May 31, 2005

Busy

Gettin' ready for NYC and another long weekend. It should be the last until the end of the contract in July, although my boss has been trying to find work to extend my stay, as was his boss's boss (my Great-grand-boss). Busy doing a lot of Java at home over the past several days. Finally finished the arrangement for The Who song a couple of days ago and will clean it up and post it before I leave. Got the new version of Allegro, but not sure if it has any better exporting. Dad left last Wednesday for his 6-month hike down the Appalachian Trail [Wikipedia] (beginning in Maine). We should hear from him again in a week or so. He'll be sending photos and such, and I'll try to find a way to get them posted.

NYC will be fun. Plans for: Philip Glass concert, the Statue of Liberty (I was up in her head in 5th grade--wish I would've left my initials to re-discover!), Flute (a hip champagne bar), and DJ Sasha at Crobar.

crow

Continue reading "Busy"
posted by sstrader at 11:22 PM in Misc | permalink | comments (0)

May 30, 2005

Control

Another weird rule that rules my life: I won't practice piano unshowered.

This rule, recently, made me think of how many little rules I have. Blogs can be, but don't have to be, enablers to certain harmless qualities of OCD. Categorize this and file that. My obsession with organization (another activity besides recycling of what makes me happy) is a symptom of a need to control my world, but I'm not sure why. If you'd have asked me, as one of those millions of What Type of X Are You quizzes probably does, if I feel (A) in control or (B) out of control of my life, I'd say A with little hesitation.

But something's nagging at me. Why so many silly rules?

Some rules are because I get so distracted. Shower-comb-floss-brush-deodorant-iron-dress-done. If I do one out of order, I'm likely to forget whether I've done it at all because I'm generally thinking some dumb-ass thought while I'm doing it and not paying attention. But some other rules are just from a desire to control my environment--usually where it's unnecessary. And what's more, I think those rules have been multiplying lately.

(Tangent: creatively, a person has to embrace a certain lack of control. You can't force creativity; you can only learn your own personal tricks to tap into it. In order to tap in, you must relinquish control.)

posted by sstrader at 5:06 PM in Misc | permalink | comments (0)

May 29, 2005

Expletive

I keep going back to this essay [via language hat] examining the possible grammatic structure of the sentence "fuck you." Good stuff. More baffling than funny unless you're a language geek.

posted by sstrader at 12:55 PM in Language & Literature | permalink | comments (0)

Terms

There's a weird reversal that happens with friends.

Strangers will point out your quirks or failings as points of failure. That changes with people who know you. Familiarity breeds familiarity, and your uniquenesses become transparent to anyone who's consistently around them. They're no longer you, you're you, and they become background noise. But then eventually they reappear, somehow, and you go back to being for-lack-of-a-more-accurate-term judged. And that's kindof a shame, but that's how things are. Maybe we need to be judged sometimes.

posted by sstrader at 12:11 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

May 28, 2005

Dawkins and the value of uncertainty

Dawkins gives a passionate and eloquent defense of scientists plagued by the deceit of Intelligent Design. Scientists revel in the unknown in the hope to make it known. That admission of uncertainty, even when used as rhetorical setup to make the reveal of a truth more dramatic, is being used with deceitful misquoting by ID advocates.

Today’s scientist in America dare not say: “Hm, interesting point. I wonder how the weasel frog’s ancestors did evolve their elbow joint. I’ll have to go to the university library and take a look.” No, the moment a scientist said something like that the default conclusion would become a headline in a creationist pamphlet: “Weasel frog could only have been designed by God.”

Jackasses.

Scientific American's article "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense" should be required reading for high school students. In fact, it should be put on stickers in the front of every biology book.

Continue reading "Dawkins and the value of uncertainty"
posted by sstrader at 11:37 AM in Science & Technology | permalink | comments (0)

Ghost friend

I have a friend who often tells stories about her and her co-worker, Shawanda (a white woman, no less). "Shawanda and I did such-and-such...," "I was telling Shawanda about our weekend in Destin...," and the like. I realized where Kramer's Bob Sacamano [Wikipedia] or even Norm's [Wikipedia] wife originate. We have all of these named-yet-unseen characters [Wikipedia] that are almost a part of the group.

I kinda want to know what's going on with Shawanda. What's she got planned for this weekend?

