The Mile Wide Road Conspiracy

(this is a long post, so brainless zombies should skip to the pictures at the end)

Some years back, I heard a rumor from my buddies that there was an old shady road at the west end of Speedway. It was described to me as a dirt road (which Speedway turns into), where one travels for a few miles, and then approaches a one-lane bridge. One-lane as in one-way. If it’s blocked, then you’re stuck. Traveling down the road a bit more brings you to a second one-lane bridge. I wouldn’t want to be the guy stuck between those two bridges, should they both be blocked. There is a sign at the very end of Mile Wide Road (the dirt highway), past both bridges, which reads “No Trespassing: Government Property. Keep Out.”

I am about to reveal to you top secret information. Just kidding, actually I have no idea what I’m talking about, I just love a good conspiracy theory, and anytime I find a good local Tucson version, I jump on the chance to investigate. Here are the stories I heard, as well as my own investigation into the matter.

First. My buddies had gone out there a few times before, but here is what occured the last time. While driving on Kinney, the continuation of Speedway and the fastest way to Mile Wide, they spotted a black unmarked Suburban. It was clearly following. This was well before they hit that first bridge, so they decided to keep driving. However, once they hit Mile Wide Road and passed over the bridge, the lights of the Suburban in the rear view mirror vanished. Creepy, but they continued. As they began to approach the second bridge, a pair of headlights clicked on in front of them. The shape and brightness of these lights convinced them that it was a similar Surburban, though they couldn’t see color or markings. This vehicle was clearly sitting on the bridge, so the path was blocked, and they couldn’t go any further. This was a bit disturbing, so they did a quick 3-point turn and high-tailed it back east. I forgot to mention that on either side of this dirt road was a deep ditch, deep enough that a car couldn’t veer off into the desert if it needed. Likely, that was a safety feature of this rural highway, protecting free-range cattle from traffic. As they headed east and passed over the first bridge, they half-expected to see the first Suburban. But the only lights they saw were the stars and the wash from their own headlights. Was it a coincidence, a narrow escape, or the government trying to protect something?

(For the record, it is common knowledge that Federal law enforcement officials frequently travel in black unmarked Suburbans).

Second. We soon realized that Mile Wide Road was almost exactly half way between Ryan Airfield, a military training facility turned State-owned airport, and Avra Valley Airport, owned and operated by the town of Marana. Actually, I believe it is officially referred to as the “Marana Regional Aiport” these days. So this shady bit of rural desert with black unmarked Suburbans was in non-trivial proximity to two active airfields. It was during this time of high speculation that we discussed the numerous sightings of UFOs reported from the Gate’s Pass area, as well as rumors of pyramids and secret underground facilities which could be host to any number of government military operations. It is well known that many Air Force bases have extensive underground facilities.

I decided I needed to see for myself, so I convinced them to make one more trip (okay, more like they convinced me to quit freaking and just agree to come with). On this trip, we encountered no black unmarked Suburbans, and travelled safely to the sign. Of course, we did this with our headlights off. Take no chances, eh? There was indeed a sign, and it made clear that you better not pass the gate, and that government property was on the other side. We took a poll and passed the gate. Have you ever experienced a moment of pure fear? Adrenaline surges through your body, and you can feel every one of your veins with each heartbeat. I especially feel a strong pulsing in the neck. It was pitch black; of course we chose a night with no moon. You can see millions of stars out there, especially with no moon. There was a road that continued on the other side, so we walked, but not very far. We spotted yet another sign, but this one was much larger and on the side of the road. Flashlights burning, we read the words “Ironwood Hills National Forest”

Oh. How boring. So at least now we know what the acres and acres of government land was far west of Tucson. But we still never figured out explanations for the Surburbans or the one-lane bridges.

