, US Postal Service executive Joseph Corbett wrote that the op-ed provided an “inaccurate and unfair account,” and that the Postal Regulatory Commission has determined each year that the service is covering its costs for package deliveries.  Sandbulte is co-president of Greenhaven Associates, a money management firm that owns FedEx common stock.  Corbett asserted the Postal Service’s financial insolvency is the result of its inability to overcome “systemic financial imbalances caused by legal and other constraints,” such as a price cap on revenue-producing products that doesn’t take changes in delivery volumes and costs into account.  The Postal Service’s biggest money problem is that it has billions in retirement obligations to its workers that it can’t afford.  Amazon pays the US Post Office to deliver packages to customers’ doors, including on Sundays, and because Amazon ships so many packages though the post office, it’s charged at a lower rate than most customers.  But Amazon does not receive a special rate; it pays the rate that the post office charges other bulk shippers.  Neither Amazon nor the post office has disclosed the details of its agreement, but the Postal Service says the deal is mutually beneficial.  On Thursday, Trump tweeted another accusation about Amazon not paying “taxes to state & local governments” and “putting many thousands of retailers out of business.”  Amazon collects sales tax in every state that charges one and remits it to the states, which is nearly every state. Amazon also pays local property taxes on its distribution centers as well as on the Whole Foods stores it purchased last year.  Amazon maintains it helps small businesses in a tough retail climate, helping vendors reach a mass audience.  This isn’t the first time Trump has accused The Washington Post of being a lobbying arm of Amazon. While both companies are owned by Jeff Bezos, Amazon does not have a stake in The Washington Post.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 2nd through 8th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 24th through 27th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the M is silent.

 

 Russians Supplying Arms To The Taliban

In the 1980’s insurgent groups known collectively as the mujahideen, as well as smaller Maoist groups, fought a guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government, mostly in the rural countryside. The mujahideen groups were backed primarily by the United States and Pakistan, making it a Cold War proxy war using the infrared-homing surface-to-air “Stinger” missile. Between 562,000 and 2,000,000 civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees, mostly to Pakistan and Iran.  By mid-1987 the Soviet Union, now under reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev, announced it would start withdrawing its forces after meetings with the Afghan government. The final troop withdrawal started on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989, leaving the government forces alone in its battle against the insurgents, which continued until 1992 when the former Soviet-backed government collapsed. These actions certainly weakened and led to the fall of the Soviet Union.  The US failed to assist the new Afghanistan government with schools or hospitals or a rebuilding effort that could have assisted Afghanistan to become a more modern nation.  Move to the present day.  In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Gen John Nicholson said he’d seen “destabilizing activity by the Russians.”  He said Russian weapons were smuggled across the Tajik border to the Taliban, but could not say in what quantity. Russia has denied such US allegations in the past, citing a lack of evidence.  Does anyone see an irony here?

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 24th through 27th 2018”