Music trivia

Item One

Remember the song “Seasons in the Sun?”  It was a number one hit in 1974, recorded by Terry Jacks.   Its a pretty grim song, told from the perspective of a dying man addressing his friends and family.    The song was originally written and recorded by French pop singer Jaques Brel in 1961, and Rod McKuen of all people interpreted the English lyrics.   As mawkish as the original is, Terry Jacks chose to omit one of McKuen’s verses about his wifes infidelity:

Adieu, Francoise, my trusted wife, without you I’d have had a lonely life.
You cheated lots of times but then, I forgave you in the end though your lover was my friend.
Adieu, Francoise, it’s hard to die when all the birds are singing in the sky.
Now that spring is in the air, With your lovers ev’rywhere;  just be careful, I’ll be there.

Could it be because Jacks was separated from his wife at the time of the recording?  The song has been covered dozens of times.  Terry Jacks himself produced a version by the Beach Boys, but when they declined to release it, he decided to record it himself, and voila: one hit wonder.  (Thanks Coverville and wikipedia.)

Item Two

The current grammy-winning hit by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant titled “Gone, Gone, Gone” was originally written and released by The Everly Brothers in 1964. Listen:
   I found the original on Rhapsody and grooveshark (above), and it sounds pretty weak in comparison to the 2008 hit.    (thanks Hair Peace.)

more technical convergence

more, I want more technology!   I’ve been thinking about advances for the next decade.  Although a lot of these features are somewhat available right now, I look forward to cheap and efficient access to:

  • real time construction detours displayed on GPS navigation units
  • emailing or IM’ing a destination address or a google map route to my GPS unit
  • web browser integrated into GPS units (maybe this is not such a good idea for safety reasons.)
  • web interfaces for programming my home thermostat and my automatic sprinklers.  I almost never inspect or change these now because the button interface is so incredibly awkward and clunky and it takes study of the instructions every time.
  • wireless internet access to my subscription audio service on my cellphone
  • access to my TIVO recordings, and online television, on my cellphone
  • while we’re at it, I want a video projector in my cellphone
  • truly simple, integrated and convenient AV (television) interfaces for our senior citizens.  I’m going to need this personally soon enough and don’t want to have to call on Gina every time I need help!
  • every single tv show and movie ever made available on-demand over the web!  (this one is not original with me, I read it somewhere.)
  • improved control of and remote access to my electronic calendar.  I’m stuck in the last century with Novell/Groupwise limitations for job reasons.  It is not portable or publishable.
  • an iphone for my Verizon service
  • On-demand rigid shape shifting material for boat hulls.  Every fishing boat design is a compromise between travel efficiency and floating stability.  A sleek smooth ride is not very stable to stand and fish on, and likewise for the reciprocal case.  So, I want to push a button and convert my hull shape on demand.  No, this technology is not likely in my lifetime, but I can dream.  I bet Captain Kirk has one.
  • LCD display screens that are clearly legible in bright sunlight.

Finally, I’d like to see a national health/medical history database with universal access for health care providers.   Privacy advocates might get the willies, but there is lots of upside besides consumer convenience.  It would provide much more thorough and accurate info to doctors, seriously limit over or double prescribing of meds, and provide a hugely valuable statistical resource for researchers.

What do you want to see?

Presenting Data and Information

Tufte holding office hours at Atlanta seminar
Tufte holding 'office hours' at Atlanta seminar

Last month I got some travel funding from work to fly to Atlanta and attend a one-day seminar about data presentation, graphics and charts.   It was conducted by Edward Tufte, who wrote the seminal book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which I recently named as one of my most influential books.

Tufte has been touring and conducting these seminars for several years now, and he’s become something of a rock star in information geek circles.   Attendees receive copies of all 4 of his lavishly illustrated books which is an added bonus, and is also important to his presentation style.    One of his central presentation concepts is that computer displays and powerpoint projections are extremely ineffectual in displaying complex multivariate information simply because they are of such poor resolution.   He’s comparing the resolution with that which is possible on a printed page or large sheet of paper, and the capacity of the human eye and mind to perceive and absorb and analyze visual information.    Therefore, his presentation style involves minimal use of projection, and he instead asks attendees to refer to specific illustrations in his books to support his lecture.

He also brought out and shared centuries old book editions by Galileo and Euclid to illustrate some of his concepts.

As you can imagine, it was a very rich and detailed seminar.  Tufte started the seminar with reading assignments, and held ‘office hours’ during breaks – which were really book signings, although there was some substantive discussion during these breaks.

Tufte showing original Galileo text.

After I returned, I invited UCF colleagues to a 1hour presentation of my own where I debriefed and led a discussion about some of his concepts and ideas.   One good suggestion I brought back was to create a supergraphic.   That’s a large scale printed handout that meets several criteria.  A supergraphic should:

  • engage the reader, it should contain detailed information of particular interest to the audience
  • contain lots of detail, Tufte says “to clarify, add detail, its not information overload if it is well designed”
  • provide information from multiple sources
  • show multivariate analysis and comparisons
  • show causality, mechanism, structure or explanation
  • be credible, and include documentation of source material

A supergraphic is turning out to be a technical and a conceptual challenge, but I’ve got some ideas.   If nothing else, I know this has changed the way I’ll use powerpoint.

RCE update

Last summer I posted on my recurrent corneal erosion (RCE) problem.   My cornea issues are not as severe as some have it, as an internet search will reveal, but it has gotten worse in recent months.  I keep a log, and it was flaring up about every 2 weeks, most commonly striking in the early morning hours and waking me with sharp and abrupt pain in one or both eyes.  Although the sharp pain abated quickly, irritation might persist for a day.  I was treating with daily artificial tears and nightly gel or ointment.  I also got a sleep mask which makes me feel a little stupid, and usually gets knocked awry before the night is over.

Anyways, in late Feb and early March I had a couple of periods of much worse incidents.  I had a few days where the daytime discomfort interfered with my work and my vision.  The problem was mostly in my left eye, and it would be irritated and watering during the day and even causing my nose to run.   Then I got soap in my eye one evening and I was in pain for several days after.  I was referred to a corneal specialist for more “heroic” treatment.  I saw the specialist on March 23 and he was optimistic we could get this under control without surgery.

He’s treated RCE before, and he simply prescribed 30 days of OTC Muro 128 5% solution at bedtime in left eye.  If no recurrence, discontinue and monitor for another 30 days.    The Muro is a hyperosmotic (highly saline) solution, and it stings when applied.      I also searched on the interwebs and ordered a $200 pair of dry-eye technical sunglasses with polarized photochromic lenses for use when fishing and boating, because outdoor activity seemed to trigger episodes.  And they look a heck of lot cooler than a sleep mask!

I’m in my 3rd week of the Muro 128 treatment, and my fingers are crossed.  I’ve had a couple of minor irritations during the night, but no severe problems.