Google has helped me in my continuing search for truth. Google Earth contains amazing satellite imagery which only a few years ago was the exclusive privilege of fortunate billionaires, government technicians, and fictional Hollywood characters. With it, I was able to get a bigger picture of our mysterious Mile Wide Road and the “Ironwood Hills National Forest.” In the tour, I feature the two airfields so you can get a feel for their proximity, and then take you from Gate’s Pass on to the sign. From the sign, we travel up the road to the furthest known structure I could find with Google, the Cocoraque Ranch. Supposedly it is a guest ranch (ever seen “Hey, Dude!” and you get the idea). From Cocoraque there are three interesting items to view in the desert forest of Ironwood Hills. One is a small set of buildings to the south. I can’t distinguish any vehicles or clues as to the purpose of such a remote building. Then, perhaps because of a bit of luck, I spotted a plane out there! The image is fuzzy, so you can’t tell if the plane is flying or grounded. You can see what seems to be the heat signature of the plane misaligned with the actual image of the plane. An interesting effect. The final destination is another set of buildings, this one a bit larger than the first. What are these buildings doing in the middle of nowhere, and why does it appear that an airplane was headed directly for them? See for yourself with my virtual tour of the “Mile Wide Road Conspiracy.” You can download Google Earth and then:

DOWNLOAD MY TOUR OF THE MILE WIDE ROAD CONSPIRACY.

Map Overview
(an overview of the tour)

An airplane?
(clearly an airplane of some kind)

Jenny’s Got a Gun Blog

Sorry, no more Aerosmith references, I promise.

Jenny hooked herself up to xanga (without my help I might add) and has officially joined the blogosphere. Why she didn’t just post here, I’m not sure of. I’d pick self-hosted WordPress over Xanga any day. I guess that defines the difference between Geek and Not-Geek.

Jenny’s Blog

And the winner is… PODxt Live!

PODxt Live Modeling Pedalboard

So here’s what I just spent $$$ on:

  • 36 amp models (vintage & modern, Fenders, Marshalls, Vox, etc.)
  • 24 cabinet models with 4 mic models
  • 80+ stompbox and studio effects, including everything from my DL-4 Delay Modeler (we’re talking distortion pedals, fuzz, chorus, synth, flangers, phasers, compressors, reverbs, and stuff I can’t even describe)
  • Built-in tuner
  • Built-in expression pedal, plus a jack for a second expression pedal
  • Way too many options and combinations. If you do the math, you’ll find that there isn’t enough time in a person’s life to play with every single possible combination of models in the PODxt. That’s a little depressing.

Already I’ve configured custom presets for my Yamaha AEX500, including a schweet sounding acoustic patch using the piezo pickup. I’ve also slowly begun the work of finding distortions that fit my tastes using the Gibson Les Paul. I made a couple patches based on the guitar sounds from Polaris by Jimmy Eat World, and that wasn’t too hard. It was pretty cool actually.

I’m just glad I don’t have a Variax Guitar (yet), otherwise I would be having to set a guitar model for each preset, and not just gate, compression, stompbox model, delay model, modulation model, amp model, cab model, mic model, EQ model and reverb model. If I did eventually get a Variax, I could choose a preset on the PODxt Live, and I could suddenly be playing a ’72 Fender Tele through a ’58 tweed Fender Bassman (which was a combo with a 4×10 cab), mic’d up with an off-axis Shure 57, and on the floor would be a Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble pedal, a Big Muff Pi, and a Deluxe Memory Man delay pedal. The very next second, I could be using a ’52 Gibson Les Paul through a ’66 Marshall JTM-45 (you know, before the Marshall scroll logo), a ’67 Marshall 4×12 Basketweave cab mic’d up with a Neumann U-67, and on the floor would be a ProCo Rat, a Vox Wah pedal, and a Uni-Vibe.

Even without the guitar model change, that’s just sick. Speaking of, I’m gonna go play with that Rat.

PODful Birthday

My birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, and I’m now having a decision nightmare. Here’s a little background first: the only mp3 player I own is a 512MB iPod Shuffle, and I haven’t bought any guitar gear in almost 4 years!

