Relive the ’80s with the Korg Volca FM synthesizer

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Synths are great. You push a key, turn a few knobs and suddenly you’re making "music." So when keyboard maker Korg realized it had a hit with its low-cost, entry-level Monotron series, it was only natural to follow it up with something that had a little more bite. Enter the Volca line keyboards. At $160, they’re not in the same impulse-purchase range as the $50 Monotrons, but at least one of these synthesizers is a welcome addition for would-be Kraftwerk disciples workings toward converting their garage into sprawling mess of wires and flashing lights.

Of the highly focused new Volca models (bass, loops, beats, etc.) I tested the Volca FM, which is based on the wildly influential Yamaha DX7 digital synth. Both use frequency modulation to create a "metallic" sound — sort of as if your keyboard were attached to a piece of aluminum siding. It’s a crisp timbre that was used extensively in the 1980s by artists like Depeche Mode, Kenny Loggins (DANGER ZONE!), Phil Collins, Tears for Fears, both Janet and Michael Jackson, and really anyone you’d find on a "totally ’80s!" playlist.

Sure, the pedigree is impressive (DANGER ZONE!), but what really matters is that the Volca FM is a powerful little synth you can pick up for $160.

Similar to the Monotron line, the Volca FM has a ribbon keyboard so you’re not going to be hammering out complex songs in real time on the touch-sensitive layout. Still, thanks to the step sequencer that can link as many as 16 sequences of 16 steps together, so you can build incredibly elaborate patterns. It even records knob twists. So if you want to crank up the modular decay during a certain hit that’s part of your final loop, go for it.

It’s all great until you try to edit a sequence. While building out your steps, going back to correct a mistake or just make an adjustment is frustrating, and I usually ended up starting over. For simple patterns it’s not that big a deal. But if you’re creating something complex, get ready for a long night of throwing your hands in the air.

But the Volca is so crammed with features that any minor frustration is quickly eclipsed when you’re playing the arpeggiator, LFO, chorus and the choice of three voice polyphonic sounds, monophonic or mono setting. It even supports the file formats of the DX7 so you can add additional sound patches. The deeper you dive into this keyboard, the better the value.

The electronics are housed in a smoky translucent case that feels solid enough to handle being transported to gigs. There’s a tiny speaker on the bottom that’s serviceable but won’t replace headphones for the best sounds. But thanks to the addition of battery power, the Volca FM quickly became the go-to test bed for off-the-cuff ideas at my house. Why dig a synth out of its storage case, plug it into the wall and find some headphones when I can have this tiny synth in my lap right when the mood hits me?

Another pleasant surprise was that in the studio it didn’t exhibit the line noise that makes the Monotrons less than ideal for live performances. And while there’s no tap tempo button, you can sync it via MIDI to devices so you’re not trying to line up your beats on the fly while on stage.

Throw in an old-school seven-segment LED display and the Volca FM is a fun and surprisingly powerful synth that should be equally at home on stage and in your living room.

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Learn to Spot a Liar With These Verbal Signs

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At times, lies seem so harmless, but they can stress us out, and even cost us money. On a more subtle level, it changes our pattern of speech, and since most of us aren’t as good at lying as we think, if you know what to look for you can probably catch a lie in the act.

The explanation for why we lie is pretty straightforward: we want to connect ourselves to who we think we should be, rather than just being the person we are, this TED-Ed video explains.

Stories based on lies, or “imagined experiences”, are different from real experiences because we have to put a bit of thought into it. As such, we’ll change the way we speak without even knowing it. Specifically, there are four notable indicators:

  1. Minimal self-references: Liars often use the third-person to distance themselves from the deceptive statements.
  2. Negative language: Liars tend to be more negative because on a subconscious level, they feel guilty about lying.
  3. Simple explanations: Liars typically recount stories or events in simple terms because it’s hard for the brain to come up with a complex lie (at least on the spot).
  4. Convoluted phrasing: Liars use longer, more convoluted sentences with irrelevant details when they could be more straight to the point.

The rest of the video spends time applying these key points to examples in our culture, examining how certain public figures change their way of speaking from one interview (presumably where they lie) to another (where they tell the truth). As we’ve written in other articles, looking for nonverbal cues is also important.

The Language of Lying | TED-Ed

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Gunman kills 50 at Orlando club in worst mass shooting in U.S. history

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A mass shooting has occurred at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, according to multiple reports.

It is currently unclear how many people have been injured and if there have been any deaths. Some reports state at least one gunman is currently barricading himself the nightclub with hostages, while up to 20 people may have been shot. 

Pulse Nightclub posted a status update on Facebook around 2 a.m. telling patrons to run. Patrons replied on the Facebook update with various confirmations of the incident at the club.

Ricardo Almodovar, who claimed he was present at the club at the time of the shooting, wrote on Facebook that a shooter opened fire inside the busy club. 

“People on the dance floor and bar got down on the floor and some of us who were near the bar and back exit managed to go out through the outdoor area and just ran. I am safely home and hoping everyone gets home safely as well,” he wrote. 

Other patrons called for help on Twitter and described a disturbing scene. 

Footage has emerged from the scene, showing a large police presence as ambulances arrived at the nightclub.

The shooting happened the night after former “The Voice” singer Christina Grimmie was shot dead after performing at The Plaza Live in the same city. Grimmie was shot and killed by a man who is believed to be a deranged fan, while she signed autographs after the show. The Plaza is a mere 3.5 miles away from Pulse Nightclub. 

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

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A Visual Guide to Glasses and Frame Measurements

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Whether you’re on your first pair of glasses or your tenth, you may still be put off by phrases like “temple arms” and “lens height,” especially if you’re interested in shopping for your own frames. This visual guide shows you what all those terms mean so you can buy confidently.

This is another graphic from the folks at Zenni Optical (one of your favorite online glasses stores, and again, someone with a vested interest in having you buy your frames from them, so keep that in mind) but the information within is good to know. Using a pair of glasses as a guide, they diagram out lens height and width, frame width, temple arms, and more, so you understand what you’re looking at when a frame retailer—online or off—explains the measurements for their frames. They even offer a few tips to keep your lenses thinner and frames more comfortable. Check out the whole graphic below.

How to Measure Your Eyeglass Frames Size | Zenni Optical

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