Hot Flat and Crowded — Cows

— Updated Below —

Welcome to a new series for hellocomein: Book Club. The first book that we’ll be tackling is Hot, Flat, and Crowded, the new treatise on Global Warming and Globalization from Thomas Friedman.

I’m only a couple of chapters into this thing, so I don’t have much to say yet, except to expand on a paragraph concerning livestock (Ch 2 Pg 35):

That’s right – the striking thing about greenhouse gases is the diversity of sources that emit them. A heard of cattle can be worse than a highway full of Hummers. Livestock gas is very high in methane… “Molecule for molecule, methane’s heat-trapping power in the atmosphere is twenty-one times stronger than carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas,” reported Science World. “With 1.3 billion cows belching constantly around the world (110 million in the United States alone), it’s no surprise that methane released by livestock is one of the chief global sources of the gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

In fact, according to ABC, livestock accounts for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas problem. It’s unclear exactly how that number was calculated, but for the sake of discussion it’s pretty daunting.

There are a few groups looking at the livestock methane emissions from different angles that I thought would be worth sharing. One approach is to introduce biological tweaks to the system, such as developing food sources for livestock that produces fewer methane burps during digestion. Scientists at biotech company Gramina are doing exactly that with a new “burpless” grass in the works.

I think the more interesting discussion is being led by food writers Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman. Both take issue with the over-industrialized diet Americans eat. Simply put, we eat too much meat, and have been duped into thinking it’s healthy by the Agro-business lobbyists (More Protein!). As a result, we have an enormous livestock industry that is a large contributor to both Global Warming and Heart Disease. Bittman has a great food column in the New York Times called the Minimalist, and I’m anxious to read some of Pollan’s writings in the near future. For now here are a couple of interesting videos of Bittman at the TED Conference and Pollan on the most recent Bill Moyer’s Journal that provide the gist of their arguments. Both are definitely worth watching when you have a chance.

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Update 12/3/08:

The New York Times has an article today on livestock’s contribution to global warming that’s worth a read. An excerpt:

At the electricity-from-manure project here in Sterksel, the refuse from thousands of pigs is combined with local waste materials (outdated carrot juice and crumbs from a cookie factory), and pumped into warmed tanks called digesters. There, resident bacteria release the natural gas within, which is burned to generate heat and electricity.

The farm uses 25 percent of the electricity, and the rest is sold to a local power provider. The leftover mineral slurry is an ideal fertilizer that reduces the use of chemical fertilizers, whose production releases a heavy dose of carbon dioxide.

For this farm the scheme has provided a substantial payback: By reducing its emissions, it has been able to sell carbon credits on European markets. It makes money by selling electricity. It gets free fertilizer.

hello.build — what the hell is arduino?

Per Mike’s request, here’s some background info on Arduino. Here’s the best intro I’ve seen courtesy of DIY rockstar Bre Pettis. Seriously, this thing is super easy to get started with, even with zero programming or electronics background. Once you run through a few tutorials, it’s pretty easy to get to work on your own ideas, like dot matrix drum machines and remote dog treat dispensers. A great way to spend 30 bucks.

hello.build — dot matrix drum machine

Post one on my latest Arduino project. The goal: get a dot matrix printer and turn it into a step sequenced drum machine using Arduino as the brains….

Last week I acquired the dot matrix printer for free off of a Craigslist posting from Brisbane’s city hall, which is close to my office. This thing weighs about 50 pounds, but it’s perfect for the job. Tonight, I spent a few hours stripping the data cable down to bare wires and tagging each wire with its corresponding pin on the centronics parallel connector. It was a bit tedious, but had to be done. Tomorrow I’m hoping to actually plug these wires into the microcontroller to find out if I can control the printer. Stay tuned…

Dot_Matrix_Machine

Dot_Matrix_Cable

The idea isn’t exactly new, but I wanted to give it a try myself… here’s a really great example of someone re-purposing old computer hardware as an instrument:

hello.build: iPhone Theramin

Here’s a simple use of the touchOSC app and Pure Date to turn the iPhone/iPod Touch into a Theramin of sorts. Feel free to download the Pure Data patch and try it yourself! Some basic instructions to get it up and running:

-You need to download and install Pure Data (free) and touchOSC (a few bucks) on your computer and iPhone
-Get your computer and iphone on the same wi-fi network.
-Open up the Pure Data patch on your computer and make sure the audio is turned on under the menu “Media” >> “Audio On”
-Open up TouchOSC and make sure the accelerometer setting is turned to “On”
-In the Host IP Address menu, you have to enter your laptop’s IP address. To get this, go to your computer’s Network Preferences and choose your wireless connection, click “Advanced”, choose the “TCP/IP” tab, and you should see the IP address there. Enter this number on the TouchOSC “Host” entry box
-Choose any of the layouts, and click Done

Now you should hear the Theramin from your laptop speakers, and you should see a stream of accelerometer data printing on the PureData screen…

Give it a shot and mess around with the numbers 20 and 440 to adjust the scaling (20) and center pitch (440, A). To edit the numbers, you have to be in Edit Mode, which you toggle on and off by pressing command-E.

hello.build: hello world… servo style

Wow- it’s been a long while since my last post, but I’m back to present the first post in a new series: hello.build. This is where we’ll track our progress on some hardware projects we have in the pipeline. More on that soon…

I recently picked up an Arduino, which is an open source microcontroller platform created to make it easy for people to enter into the world of physical computing. Just do a quick You Tube search for Arduino, and you’ll come across tons of really great projects. With a few easy-to-follow tutorials from Make, you can really do a lot of cool stuff.