I can’t decide what I want for my birthday. I really want one of those new 60GB iPods (with video). But, I recently discovered a piece of guitar gear that could potentially retire all of my current pedals, and would prevent me from having to upgrade my horrid practice amp, a 50w solidstate Fender Princeton Chorus. This amazing device is the Line 6 PODxt Live. It models amps, it models the same delays as my DL-4 Delay Modeler, it models cabinets, it models synth and phasing and reverb. It would even retire my tuner and volume pedal.

So – I need help deciding. The funny thing is that I’m deciding between two totally unrelated “pods.”

The Contendors:

Apple iPodhttp://www.apple.com/ipod/ipod.html

GOOD
– I could carry around my 6GB+ of music, instead of only 100 songs with the shuffle
– I could download movies and watch them on the go
– I could bring my entire CD collection on road trips
– I could bring Jenny’s entire photo collection on road trips
– I really feel the need for a portable audio player that has all of my music readily available
– It would help with my career as a recording engineer
– I would be the coolest guy for about 2 weeks

BAD
– It is very expensive for an mp3 player
– I will never have 60GB of music
– I will struggle with not wanting to upgrade it to the next generation iPod, so it could be very expensive

****

Line 6 PODxt Livehttp://line6.com/podxtlive/

GOOD
– One pedalboard, instead of separate delay, distortion, volume and tuner pedals
– I could easily bring excellent effects along for any practice, not just important gigs
– It would work with my Peavey Ultra rig, but also my Fender Princeton combo
– I could plug it directly into a system and not even use an amp
– I could record directly into the computer, via a USB connection
– It would give me the opportunity to bring out my other axes (Yamaha AEX500, Godin SDXT) so I wouldn’t feel bad about owning useless, but expensive guitars
– It is a fair price for a floorboard version of the PODxt, and a fair price for a modeling pedal with that many options
– It would help with my career as a musician
– I would be the coolest guitar player for a while

BAD
– Although I love my Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeler, I’m a bit wary of using modeled distortions and amps. In many cases, there’s nothing quite like the real thing.
– I might end up using it only for the effects, and not the amp modeling
– Line 6 is a great brandname in the prosumer world, but I prefer to have authentic pro gear (although I do understand that many pro recording artists like John Mayer’s guitarist use Line 6 gear). I might be tempted to put tape over the POD logo. Silly me.
– The sounds would no doubt be great, but will they be usable on each of different setups (live, practice, direct for recording, headphones for personal practice)? The POD is supposed to accomadate and adjust tone for those types of differences, but I would actually need to hear it.

Well, I’ve not made up my mind. You may think I being materialistic, but keep in mind that both gadgets have features that would help my career, as well as help me serve God. (Although I don’t think I’ll go as far as to say that I bought an iPod to serve God – I would be able to say that about the PODxt Live). PLEASE HELP!

New Job and New Chapter in Life

I’ve been hired as the assistant audio engineer at Pantano Christian Church, one of Tucson’s semi-mega-churches. There will be good times ahead. Currently, I’m responsible for running the monitor console, as well as front-of-house when I’m needed. I have a lot of goals for the future of the sound ministry at PCC, and this is one church that will move and jump on changes and improvements.

One major goal I have is to get professional recording equipment installed at the monitor console. Audio recording is my lot in life. And with professional recordings (as in, a MOTU 24i/o system hooked into a PowerMac Dual G5), PCC will be able to distribute videos with much better sound quality, and they will also be able to offer CDs for a nominal fee.

“Sounds” like fun!

What the heck is going on?

Astrodome

I’m sorry, I thought we lived in America. Three cheers for the blogosphere, which has saved us from the censored corporate media.

Media being turned away from Jefferson Parish

FEMA to Reuters: no photos of the dead

Rape, Murder and Beatings in Astrodome (Houston!!), and Emergency Radio broadcast blocked
(caution – I’m not endorsing this website, but the reporter, Xeni, also contributes to Wired News and National Public Radio)

Pictures from inside Astrodome

Katrina Disaster Not Void of Religious Fanatics

From a recent Reuters article I just finished perousing:

“Natural disaster is caused by the sin in the world,” said Maj. John Jones, the group’s area commander. “The acts of God are what happens afterwards … all the good that happens.”