A couple of jobs back, the company used Lotus Notes for email, documentation, and general group-ware stuff. One aspect that was great was that it also contained everyone's pass-card photo. This was a big company, so whenever I needed to be in a meeting with someone I had never met before, I'd look at their photos to get a head start on the always difficult task of combining names and faces. I shared a very small office with four (yes, four) other contracters, and eventually sent their photos home so that Lisa could see who I was talking about whenever I'd retell one of our adventures. Five guys in an office can get into some interesting (ok, maybe just silly) conversations, and I guess it's easier to keep track of the retelling if you know who everyone looks like. Although it sortof breaks the rule of unseen characters.

posted by sstrader at 10:33 AM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (1)

May 27, 2005

Life

I've said it before: I don't understand gaming. I'm a geek that was born without that gene, so I guess I'm an outcast amongst outcasts. However, I love the idea of the Sims games (having played SimCity and, of all things, SimAnt for short periods of time in college). And I'm reallly fascinated by the potential of a new game by SimCity creator Will Wright called Spore. Within an online universe, you create life and evolve it from amoeba to interplanetary civilization. Highly developed civilizations can then interact with each other.

Holy crap.

spore world

I'm not sure that I'd play it--again, no game-gene--but what cool software to work on.

posted by sstrader at 1:26 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

Exception handling in a limited domain

Two of the best features of C++ exception handling are transparency and the propagation of rich content. With good design, exceptions can eliminate intrusive error checking and the related structural code required to support that checking, making your error handling effectively transparent. Along with that structural code, error information based on POD types is replaced with class hierarchies that can provide a richer set of information on errors. I'm still refactoring code at work and have just ran across a good example of how exception handling simplified an area I was working on.

Continue reading "Exception handling in a limited domain"
posted by sstrader at 11:14 AM in Programming | permalink | comments (0)

May 26, 2005

Chopin list

Yay.

----------------------------------------------------------------
This shipment contains the following item(s):
----------------------------------------------------------------
Chopin, Frederic: Piano sonata B flat minor op. 35
Qty: 1 at $19.95 each (HE.289)

Chopin, Frederic: Piano sonata B minor op. 58
Qty: 1 at $17.95 each (HE.290)

----------------------------------------
Items Subtotal:             37.90
0% tax:                      0.00
shipping & handling:         2.99
----------------------------------------
Total:                      40.89
Continue reading "Chopin list"
posted by sstrader at 11:10 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 25, 2005

Thrown off the beach

Almost as bad as thinking about friends moving away is thinking of how many recycleables I let get thrown away at Destin. Especially since recycling is a major part of what makes me happy. I'm kicking myself now for not having planned some way to collect and bring back all of those bottles.

Next trip.

Continue reading "Thrown off the beach"
posted by sstrader at 9:58 PM in Misc | permalink | comments (0)

Off the beach

Wednesday is the perfect post-vacation Monday. Am I the first person to have disovered this? Drinkin' coffee and warmin' back up to the code and eatin' an ice cream sandwich (Big Wigs from the home office are in, so meeting leftovers are appearing randomly in the breakroom).

We encountered a range of wildlife at Destin. At least one frog made it into a late-night drunken photograph session. Weird-lookin' lizards too. And I discovered why those wacky sand pipers run up to the edge of the water whenever the waves flow out. When the water comes in, sand fleas expose themselves from under the sand to eat whatever it is sand fleas eat. As the waves flow back out, there's a short period where they remain partially exposed. Once we figured this out, the sand flea hunt was afoot (yes, still reading Sherlock Holmes)! That kept us occupied for about 10 minutes. During the day, however, we saw the slightly more intimidating sea creature: the wily shark.

Mister Jaw

The two that we saw were about 3-4 feet long and maybe 20 feet from shore. Responding to cries of "shark," swimmers would rush out of the water, then slowly filter back in. I think it was the most exercise we got all weekend.

There were several discussions about the possibility of moving away from Atlanta. We've thought before about what it'd be like to move to another city and start fresh. It's an odd concept to consider being faced with that isolation without moving.

posted by sstrader at 3:25 PM in Misc | permalink | comments (0)

Musique

From bobafred, a meme:

Total volume of music on your computer:

Windows says 13.9 GB (15,002,454,257 bytes) in the Music directory on the network. RealPlayer's organizer says 3,106 songs, 275:02:04 hours:minutes:seconds of music and 13.12 GB. There may be a few radio shows I haven't added to RP.

The last album you purchased was:

Two Fiery Furnaces CDs for our trip to Destin; Blueberry Boat and EP.

