Lest my sharing of several guilty pleasures like Buffy fool you into thinking my brain’s gone all soft, I’ve decided to reprint here a short published essay I wrote in response to a comment that was made by a fellow subscriber to The The Quintessential Renaissanance ManStream, which is a newsletter from a website called Project Renaissance that features articles, books, and suggestions for increasing brain health, creativity, and intelligence. The site is the result of decades of work in this area by a gentleman named Win Wenger, and we give it a big Asparagus Pee thumbs-up.

The other reader wrote “I have a question about audio feedback, if there is an increase in the amount of energy being used during feedback? There must be. If so, is the relationship between the amount of energy used to increase volume during feedback the same as energy used to increase volume by just turning it up?”

Here’s my reply:

The power required to produce a certain increase in sound volume is a simple logarithmic curve, where each doubling of the perceived loudness (yes, perceived by a human – if Werner Heisenberg isn’t in the forest when the tree falls, can we be certain that there really was a tree?) requires 10 times the energy in terms of kinetic energy. I’d be really surprised (shocked and sickened, actually) if this didn’t apply to feedback squeals as well.

Basically, feedback occurs through the process of escalating reinforcement. A sound is being produced that resonates with the environment in some way, in either the room or the electronics, much the same as a note is produced when you blow across a bottle. Some form of amplification is required to provide the escalation of the resonance, but as long as the amplifier and other elements of the system can provide greater output, the escalation should follow the typical dB power curve, the same as turning up the volume on a non-resonant sound.

Where it gets interesting is when the limitations of the devices or the characteristics of the environment cause the feedback resonance frequency or character to change as the power escalates.

Resonance itself is a strange beast, and another thing entirely. If you can determine the resonance of an object, a space, a device, a person, etc., it’s not exactly what I would call feedback, but vibrations can become self-reinforcing due to the correspondence of coinciding wavefronts.

I’m now thinking specifically of a story regarding Nikola Tesla when he was immersed in resonance studies where he invented a mechanical reciprocating device to provide a small hammer blow at regular intervals, calculated the resonant frequency of a large building in New York, and placed the device on the corner of the building. According to this anecdote, it worked so well that the building began to sway and he ended up shattering the device with a sledgehammer and breaking the resonance to prevent it from toppling.

Whether or not this story is true, SELF-reinforcing systems are subject to runaway escalation with very little additional power input because they become chaotic in nature and it takes only ‘a minimal change in the input variable’ to provide a ‘catastrophic change’ in the resulting output, by forcing the system to another area of a strange attractor that represents the available states in phase space. This is a lot of scientific-sounding mumbo-jumbo for the last straw on the camel, or Ella Fitzgerald breaking the wine glass on the old ‘Is it live or is it Memorex?’ commercials.

This is also how lasers work. And metaphorical thinkers can see that this has ramifications for socio-political power, resonance, and feedback as well.

The Slayer. Tonight is the very last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that makes me very sad.

Asparagus Pee salutes Joss Whedon’s immense creativity and the cast and writers that have brought us seven years of pleasure and entertainment.

You will be missed.

UPN’s Buffy Site

Here’s an interesting website: Mt Everest History and facts – just all the basic stats for Mt. Everest climbs. It’s amazing what human beings do and can do once someone proves it’s possible, like the 4-minute mile that everyone thought was impossible, and now is practically expected.

Because it's there. Everest was ‘summitted’ for the first time in recorded history in May of 1953, and since then, we’ve gotten to where there’s close to 200 people a year making it up there, including a blind guy, and a guy with one arm! Some people have skied or snowboarded down now, and one guy came down in 11 minutes on a hang glider. All of this is just further evidence for why I frequently say, ‘what won’t these pathetic, crazy, hairless monkey-creatures think of to do next?’

I’ve actually become aware of this page only because we publish a tape by the blind guy, Eric Weihenmayer, called Touch the Top of the World, available on our website at Audio Editions.

Don’t let these stats fool you though – in the best year, fully 1/16th of the people who tried to summit died on the mountain.

Problem with Slugs?
Hey, give me back my watch!
So I managed all my compost issues on Sunday. I took the good, finished compost and spread it on the garden, then I turned the half-done compost into that bin and filled the other bin with the weed piles from all the weeding I’ve done over the last two weekends.

When I was doing all this, I ran across a family of slugs, and here’s a couple of pics of the one I brought in to show Emily. (Impressive, no?)

By the way, I’ve had a major insight into frustration: you can only feel frustrated about something that you care about. Sounds obvious, but it’s all so personal.

For instance, it’s impossible for me to become upset about ‘missing the game,’ but I know some people who just lose it completely. I, on the other hand, am feeling all bonkers because I’ve gotten the garden cleaned up and I have great compost, but my plants are turning yellow and drying up in their six-packs up on the deck, because I don’t have time to work in the compost and plant them.

(Hmm… six-packs.)

Sorry, Rob! You were my boy. I’ve just spent about 20 minutes doing intensive research to figure out who has won the six Survivors so far, so I’ll present them here as a list for your convenience:

  1. Richard Hatch
  2. Tina Wesson
  3. Ethan Zohn
  4. Vecepia Towery
  5. Brian Heidik
  6. Jenna Morasca

Just a quick follow up on Dick and Mary:

Carl Reiner is writing a script for a CBS special that will show what Rob and Laurie Petrie have been doing since THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW went off the air in 1966. Reiner isn’t worried about tampering with a classic, or how viewers will react to seeing Rob and Laura much older. Van Dyke will concede one thing to age, though. Reiner said they won’t make him trip over the ottoman at the beginning of the show, which debuted in 1961. “No, he’s too old. He’d kill himself, if he trips over the ottoman,” Reiner said with a laugh.
Source: Yahoo News

Mary Ann... Is that your final answer? Yes, Regis. George Wyle, the guy who wrote the theme song for Gilligan’s Island died a few days ago at the ripe old age of 87. He also wrote the Christmas song The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, among other things, and was an Emmy nominated producer for things like the Brady Bunch Special and The Captain and Tenille. Here’s the whole enchilada: ZENtertainment.

By the way, we’ve talked quite a bit about personality types like cat and dog people, shower and bath people, etc. Whenever I’m asked the infamous question, “Ginger or Mary Ann?” it’s like, duh… Mary Ann!

By the way, if you click her pic, you can go to the official Mary Ann website.

On a sadder note, it’s hard to find George Wyle on Google if you don’t put quotes around it, because it keeps trying to show results for ‘George Clooney’ and ‘Noah Wyle’ – I think I’m ready for Z-Gen.

It ain't yella, but it's a b-i-g bird! I had one of those magical moments this morning while I was getting ready for work – I was getting a cup of coffee when I looked out of our kitchen window and saw a Great Blue Heron sitting on top of the privacy screen of our deck. This isn’t him in the picture, but that’s OK, because I looked at a whole bunch of pictures on Google, and you just can’t get the sense that this thing is like 42″ tall. He was bigger than the wild turkeys that have also passed through, and I’m pretty sure that if he’d been inside the kitchen there with me, he could easily have eaten off our counters.

Spuds Hey, here’s a neat thing. I’ve discovered that it works great to cook Tater Tots on a piece of aluminum foil on the top rack of my gas grill. I make a little tray and spray it with cooking spray and put the Tots out while the grill is warming up and I’m in making the burgers. They get done just in time to come off with the burgers, you don’t have to heat up the oven or dirty a pan, and I think they come out especially crisp and delicious.