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Now this is old school…

Filed under: Uncategorized

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Before the days of YouTube, Vine, and video games people went to the arcade to hear the nickelodeon (player piano) and watch the amusements and oddities.  We went to San Francisco for the Association of Alternative Newspapers conference, but just down the road was the truly amazing Musée Mechanique.

The last machine “Laffing Sal” is the most widely known.  From Wikipedia:

Laffing Sal was a fixture at the Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach, California when it opened in 1936. Decades later, the park’s management learned that Funni-Frite Inc. of Pickerington, Ohio still had the original molds of Laffing Sal’s head and hands, and commissioned them to make an updated Sal to stand above the entrance of their Scary Dark Ride. An endless tape cartridge provided its audio. The figure was removed when the attraction was closed in 2005.


Comcast changes name on customer’s bill to “A$$hole”

Filed under: Technology, Web

Telephoning the customer service COMCASTBILL_blogdepartment of the cable company is never fun.  As reported by Chris Morran of The ConsumeristLisa Brown found out the hard way just how bad it can get.

Brown called customer service with the intention of canceling the TV portion of her service, and was prepared to pay the $60 cancellation fee.  When she received her next bill, the first name on the bill, originally that of her husband, Ricardo, had been changed to “Asshole.”  She suspects it was one of those sneaky “retention specialists” who was sore about not being able to convince her to keep the service.

“I was never rude,” she tells consumer advocate Chris Elliot. “It could have been that person was upset because I didn’t take the offer.”

Ms. Brown contacted the local and regional Comcast offices to try to change it back, but the calls proved fruitless.  Only when she finally got ahold of Comcast HQ did anyone care.

“We have spoken with our customer and apologized for this completely unacceptable and inappropriate name change.  We have zero tolerance for this type of disrespectful behavior and are conducting a thorough investigation to determine what happened. We are working with our customer to make this right and will take appropriate steps to prevent this from happening again.”

They gave her $60 back.  How utterly compassionate of them.

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Predicting the Super Bowl – Nerd Style

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The Super Bowl is coming this weekend.  Who’s going to win?  Well, we could just pick whichever team our friends are cheering for (since Buffalo hasn’t been to a Super Bowl since I was in grade school), or we could nerd out to the max and employ some predictive statistical analysis to put our best guess on a whole new level of guessing.

I examined a huge amount of methodologies.  Yes, it’s math, but I like it, and I’m not ashamed to say so.

Without getting into how these algorithms work, that could fill an entire book, I have listed below the predictive results of a number of algorithms. Is there something to be gained from all this number crunching?  Can we use math to place winning bets and trick out our fantasy football teams?  Maybe.

Note:  The numbers listed reflect the amount one team or the other is predicted to win by.  A positive number favors Seattle, and a negative number favors New England.  Yes, I realize it is not possible to score a fraction of a point.  That’s just how it goes with these things.

Sagarin -1.35
PerformanZ Ratings 0.77
Ed Kambour Football Ratings -1.72
Dunkel Index 3.78
Enhanced Spread Predictions -1.4
Pigskin Index 0
NutShell Predictive 2.78
Sonny Moore 2.25
Ashby AccuRatings 0.00
Dokter Entropy -0.8
Pythagorean Ratings -0.23
Beck Elo 0.98
Scoring Efficiency -0.26
Hank Trexler -2.51
Least Squares Regression -2.4
Least Squares w/ team specific HFA 1.11
Least Absolute Value Regression -3.06
Logistic Regression -0.05
Stat Fox -1.00
Sagarin Elo -0.26
Sagarin Golden Mean -1.96
Donchess Inference -2.29
Turnover adjusted Least Squares -2.17
Nutshell Eye 9.00
Nutshell Combo 1.59
Lee Burdorf -1.60
DirectorOfInformation.com -2.05
Stephen Kerns -0.10
Covers.com -1.50
Computer Adjusted Line 0.00
What If Sports 2.00
Massey Ratings 0.00
Lou St. John 0.84
Laffaye RWP 0.18
Laffaye XWP -12.90
YourLinx 2.98
IronRank.com 0.02
Sportstrends -1.00
ThePowerRank.com 1.3
Nutshell Girl 5.03
Talisman Red 1.71
John Coffey -0.77
Roger Johnson -0.40
ComPughter Ratings -2.96
Bihl Rankings -1.66
FF-Winners 1.50
Game Time Decision -3.00
Michael Roberts Ratings 3.98
Odds Shark -0.40
Roundtable 1.00
Pointshare -0.40
Turner Rateform 0.59
Cleanup Hitter -4.70

Out of 53 predictive methods, 20 picked the Seahawks, 29 chose the Patriots, and 4 predicted either a tie, or their algorithm did not return a clear winner.  The average of all these is -0.217, slightly in favor of New England.

I would also like to add one more datum to the list.  My good friend Brian “Herky” Fenton is an avid football fan who enjoys making picks each week.  He does not use math, he uses instinct and observation to make his choices.  However, I have witnessed him picking over 60% correct (a figure any pro statistician would be proud of) on many a Sunday afternoon.  Having chosen Seattle, I asked him why.  “I think they have a better defense.  They fly around the ball and tackle to cause turnovers.  They are fast.  They say defense wins championships.  I believe that.”

Only time will tell.  Let’s find out who’s right.


Artvoice IT Guys Build Theremins

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pinkboxWhat’s a theremin?  You wave your hand through the science flying around in the air and sound comes out.  No, seriously.  It’s an early electronic musical instrument, first patented by Léon Theremin in 1928.  The “thereminist” creates the sound by waving their hand in the air near the device’s antenna.  In doing so, the musician becomes part of the electrical circuit between the device, the amplifier/speaker, and the ground.  The circuitry inside compares a base signal with the human-affected signal, and the difference comes through the output to be amplified and heard.

Although pre-assembled theremins are available, it is much more fun and interesting to get the parts and build your own.  There are also many different designs to choose from.  Some have two antennae, one for pitch, one for volume, but those are much more complicated and work on a sligpartshtly different electrical principle.  We chose a simple design that makes use of a component known as a digital logic inverter (black rectangular things).  It’s exactly what it sounds in.  Zero goes in, one comes out,
and vice versa.  In an analog application such as this, we can use them to make oscillators.

We built three altogether.  I joined Artvoice Webmaster Anthony DiPasquale (who masterminded this project) and Pine Fever trumpet player, Alex Cline.  A couple hours later, we had them working, all on the first try.

blankboardYou can build your own based on this kit from harrisoninstruments.com.  You can also do as we did, and buy the circuit board from them, and purchase the parts separately from a vendor such as mouser.com, and save yourself some money.

After firing them up, we put them in their own cases.  Any box will do, as you can see.  I chose a plastic container from the dollar store.  Anthony used a cardboard box.

I later dicircuitsscovered that placing it on a music stand increased it’s pitch range dramatically.  The music stand becomes part of the circuit and acts like an antenna.  There is a tiny calibration screw on the trim pot (blue thing), and a knob on the outside to dial in the sound for each use.

The theremin has been in music for movies and television for decades, as well as some more serious musical compositions.  Chances are, you have heard it somewhere, but just didn’t know it.  Check out the video below of thereminist Peter Pringle performing “Over the Rainbow” on a 1929 RCA theremin that once belonged to the late testHollywood musician Dr. Samuel Hoffman.anthonys

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