Loud Commercials

Hallelujah!

Effort to Shush Loud TV Commercials

WASHINGTON — Every year, television networks receive thousands of complaints from viewers bothered by commercials that seem to be getting louder and louder. They’re tired of fumbling for the remote control and having the quiet moments in their romantic films spoiled by ads that sound louder than the loudest blockbuster movie explosions.

All of this may soon change. A technical organization that sets standards for digital TV broadcasters moved forward on Sept. 16 with new recommendations that may finally dial down the volume of these obnoxious ads.

(…)

The new audio recommendations, soon to be sent out to broadcasters for approval, provide a way to measure the loudness of television content based on current scientific understandings of how human hearing works. Shows and commercials would be tagged with information about their loudness that TVs and audio receivers could use to counteract the audio tricks that make commercials jump out at us.

(source)

I hate loud commercials. I don’t visit businesses that have such loud advertisements. There’s a carpet/rug place near us that has this lady, bless her heart, literally shouting the entire time. I hope they get the commercial done in just a few shoots or she would surely lose her voice. Then there’s this auto insurance business (the kind that insures anyone, no matter how many points or DUI/DWI’s). No shouting, but their singing is cranked up. I jump every time.

Shouting at me won’t get me to come to your business. Trust me. Shouting won’t get my attention. What it gets is the overuse of the remote’s mute button. But since we now record almost all the shows we like, when we watch them later, I fast forward through the commercials anyway. So there, rug lady.

Mount Wilson Observatory

Phew! After several days of nail biting, the Mount Wilson Observatory has been declared saved.

The fires in California have caused a lot of damage. In its path is/was the Mount Wilson Observatory and the 22 radio, television, and cell phone towers. Even the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) was threatened, although the fires did not get that close. Smoke was a bigger problem there and resulted in the JPL being left empty except for absolute essential mission staff. It is awesome that the fire fighters took such good care of the observatory and had made it a high priority. Not just were very very expensive equipment at risk, but also communication towers and scientific studies. We here in WNC witnessed the mess a down tower can cause. It was either during the Blizzard of ’93 or during Hurricane Opal that a huge tower went down. The support cables cleared several acres of trees when they snapped and whipped around. It took a long time to repair. Even longer for one of the local public radio stations to get back on the air with their original coverage. It was several years before they had a permanent solution to their tower problems.

I followed the news about the observatory via the Planetary Society’s bloggers.

(in chronological order)
The Station Fire is near JPL and even closer to Mt. Wilson
Station Fire update: Mount Wilson Observatory still there, but still under threat
Station fire update: Mount Wilson safe, ready for “another hundred years” of science

You can also find news articles at Google News.

Only a Matter of Time

Now that I am no longer in such a funk, I have found some cool articles about the Prop. 8 thingamabob in California.

The Big Gay Shrug

The pattern is as old as fear itself. Remember, only rarely does true progress appear as a single, momentous, Obama-like shift that reverberates across the planet and changes everything in an instant. Most frequently it comes in fits and starts and hiccups, small lurches and hard-fought battles shot through with little spitballs of hate and intolerance and heaps of misunderstanding. You know, just like now.

Evidence? Plenty. Just look at the numbers: Support for gay marriage is now the highest it’s been in American history, somewhere between 42 and 48 percent nationwide. Just a few decades ago, support was down in the 20s. It’s been rising steadily ever since, never once regressing.

Or, flip that data around. According to FiveThirtyEight, marriage bans like California’s are losing support at a rate of about two percent a year. According to that model, more than half of U.S. states will vote against bans like the contemptible Prop 8 as soon as 2012, if not sooner. By 2024, even miserably homophobic joints like Alabama and Mississippi will be flying the rainbow flag.

If Liza Minnelli & Star Jones Can Marry a Gay Man…

I say, “Don’t Be Afraid of Love”. Marriage is a social custom not a religious edict. Even within the context of religion it is a custom that is practiced differently around the world today just as it has been throughout history. Different societies practice marriage differently according to the customs of their belief systems. God has never weighed in on the issue – if he has, he’s obviously been a flip-flopper and you know how we feel about flip-floppers. So there goes your religious argument.