Song playing right now:

All is silence since we returned from Destin. So, I guess I could say I'm currently listening to John Cage's 4'33".

Five songs you’ve been listening to a lot recently, from several genres:

My playlist pretty much says it all, but I can be more specific:

  1. Shostakovich, Preludes Op. 34, No. 6
  2. The Fiery Furnaces, "Here Comes the Summer" from EP. It reminds me of ABBA, of all things, yet I like it.
  3. Woody 'N You, Coleman Hawkins & His Orchestra. From the boxed set that I picked up in a Dublin flea market for 20 Euro called Bebop Spoken Here [Amazon] (and is finally available on Amazon). Much of it is extremely lo-fi, but the music comes from that great in-between period from big band to bebop. 97 tracks of groovy fun.

Five people to whom you’re passing the baton:

Since my range of music is as limited as my online aquaintences, and since the exponential implications of sending this out to five more people could be disastrous to all available space on the Internets, I'll limit my infliction of this meme to The Centrifuge to get him out of his non-posting funk.

Continue reading "Musique"
posted by sstrader at 12:26 PM in Misc | permalink | comments (2)

May 23, 2005

Crash

Odd contrast: the movie Crash details racial tensions within the backdrop of LA. In real life, LA citizens just voted into office their first hispanic mayor in over 100 years. He had the support of hispanics, blacks, and whites.

posted by sstrader at 12:56 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

May 21, 2005

In the drink

At the beach (posting from my phone). Ahh.

The road trip to Destin was a little rough last night, but the payoff was worth it. The weather and water is perfect. Damp air in Atlanta is muggy and oppressive; at the beach it's refreshing. (hollismb says hey).

But, ack, I'm already burned. What is it about covering myself with a greasy substance that I resist?

Road music was:

  • The Shostakovich preludes and fugues - I am in pain by how beautiful these are,
  • The Sibelius Symphony #1 and Violin Concerto - poor recording off of Internet radio but great pieces,
  • The Fiery Furnaces' EP and Blueberry Boat - Amazon Marketplace purchases fell through, so I picked them up at the Buckhead Tower Records. Talked about missing the Emory concert with the cute teen cashier. I love Tower.
  • Pizzicato Five. A good-timin' CD that is equal parts trash and inventiveness. Makes me want to learn Japanese.
Continue reading "In the drink"
posted by sstrader at 3:55 PM in Misc | permalink | comments (0)

May 19, 2005

By Person added to RadioWave

I finally got back into the RadioWave code and added a By Person tab. This first iteration lists all current, future, and file-based content by person. Past content is excluded unless it was recorded, and any content where the person couldn't be determined is excluded. It's still a little shakey, but that'll work itself out. I plan on adding a filter for the content type (only files, only recorded streams, etc.).

After using it, I was immediately reminded of Clay Shirky's admonitions against classifications and praise for dynamic linking (acyclic graphs). My impressions with regard to the new RadioWave feature may be based on the limited content, but I think that the search feature is more useful than this new categorization. However, the tabs that provide hourly and station-based filters are also classifications, and they seem very useful. I suspect the difference between those classifications and the person classification is the amount of data and the semantics of that data. The current hour of the day far outweighs the importance of any other hours. Similarly, a specific station's content is unique and worthy of emphasizing on its own. I thought that categorizing artists/DJs was the next logical step. Instead, I think it's easier to search for "Shostakovich" than to navigate to the correct (Sa-Sz) page.

Continue reading "By Person added to RadioWave"
posted by sstrader at 12:45 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Currently Listening To

Piano works by Shostakovich performed by Konstantin Scherbakov. It doesn't get much better.

I anticipated being absorbed with the preludes and fugues, yet the odd characteristics of the opus 34 preludes have taken over my interest. It's been great driving-to-work music. The opus 87 pieces need more focus and promise to be more rewarding. I'm anxious to get the scores (just received the shipping confirmation yesterday) in order to examine more closely his dissonances and key relationships. I long ago bought and fell in love with his string quartets (#1 through #15 in six CDs by the Emerson Quartet).

I've also been cleaning up my RadioWave recordings and have begun listening to a few of those. I have Vasily Kalinnikov's Symphonies #1 and #2. I had never heard of him before--kindof an exuberant Rachmaninoff, but a little more corny. They're worth a listen. I've also got more tasteful works from Sibelius. His Symphonies #1, 2, and 5, and his wonderful Violin Concerto. I never listened to enough Sibelius, so now's my chance.

