Friday, October 07, 2005

Signal to noise

Who uses it: Sound engineers
What it means: The ratio of meaningful information to background noise. Audio reproduction seeks the highest possible signal-to-noise ratio.
How you can use it: When you're filtering useful information from everything else.

Thanks to Tom Ehrenfeld for suggesting this phrase, which already has a fair amount of mainstream use. I first heard the term from my cousin-in-law Greg Cameron, a master of sound who was also the first person to convince me that wearing earplugs at a club isn't a sissy thing to do.

I feel like I ought to comment on the week's biggest celebrity news, but what can I say that wouldn't sound bitter and envious? Come on, people, they're totally in love. He's amazing.

Thank goodness my cousin Sheila is still on the case, looking out for that poor unborn baby Scientologist. Check out the latest at

I'm off to the Fryeburg Fair today, despite the crummy weather. Meanwhile, here's

What I Read this Week

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys. Not so much a sequel to American Gods as a novel set in the same universe, like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Fat Charlie Nancy returns to Florida to bury his father, and discovers that he has a brother he never knew – a brother who inherited their father’s powers. Anansi Boys is, in some ways, a better novel than American Gods -- tighter, with more sharply-drawn characters, and a much cleaner ending – but American Gods changed the way its readers saw the world, and Anansi Boys doesn’t aim that high.

Alice McDermott, Child of My Heart. What was I saying last week about not reading sensitive books about people like me? I should shut up, already. Alice McDermott writes amazing books about people just like me, and she could scrawl out a shopping list and I’d call it brilliant. This small, quiet novel tells the story of the summer Theresa was 15, when she was “mother’s helper” to a famous artist’s toddler and protector of her fragile cousin, Daisy. McDermott is a novelist of details, and always shows us familiar things in ways that feel new.

Joseph Finder, Paranoia. Slacker Adam Cassidy stages what he thinks is a relatively minor stunt in his high-tech job, and winds up blackmailed into becoming a corporate spy against his company’s biggest competition. As he gets into the assignment, however, he discovers that he genuinely cares about the work he’s doing and the people he’s fooling – and he has no idea what’s really going on. Nothing is more satisfying than a good conspiracy thriller, and this is terrific. It’s so comforting to think that someone might actually be that smart, and have a handle on it all. I’d love to be manipulated… it would be so much easier than having to make my own decisions.

Ciara Considine, ed., Moments: Irish Women Writers in Aid of the Tsunami Victims. This short story collection, a benefit for tsunami relief, is available only in Ireland. I ordered a copy for curiosity value, because it includes a story called “The Cycle” by a previously-unpublished writer named Laura Froom. Miss Froom, some may know, is the title character of an award-nominated short story by John Connolly, and “Laura Froom” is Connolly himself, who agreed to submit a story at the editor’s request. “The Cycle” is a shaggy-dog horror story that would be funny and frightening, if written by a woman; written by a man, it's even funnier, and all the more horrifying, on a couple of different levels. The quality of Moments’ stories varies wildly, but contributions by Clare Boylan, Denise Deegan, and Karen Gillece are among the collection’s other highlights.

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