Tonight, my goal was to get a servo motor up and running, controlling its position with a potentiometer. Here’s the code:

—————

//Hello World, Servo Style!

#define SERVO 9 //The servo is hooked up to PWM output 9
int pot; //Pot is an analog potentiometer input
int servo_position; //This is what value is going to get sent to the servo

void setup(){
pinMode(SERVO, OUTPUT); //Set the servo as an output
Serial.begin(9600); //Open up a Serial Communique so we can see data
}

void loop(){
pot = analogRead(0); //Read in the value of the knob
servo_position = pot/4; //The analog input reads between 0 and 1023, and the PWM
//output needs values between 0 and 255, so divide by 4.
Serial.println(pot); //let’s print what we read in to the computer screen
Serial.println(servo_position); //lets see what value we are going to send out
analogWrite(SERVO, servo_position); //send out the position to the servo
}

—————

And here’s a video of the result:

hello.music — crushed (updated)

hello.music
Here’s an updated version of this song with some trackings I did this evening. I think it’s an improvement, particularly in the vocal department. I might try toning down the distortedness a bit, but I like them double tracked. Also some empty space left still for a guitar/glock/whistle solo. Anyone? Anyone? Aryn- how would this sound with upright bass?

Version 3

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/greg/music/crushed_3.mp3]

hello.music — crushed

hello.music
Here’s a new song I’ve been working on. I was messing around the other night with some really low, raspy tunings. Listen first to the original scratch track (on nylon) and then the updated one (on steel) with some lyrics. I did fill in the progression a bit from the original, which I do like. Sorry for the sucky off key vocals- apparently I kind of forgot the original verse melody I had going. Any thoughts? How’s the chorus?

Version 1

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/greg/music/crushed_1.mp3]

Version 2

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/greg/music/crushed_2.mp3]

2007 Roundup: Greg’s Favorite Nine of the Year

Best Music of 2007

My top nine albums/music of the year. I would have picked ten, but most everything else was background noise and singles to me in comparison to the following. Any year that Radiohead puts out an album is a great year in music, in my opinion, but there was a ton of great music to flesh out the year. And we also saw the cracks appear in the RIAA, with the demise of DRM coming our way. Cheers to 2007!

1/2/3:
Radiohead, In Rainbows: Despite all the business shiite surrounding this album, there is no denying that the music is absolutely supurb with several moments of perfection. Lots and lots and lots of Thom Yorke falsetto on display here, with plenty of the classic Radiohead organic electro pulses and textures that we love. If you haven’t checked them out, take a peek at the webcast concerts Radiohead did from their studio shortly after the album was released. Not only are the performances great, but the videos have a strange way of humanizing the band and contributing to their mystery at the same time.

Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha: Listenable, fun, completely unique, and with perhaps the best lyrics of anyone right now. Is he a gimmick? No more so than any other indie artist out there these days, in my opinion. And unlike mosts of the artists even on this list (with the exception of FOC), his lyrics are inventive and memorable. His live show was a lush mashing solo just-in-time loops that I loved every second of. He’s the hardest working artist that I saw the entire year

Arcade Fire, Neon Bible: Intense album full of rich, lush layers that kept me entertained all year long. Energetic beyond belief live. When I first heard the leaked track containing a powerful organ WAY to high in the mix, I was concerned this was going to be a bad effort, but I loved this album more than Funeral. The show at Starlight was quite possibly the loudest concert I have ever been to, mostly due to LCD Soundsystem, but it was incredible!

4: Flight of the Conchords, music from the show: Reliving lyrics and moments from this show proviided an endless source of good times for me this year. I still randomly get “Brown Paper, White Paper, Stick it together with the tape, the tape of love….” stuck in my head on a weekly basis. Part time Model, Business Time. Not only is it fucking hilarious, but also made me realize how truly strange David Bowie and Serge Gainsbourg were. Not to mention Mel.

5: Peter Bjorn & John, Writer’s Block: Already sounding a bit tired, and used in too many adverts, but it was one of my favorites. Objects of My Affection, Start to Melt, Young Folks, Amsterdam, Roll the Credits, were all on my most played list all year.

6: The Frames, The Cost: I think this is technically a 2006 album, but I discovered it this year with everyone else who saw Once. Nothing really groundbreaking, but great songs with an incredibly powerful, if not sometimes too powerful, lead singer. Occasionally I wince with sentimentality, but this album is perfect when I’m in the mood for it.