(…)

So, if the institution of marriage is so sacred why is it easier to get a marriage license than it is to get a driver’s license? States tell you that having a driver’s license is a privilege not a right ( a right they will gladly take away and worse – unless you are a celebrity) so the DMV creates tests and hurdles that most people fail their first time (kind of like marriage actually) to insure only potentially good drivers get licenses – drivers who won’t hurt other people. And the great equalizer is that every few years every license holder must study and take a pain-in-the-ass test again to reassess their knowledge and skills if they want to keep their license; and many people fail. Yet any psycho or unhealthy individual can get married, propagate and mess up a brand new generation of innocent people’s lives – which hurts society and their sacred exclusive institution of marriage – by being asked only one simple question that is answered, “ I do”. How many other questions could be answered similarly without nearly the importance?

More on Space and Time

Innocent me (stop laughing, Kev) decided to read an article on Hubble (“Is Hubble Worth the Upgrade Mission’s Risk and Cost?“) over on LiveScience. There’s a bunch of links down at the bottom of the article (below the poll) and one of them linked to a Science.com article “Why the Universe is All History” which deals with the light/time issue that I brought up earlier.

This article discusses the issue well, although it still hurt some to read it then try to grasp the concepts. The first bit of the article is what caused a big AHA! moment for me. I bolded the section that I like the most.

It took 300 years of experiment and calculation to pin down the speed at which light travels in a vacuum: an impressive 186,282 miles per second.

Light will travel slightly slower than this through air, and some wild experiments have actually slowed light to a crawl and seemingly made it go backward, but at the scales encountered in our everyday lives, light is so fast that we perceive our surroundings in real time.

Look up into the night sky and this illusion begins to falter.

Cool. So because the light here is slower (in galactic terms) what we see right now is in real time. The article continues by saying the moon’s (reflected) light is 1.2 seconds old when we see it. When we look at the closest star system (Proxima Centauri), the light from it that we perceive is 4 years old.

Where I went lost earlier is that in bringing Proxima Centauri closer via the telescope, we aren’t necessarily looking at its 3 yr old light vs the 4. The “age” of the light hasn’t changed because we’ve not moved. The telescope lens only brings that perceived light into better focus. No matter how big a telescope we make, we’ll only ever see 4 yr old light from that star system.

What is happening with bigger telescopes–and the telescopes in space–we are seeing further away and therefore, seeing further back into time. We can now see galaxies that are so far away, their light is billions of years old. We’ve not moved toward it, only been able to bring space into better focus. And that focus is getting better and better.

Crip News

From ADAPT:

99 Arrested as ADAPT Blocks Independence and Constitution Avenues on the Hill, then Crawls Up the Capitol Steps

April 28, 2009

Washington, D.C. — ADAPT, the nation’s largest cross-disability, grassroots disability rights organization, took the fight to include long-term services in Health Care Reform up to Capitol Hill today. On Monday, Obama administration officials made it clear that the administration was not going to provide leadership on getting long-term services included in health care reform, saying it was up to Congress.

“I guess what happened at the White House kind of got us wondering who is leading the country, the President or Congress,” said Bob Kafka, ADAPT Organizer from Austin, Texas. “Sad to say but President Obama gets a D on disability rights after his first hundred days. Throughout his campaign and currently on his website he promises to support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities by enforcing the Community Choice Act, which would allow Americans with significant disabilities the choice of living in their community rather than having to live in a nursing home or other institution. Many of us who voted for him feel angry and betrayed that he isn’t keeping his promise.”

The Community Choice Act (CCA) (S. 683, HB1670), introduced in March 2009 by Sen. Tom Harkin (IA) and Rep. Danny Davis (IL), would remove what is known as the ‘institutional bias’ in Medicaid. B Currently, Medicaid pays for older and disabled people to go to nursing homes and institutions, but won’t pay for the same assistance, generally at a lower cost, in a person’s own home. Many states have limited or no home and community based services with lists that keep people waiting for years in institutions and nursing homes before they have any hope of getting services. Some wait so long they die before their name reaches the top of the list.