So, then, what was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? What about the Great Flood? Why wasn’t Hurrican Katrina an act of God? And, if Katrina was an act of God, then it was not caused by the sin of the world, but rather it was caused because of the sin of the world. Former Bayou witch doctors, beware.

To say that God is only responsible for the G-Rated relief funds and rescue operations is to be as ignorant as the Pastor who claims that “Jesus is your best friend.

The God of the Bible is a God of Wrath, and while Christ commands compassion towards others, don’t ever think you can slip through life without receiving a final Judgement. Yes that sounds harsh, but Christianity wasn’t meant to be a hippy, friend-loving peachy queen religion. Christianity is about a perfect man who agreed to be brutally murdered so that everyone else could have a chance at eternity.

Please donate to the relief fund. But don’t use a tragic natural disaster as a means to distribute unbiblical commercial-American Jesus-is-safe agenda. Oh, and please DON’T donate to the Southern Baptist Convention. They distributed a film to be shown in churches about how good THEY are, and how much THEY have done for the Katrina disaster. The video forgot to mention how blessed and thankful they are of Christ’s gift to them – the financial support from hard-working Baptists.

“He is not a tame Lion.” – Mr. Beaver

Work Subroutine

Put this little subroutine into your robot worker to make it more human like. Don’t bother me about the fact that it is a hybrid of DOS and BASH scripting. That happened because, well… see for yourself what happened to my /proc/brain.

:START

do work

if work = $good
goto START
fi

if work = $evil
goto END
fi

:END
/proc/brain > /dev/null
shutdown -h now

Usability – Real and Virtual

Alright, fine! I’m back and I should be posting more often, but I’m lazy. Has it ever bothered you that software developers are often terrible at designing interfaces? These guys are, and I am too. But software developers aren’t the only ones…

Microwave Ovens are the worst offenders of keypads on appliances. There is no standard, so it is a free-for-all whenever an appliance maker designs a new oven. Here is the keypad on a 1993 GE SpaceMaker:

Microwave Oven

How do you enter 1:30, judging from this image? You’re thinking “just press 1, 3, 0” but you’d be wrong. Actually, to enter exact cook times on this cooker, you have to press “TIME COOK” first. So for some reason, it is now faster to enter 1:30 by pressing 1 (which gives 1:00) and “ADD 30 SECONDS” (which gives 1:30). A word to GE – number keypads should all work as expected, okay? And we expect them to work when we first press them. Imagine having a cell phone where you had to press a “DIAL NUMBER” button before dialing the number.

I’m a little upset with my microwave, as you can see.

Here’s another useability flaw that I came across today. This is the page shown when you click “Help Center” at buydomains.com, where I have one my domains registered:

BuyDomains.com

As you can see, it presents a FAQ index. But it doesn’t show the most popular FAQs. It does allow for searching the FAQs, but at first glance a user won’t notice that, because it is in a separate box that includes a list of links to other locations. Wonderful. Next you’ll see the “Contact Us” link, which takes you to a webform where you can fill in your name, email, problem description, and “traceroute if it is a connection problem with one of your sites.” Are you kidding me?

They don’t provide any contact email, phone number or IM. A hint to all web startups: make it EASY for the customer to get answers from a real person. FAQs are fun to make, and sometimes fun to read, but are useless when not exhaustive knowledgebases (such as Microsoft’s KB). For a real world metaphor, read on.

You’ve just walked up to the Customer Service desk at your local Walmart SuperCenter. There is no receptionist nor representative. There is no telephone. There is only a 3 ring binder which, upon opening, reveals a list of questions that Walmart customers frequently ask. The top page is an index, and thumbing through it you see answers to all kinds of questions. Not surprisingly, you are unable to find the answer to your question. Now you have noticed that there is a ticket machine. It is tucked away to one corner, so you didn’t even see it when you first approached the desk. You take a ticket, and read the text on the back of the ticket: “Thank you for your inquiry. You should receive a response within the next 48 hours.”

We would never put up with this at Walmart, so why do so many of us put up with it on Customer Support websites?