On Pulse

I will never understand how so many people can continue to find more solace in hatred and conflict than in peace and tolerance. It is such a strong toxin that it consumes your soul and your humanity to the point where you can no longer see yourself in others. Yet time and time again intelligent, passionate, thinking human beings choose that path and rationalize the unconscionable.

No child is born with hatred. It is an emotion that we as a country, we as a civilization, and we as a species choose to continue to allow to exist. Still worse, not only do we allow it but we actively cultivate it. This emotion that serves no purpose beyond causing us to kill ourselves. We breed it in ourselves and in others. And for what? To feel a tiny inconsequential speck of superiority in this vast uncaring universe?

Far too often we speak of tragedy and conflict as if it were an unavoidable outgrowth of our mere existence. We blame religion, we blame politics, we blame greed, we blame poverty. Yet we ignore the fact that all of those things are of ourselves. This is what we as a species have collectively chosen to create for ourselves. We choose to value conquest over community. We choose to create religions that foster intolerance over acceptance. We choose to divide us from them. And we choose to kill our own kind.

We must remember that the world we live in is not an inevitability. Our civilization is what we make it, and therefore we can change it. We can choose to build our communities without tearing down others. We can choose to throw away this man-made rhetoric that tells us who to despise and who to revere. We can choose to share our prosperity so that we all become more equal. And we can choose to not kill each other.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Netflix’s New Algorithm

The news articles about this made it sound like Netflix had invented their own H.264 encoder just to optimize bitrate levels. Which would be a waste of time since x264 already has a constant quality mode that will choose bitrate based on quality rather than quality based on bitrate.

If you read their tech blog though what they’re really doing is actually more interesting. Their problem is that they still need to define quantized quality levels that will smoothly increase based on available bandwidth. Previously what they were using is a linear bandwidth scale that wasted bandwidth for videos of low complexity and didn’t give enough bandwidth for videos of high complexity because video quality increases logarithmically given a linear bandwidth scale.

Their innovation actually isn’t that they came up with some new encoding algorithm like the news suggested. It’s that they were able to figure out a method for finding encoding parameters that generate a linear quality scale while still maintaining a constant bitrate. Because the problem with just using constant quality mode is that by default your bitrate is unbounded so the video may suddenly jump from 1mbps to 5mbps to maintain the quality which if you’re streaming means your video might stop and buffer at the beginning of any action scene.

So it seems like what they’re doing is doing a sample encode of each video using a linear constant quality scale. Then taking the average bitrate produced by each of those sample encodes and using it to construct a bitrate curve that linear in quality and constant in bitrate. What they don’t mention and what I would be curious to find out is how they’re then encoding the final videos. Whether they’re still using constant bitrate mode just with algorithmically determined bitrate levels which would still waste bandwidth on low complexity scenes within a video, or whether they’re actually using constant quality mode but with a bitrate cap set at each level so the bitrate never increases beyond a certain level.

Why Should I Vote?

A lot of people seem to be of the opinion:

Why should I vote? Nothing’s going to change anyway.

This type of cynicism and pessimism is like a cancer of apathy that seems to run rampant through society today. So many people seem to have convinced themselves that failure is such a foregone conclusion that they don’t even bother to try. Either not realizing or choosing to ignore the fact that this very attitude of defeatism is a large part of the problem.

Problems will never be solved by people who assume they cannot be. Same as the human race did not travel 380,000 kilometers to set foot on the moon by thinking that a mystical higher power that we ourselves invented did not mean for us to fly, neither will a student ever do well in school by assuming that they are too stupid to understand their work. The idea that things will never get better is so thoroughly and unremittingly disproved by history as to be totally absurd to even begin to consider as a truism. You will never move a mountain if you never start digging.

Meaning and purpose is something people so crave in their lives that they will go to the ends of the Earth and beyond to find someone or something to give it to them. While not realizing that the only thing in this universe capable imbuing meaning to anything is their own self. Purpose is bestowed by unfailingly dedicating yourself to something to want to see made real. So if you don’t like the way things are then don’t hinder change by refusing to attempt it.

John Lennon’s idea that “War is Over, If You Want It” is at once both naive and unquestionably true. Just as we are the only beings that can create destruction and chaos, so are we the only ones that can stop it.

The first step to a different future is realizing that you may have to build the path yourself.

Not in My Neighborhood

Lately I’ve been reading Not in My Neighborhood by Antero Pietila. It’s the story of how racial prejudice and legally mandated segregation led Baltimore to become more famous for its heroin and blight than its harbor and monuments.

Another thing I did recently was use Google Fusion and data released by Baltimore City on the locations of all properties deemed “uninhabitable” to come up with this map.

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Take a look at McCulloh Street. It’s just west of Eutaw Place in the northwest corner of the city. On June 9, 1910 Margaret Franklin Brewer – a white woman – sold 1834 McCulloh Street to W. Ashbie Hawkins, a black lawyer. Three weeks later The Baltimore Sun reported on the sale, declaring there was a “Negro Invasion” occurring in Baltimore.

Six months later on December 9, 1910, Baltimore became the first legislature in the nation to use the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson to justify legally dividing the entire city into “white blocks” and “black blocks”, with McCulloh Street as a major dividing line between the two. And now, 114 years later you can still see that dividing line on the map in the number of abandoned houses on either side of the street.

If you’ve ever wondered how Baltimore ended up the way it has I highly recommend checking out that book. It’s an, at times, surprising and disturbing story but one well worth knowing about of everything from racism and bigotry to eugenics and redlining.

We also did a Neighborhood Beat with the author a few years ago at CCBC that you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6Nh–bxAYU. And you can view a larger version of the map here.

Maryland Broadcast Center

From the Archives: Trying to decide on the name and phone number of the new York Rd. WMAR studios.

Looks like WBAL’s “Radio News Center of Maryland” never quite caught on.

Early Television in Australia

Early TV broadcasting, Brisbane by ABC Archives on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Experiments with television broadcasting systems took place in Australia as early as the 1930s. Here Thomas M. B. Elliott, under the auspices of Dr. Valentine McDowall is pictured with his experimental equipment at the convict-built old Windmill in Brisbane in 1934

Thanks to “QldRadioTVPioneers” for the following additional info on this image

‘Newspapers (Telegraph 1930 July), indicate that the installation of the television apparatus commenced in July 1930. Experiments began in l931, with good results. The gentleman pictured is Thomas M. B. Elliott, under the auspices of Dr. Valentine McDowall. Both are accredited as being the pioneers of radio, television and radiography in Queensland. The station call sign was VK4CM, Observatory Tower, Wickham Terrace, Brisbane.’

ABC Reference ID: abc.net.au/photo/DP040080