“It’s no surprise we decided to have a presence on Capitol Hill today,” said Mark Johnson, ADAPT Organizer from Atlanta, Georgia. “We blocked streets to make it visibly clear that we aren’t going awayb& and we won’t go away until CCA passes or is included in Health Care Reform. Research has shown that people who live in the community are healthier and have fewer secondary conditions. It’s fiscally irresponsible to increase health care costs by not insuring that people have the choice to receive services and supports in their own homes. And it’s bad policy to put all the dollars only into front-end health care, once again denying people with disabilities their civil rights and forcing them to continually be the last people served.”

After police arrested 99 people from both the House and Senate sides of the Capitol, the remaining 400 ADAPT members went to the Capitol, many spilling out of their wheelchairs and crawling up the Capitol steps to hold an impromptu CCA rally, reminiscent of the famous stair crawl on the day the ADA was passed in 1990.

ADAPT winds up its week in Washington on Wednesday by holding a joint rally with SEIU, the fastest growing, largest home care union in the country, with a membership of over 420,000. Sen. Harkin will speak at the rally, as will an ADAPT member and his SEIU attendant. People with disabilities and seniors want workers who are paid a living wage, who have health care benefits, and time off. Supporting a fairly compensated workforce reduces turnover, increases reliability and insures a better trained attendant workforce for those who need assistance in their daily lives.

“After the rally, we will go in teams to visit every member of Congress, asking them to co-sponsor CCA and include long-term services in Health care reform,” said Barb Toomer, ADAPT Organizer from Salt Lake City, Utah. “There will be well over 1000 people visiting Congress on Wednesday from a number of different disability and provider groups, all with the same message: pass CCA and include long-term services.”

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FOR MORE INFORMATION on ADAPT visit our website at http://www.adapt.org//

I used to work for United Cerebral Palsy of Mercer County (NJ) as the Program Coordinator for the RespiteOptions program. My job was both cool and frustrating as heck. I had a staff of respite workers that went to the homes of people with disabilities and stayed with them so the caregivers could have time off. While there, the respite workers did everything from helping with homework to bathing. This gave the caregivers (usually exhausted parents) time to get away and do their own thing. Some caregivers did the grocery shopping or had dinner out or even just took a long nap. For the most part, this was only for 40 hours a month but for most of the families, it was what they needed.

We were funded partially through the United Way. When the program first started, they (UCP Mercer) thought that with the respite care, a family would eventually no longer need the help. It turned out to be the opposite. And the United Way wanted to see more families being served but with the same amount of funding. One year, a young mother of a daughter with severe disabilities did some research. The state of NJ did not have an institution with the level of staffing her daughter would need. Instead, she would have to go to (I think) Indiana. And NJ would have to foot the bill. The cost of a single year for this one pre-teen girl? Over $300,000. For one child. Our yearly budget to serve 40-50 families a month? $100,000. This mother admitted that without that scant 40 hrs a month, she would not have the energy to keep her daughter at home. United Way got the point and continued to fund the program. Remember, this was way back in ’88 or ’89. Prices have significantly increased since then.

It has been proven over and over that keeping someone at home is much cheaper than paying for institutional care. When in their own home (or even a small group home) the person is happier, healthier, and either improves or maintains their level of abilities. My friend Jean has managed to keep her son Sam out of an institution. She’s had to prove how much better he is at home in order to keep his nurses. In an institution, Sam would not have advanced as far as he has since his brain injury 3 yrs ago. The nurses are much much cheaper than the institution would be yet she has to fight and appeal on a regular basis.

Medicaid and Medicare could save themselves a chunk of change by allowing folks to stay at home. Institutionalized care is a model that does not work for all people. When someone in their 30s has to live in a nursing home because Medicare/Medicaid won’t pay for home nursing, that is wrong on so many levels.

The Science of Night Owls

Ha! Ha freakin’ ha!

I got you now, all you weirdo “early birds”. Ha!

Night Owls Stay Alert Longer than Early Birds

The early bird may get the worm, but the night owl has more stamina, a new study suggests.

The differences come from the interactions between two regions of the brain, including one that is home to the master circadian clock.

(…)

The participants went to a sleep clinic, where they followed their normal sleep schedule. At 1.5 hours after waking up and again at 10.5 hours, they had to perform a task that required sustained attention.

The researchers found no difference in the attention levels of the two groups at 1.5 hours after waking, but the night owls were more focused than the early birds after 10.5 hours spent awake.