7: Shins, Wincing the Night Away: A few great songs on this album, and the album that really got me hooked on the Shins. I never quite understood why everyone loved these guys so much, but after seeing live at a two night stint in Lawrence, listening to the new album over and over, I came to appreciate the older albums as well. An acquired taste for me, but one of best bands out there right now.

8: Jose Gonzalez, In Our Nature: I discovered this great singer-songwriter through the All-Songs live show podcast and was sucked in by his nylon guitar layers and ultra-mellow voice. This is great late night music, and his cover of Teardrop made me rediscover my high school love of Massive Attack.

9: Dan Deacon, music from his MySpace page and Youtube: I never managed to listen to his full album, despite it residing on his ipod, but there were a few weeks where I returned daily to his Youtube and MySpace content. I’m not sure what to think of this guy, but his songs are incredibly strange and enjoyable.

November 2007 EP: Hello Come In, ‘We Are Full Of Useful Noise’

Hello Come In's Nov 2007 EP, We Are Full Of Useful Noise

Month eleven is officially over, and we’re back with the second to last mini-EP: We Are Full Of Useful Noise. We’re particularly happy with how the first track, “Wars Keep Going On,” turned out. Due to some obscure November holiday, we all managed to be in the same place at the same time one weekend and spent a few hours hammering out the song framework in person. From there, we went back to our corners of the globe and added parts in our typical virtual manner. It was nice to finally finish a song we all actually worked on!

Take a listen for yourself here. Or right click here to DOWNLOAD the entire album.

You can always take us with you via the podcast. And of course there is MySpace and our brand new Facebook Group.

And most important… leave comments on the blog or via email at novemberEP@hellocomein.com. Enjoy!!

Tracklist:

1. Wars Keep Going On (Katzif/Crowley/Johnson)
2. 12th Century Russian Literature Makes for Good Bedtime Stories (Crowley)
3. We Are Abandoned In The Towns Our Fathers Built (Katzif)

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It was around this time two years ago that Aryn and I began hunkering down to come up with a website to feature our music. Initially it was just going to be a typical band website to archive all this stuff we had done in years past. Then we realized that we didn’t live in the same city, so our output dried up. Year one of Hello Come In was sort of ambiguous and undefined, filled with failed collaborative experiments (Hello.Column etc.). However, sporadic as it was at that point, Aryn, Greg and I had begun tinkering with making music on our computers, creating home recordings and such.

So it was around this time last year that the three of us started laying the ground work for our year long EP project. Looking back, it was ambitious to strive for 12 months of straight music creation, especially when all three of us lived in three different cities. It took a bit of time to logistically and technically figure things out (thank god for high speed internet and kick ass music software). But once we knew we were able to artistically develop new material and eventually hit those deadlines a few months in a row, we then began to think “Okay, now what?”

In the back of our heads though, I know we really were hoping for full group collaboration. Often working in a bubble, left to our own devices, our music did not always sound unified or really as one voice, let alone complete. But month by month, this open piloting and exposure of unfinished material — both to the other two of us, or to the few people following along at home (dozens I’m told…dozens!) — became easier; the criticism, suggestions and contributions more constructive.

So I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that the highlight for me this month is Wars Keep Going On, a song that all three of us had near-equal input on. Gathering for about ninety minutes one afternoon over Thanksgiving with only a simple chord progression chicken scratched out a few hours ahead of time on the back of a grocery list, we got to work. I think we hit on something good.

In many cases we found the proximity this time around extremely helpful in crafting a song that I by myself would’ve labored over a lot longer, just by playing it out for Greg and Aryn and talking about it. You sort of catch onto the momentum and creativity of the others and just run with it. This is certainly not the first time we’ve had that experience..hell we played countless amounts of gigs together dating back to highschool, so familiarity here is also key.

But the end results I think might be our most complete work. While it’s not the most complex, experimental or even all that original in the larger historical scheme of music (given a paltry 6.8 by Pitchfork), but it might be the most representative of what the three of us can do at this time. It’s also perhaps a tiny glimpse of what we could do if we were able to play in person on a regular basis.

We still have one last month left in our year of EPs, plus a few upcoming ideas for future projects in 2008, but I have to say, it’s rewarding to finally hit a creative goal that we set and know that this is just another new beginning. It only took us 11 damn months to do it.

— Mike, Nov. 2007

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Past EP’s

Temporary Setback :: January 2007
Clouded Spaces, Falling Skies :: February 2007
First Pull Up, Second Pull Down, Third Take Away :: March 2007
Ancient Telephones :: April 2007
The Cavalry Arrived Again :: May 2007
Designed In Anticipation Of His Centennial Years :: June 2007
The Rundown :: July 2007
The Ninth Great Fire :: August 2007
Empty Bottles And Dog-Eared Books :: September 2007
I Can Fix Things In The Morning :: October 2007
We Are Full Of Useful Noise :: November 2007
The Last Duel :: December 2007