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Iain Banks Dies of Cancer At 59 141

An anonymous reader writes "BBC News is reporting that Iain Banks, best known for his Culture series novels and The Wasp Factory, has died of cancer aged 59. It had been announced several months ago that he was suffering from bladder cancer, and he had stated his intentions to spend his remaining time visiting places which meant a lot to him after marrying his partner."

'Green' Galaxy Recycles Gas, Supercharges Star Birth 36

astroengine writes "In a galaxy, far, far away (6 billion light-years away to be precise), the most efficient star 'factory' has been discovered. Called SDSSJ1506+54, this galaxy generates a huge quantity of infrared radiation, the majority being generated by a compact region at its core. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer first spotted the galactic oddity and Hubble confirmed the maelstrom of stellar birthing near its core. But the most amazing thing? This galaxy is the 'greenest' factory yet discovered — it uses 100 percent of all the available hydrogen to supply the protostars, leaving no waste. 'This galaxy is remarkably efficient,' said lead scientist Jim Geach of McGill University in a NASA news release. 'It's converting its gas supply into new stars at the maximum rate thought possible.'"

Comment Re:Oh you and your sentimentality. (Score 1) 390

When we bought the DVD set I watched Jurassic Bark once and swore never again. No show has ever reduced me to a blubbering mess that quickly (although the opening scene of Pixar's 'UP' is a pretty close second.)

In fact, a small, brown unloved mongrel who looked just like Seymour owes his life to my family seeing that episode.

Comment Re:Sources? (Score 2) 628

Totally agree with you regarding moronic UI designer arrogance. It is the same attitude that gives us 'mobile' versions of websites (often without any way back to the normal version than changing the User Agent string in your device's browser) which disable zooming. The only justification I've heard is that it 'preserves the integrity of the design' which matters not one fucking iota if the user can't actually see the content that the design is meant to be presenting.

Comment Re:Get a friend to help (Score 1) 189

Tracking the baton movement could be fairly difficult though. Even squeezing out a beat while concentrating on singing might be more difficult than it appears. I mean, just following the conductor rather than the musicians around you can be a challenge even for experienced musicians. I've done a fair bit of conducting, and I know how hard it can be to get a band to realise you actually want them to go a bit faster! Getting someone to do that and communicate it in two dimensions in real time while actually singing properly... that would be a special singer indeed!

Actually, that could be a rather interesting exercise. Getting members of the choir to track the conductor's movement on someone else's hand (who then have to concentrate on the hand signals rather than what other people are singing) could be a good way to reinforce the importance of paying attention to the dude/dudette with the stick!

Comment Re:motion tracking video (Score 1) 189

I've been sitting at my desk for the last couple of minutes studying my own conducting style. I've always tried to maintain a very clear beat (a lot of my conducting over the years has involved beginner bands, so communicating where the beat is is far more important than it might be in more professional outfits.)

Anyway, I've noticed that my style is very three dimensional. My upbeat, for example, starts near my sternum, goes out from my body and follows a roughly circular path back to near my forehead. The other beats seem to do similar things. Now that I'm looking at it, that back-and-forward axis is quite pronounced, and may explain why my tuba players (who sit on my immediate right) never complain that they can't read my conducting.

Which goes to your original point---depending on the conductor, a side mounted camera might actually work, so long as it can still read two directions.

The problem I have now is that I'm going to be very, VERY conscious of my style come Thursday night!

Comment Re:motion tracking video (Score 1) 189

The reason (I'm spitballing here) that I think the beat come at the point of highest acceleration is that that is the point when the conductor applies the most force to his or her arm. It's been years since I studied physics (or physiology) but I imagine that would be very close to the point of highest acceleration.

All that said, I've had conductors that seem to anticipate their own beat. For them, the beat actually comes just after they hit the bottom. In fact, it probably come at the moment of highest acceleration of the little 'bounce' that follows the beat (which is probably the curve upwards you mention).

You're certainly right about the other cues. They're probably not so important though, so long as the song goes more or less as it does in rehearsal. A blind person will have some idea of what is about to happen (although I'll grant that it's not ideal.) Guessing the exact moment when the first note is meant to be sung to within a very small fraction of a second isn't something I'd enjoy.

Comment Re:motion tracking video (Score 1) 189

Motion tracking may or may not be a good idea, but if you're to try it, don't do it from the side. The side-to-side movement is just as important to a musician as the up and down, especially at the start of a piece. (For example, if a conductor wants to bring the group in on a fourth beat anacrusis by beating beats two and three, the important movement will only be sideways, or away-from/towards the sensor.)

This is a big problem for me---I play to the conductor's side in a band I'm in and it's very easy to confuse florid sideways movement with up- and downbeats.

Comment Re:No way to see! (Score 2) 189

Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever sung in a choir in which the conductor uses a baton. It's standard in bands, but it doesn't seem to be so much in choral work, at least in my circles.

Now that I think about it more, the few times I've conducted choirs I don't think I've used a stick, even when one was available. It seems wrong putting an instrument in my hand when the musicians don't have one.

Comment Re:And? (Score 2) 262

Seeing that a reasonable amount of your rant was about the Israel-bans-thin-models story:

Note the Israeli law on thin models ONLY applies to females.

According to abc new, the law "targets adults in general, [but] it is clearly aimed at female models."

(I think that law btw, while possibly well-intentioned is not thought through & impossible to enforce.)

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