The difference was a result of the shift in the balance between the two mechanisms that control alertness: the light-triggered circadian signal and the buildup of the pressure to sleep through the day (called the homeostatic process), the researchers said. As the day wears on and the time since sleep becomes greater, the pressure to sleep mounts; at the same time, the continued daylight triggers the circadian signal that promotes wakefulness.

While researchers had thought that the two systems operated independently, the study found that “the two are always interacting together,” said study co-author Phillipe Peigneux.

(link to full article)

I am confused, though, about the differences. Does this mean that the early birds are functioning less than they did at 1.5 hrs? Or does it mean they are functioning the same, but the night owls are functioning more than they did at 1.5hrs? If anyone gets the journal Science, I’d love a copy of that article.

Aha. Found this excerpt on the Science website of the article titled Homeostatic Sleep Pressure and Responses to Sustained Attention in the Suprachiasmatic Area (bolding of text is mine):

Throughout the day, cognitive performance is under the combined influence of circadian processes and homeostatic sleep pressure. Some people perform best in the morning, whereas others are more alert in the evening. These chronotypes provide a unique way to study the effects of sleep-wake regulation on the cerebral mechanisms supporting cognition. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in extreme chronotypes, we found that maintaining attention in the evening was associated with higher activity in evening than morning chronotypes in a region of the locus coeruleus and in a suprachiasmatic area (SCA) including the circadian master clock. Activity in the SCA decreased with increasing homeostatic sleep pressure. This result shows the direct influence of the homeostatic and circadian interaction on the neural activity underpinning human behavior.

Judging What You See

By now, many people have heard of Susan Boyle. If you’ve not, here’s the scoop.

The UK has a reality show called “Britains Got Talent”. It is what American Idol copied. (there’s a whole other essay on the difference in show titles, eh?) Last week, a 47 yr old Scottish woman came out onto the stage. She’s overweight, double chinned, nice brown dress. She is unimpressive in every way. Then, after a short interview of sorts, she starts to sing.

You have to see the video yourself to understand. (The video has had just under 23 MILLION views and the embedded link for it has been removed.)

Susan Boyle blew them away. Out of the water. Even Simon (who I cannot stand) was floored. Why? Because she has an incredible voice wrapped in a real world body. Very little make-up, no eyebrow tweezers (ouch ouch ouch), no plastic surgery. Personally, I don’t care what her body looks like. I’ve got one of those real world bodies, too. Before she went out onto the stage itself, I was assuming this was going to be one of those “why oh why did her friends not tie her down and drug her until this was over?” things. I hate it when people think they have talent when in fact they can’t sing any better than my dogs! I find it painful. Not just my ears, but my spirit as well because people laugh at them rather than offer them help. They are put down and teased. But when Susan Boyle stepped out onto the stage, and I heard her speaking voice from that angle, I knew she could sing so I kept watching. But I had not clue her voice was that damn good.

Another YouTube video is actually a still photo with sound behind it. It is of a charity CD made in 1999 in which Susan Boyle participated. How did anyone not notice her then? Here’s the link to that recording of Susan singing “Cry Me a River”.

Do a YouTube search for her name and you’ll be swamped with videos and copies of interviews. I liked the one with ITN News.

Some articles that have popped up this week discuss the difference between a frumpy woman having a great voice and a frumpy woman who doesn’t. That her frumpiness is Cool and Oh So In only because she can sing. From “The Susan Boyle Phenomenon” article at The New Agenda:

When I first watched the clip, I was disturbed by the audience’s initial eye-rolling and derisive laughter. This, I thought, is why I have so little tolerance for pop culture. The twits were laughing at Susan Boyle for no other reason than that she was not young and not gorgeous. Apparently it was heinously absurd for a not-young, not-gorgeous woman to even haul herself out there on a stage (boo! hiss! climb back in the Kitty Condo with your cats why don’t you!) much less have the sheer monstrous hubris of thinking she could sing.

But of course she can sing, beautifully, and everyone in the world is now thrilled by this reminder that even not-young, not-gorgeous women still have value. If they can sing.

Go, Susan, Go! Me and the other frumpy women in the world will be watching you succeed.