Just recorded the Sibelius Symphony #6, so I added that to the list.
And now I recorded the Sibelius Symphony #3, so that's been added also.
Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 12:20 AM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 18, 2005

Galloway rules

I listened to excerpts of George Galloway completely owning the Senate during the oil-for-food (spelled g.o.p.s.m.o.k.e.s.c.r.e.e.n.) hearings. Political Affairs has some choice excerpts. He's definitely got mad skills. It was the most beautiful thing I'd heard in a while: a strong debater not tripped up by conservative bullying.

I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

Which reminds me: my first thought after the British election (as with many Americans) was: you guys are as dumb as we are, re-electing a lier for another term. But during their pre-election campaigning, their admirably sucinct campaigning, I was envious. Blair many times, and publicly, faced angry constituents--a situation unfathomable in America. But in the end ... even the Downing Street memo could have no effect.

Continue reading "Galloway rules"
posted by sstrader at 3:13 PM in Politics | permalink | comments (5)

OSV

Anthony Lane bitching about Yoda's technique of wisdom-through-fractured-grammar:

Break me a fucking give.
Continue reading "OSV"
posted by sstrader at 1:42 PM in Cinema | permalink | comments (4)

May 17, 2005

radioSHARK

radioSHARK is a Mac/PC product for time shift recording of AM and FM radio. It requires a slick-lookin' shark fin shaped radio that hooks up to a USB port, and the companion software to set up time-based recording (as opposed to named-schedule recording).

radioSHARK

The software looks usable and simple, and it saves to AIFF, AAC (Mac), or WAV (PC). For $70, this is an affordable, if niche, little tool. I use High Criteria's Total Recorder software to record streaming stations for RadioWave. It is powerful, inexpensive ($12), and they have a nice Primer on PC Audio on their site, along with information on where to get the popular Lame MP3 encoder (and, most importantly, a command-line interface). I really appreciate companies that offer reference information unrelated to purely selling their product. Listen up, companies: become the de facto clearing-house for your knowledge domain and you'll win over a lot of customers.

Continue reading "radioSHARK"
posted by sstrader at 9:52 AM in Science & Technology | permalink | comments (0)

May 16, 2005

The alternative to emergent ontologies

I recently summarized a few thoughts about merging the top-down and bottom-up systems of WordNet and tagging as a good solution to fixing the brittleness of a tagged ontology. Clay Shirky suggests that combinatorial principles [Wikipedia] could be used to find the ontology inherent in the set of tags. Instead of merging a semantic hierarchy with search engine predicate calculus, the sematics would be derived from the liklihood that tags occur in specific combinations.

In natural language processing [Wikipedia], many parts of speech taggers will use a similar method (as a hidden Markov model) to tag unknown words based on the surrounding, known words.

It's a compelling argument, and I should have considered it.

Still, if the comparison can be continued, there are no completely probablistic POS taggers. They at least will know about syntactic items such as articles or common morphemes in order to tag the unknown words. It's a popular method, though, and the principle could be useful for tagged ontologies.

Continue reading "The alternative to emergent ontologies"
posted by sstrader at 3:43 PM in Programming | permalink | comments (0)

May 13, 2005

Data and syntax errors

Joel has a new rant about Hungarian notation and exceptions. In it, he outlines the principle that you should code in a manner that makes bad code more apparent. He uses an example of passing string values that must have special formatting in some instances and not others (safe string variable, sValue, and unsafe string variable, usValue). As usual, he goes step-by-step to slowly improve a bad situation. While he generally surprises me by going further than I can imagine with techniques to clean up the code, this time he stopped too soon.

He argued that Hungarian notation would alert programmers when they attempt to copy a normal string variable to a location that requires a formatted string variable (usValue = sValue, wrong). But in his frenzy to praise Hungarian notation (offering up yet another retelling of the history of it) and complain about poor operator overloading (hint: it's bad) he failed to provide a real solution to the problem.

Yeah, tagging variables with clues about their appropriate use is nice, but why not just create classes that forbid inappropriate use. Instead of staying in the realm of data error, use your compiler to notify you of errors.

class String {...};
class FormattedString {...};

String value1;
FormattedString value2;

// This won't compile.
value1 = value2;

Tada. Am I missing some other point he was trying to make?

posted by sstrader at 2:14 PM in Programming | permalink | comments (6)

Parking

A good reason to have lanes that only go one-way in parking lots: so that you can walk back to your car in a lane going in the opposite direction and drivers can't follow. you. every. single. step. at. five. miles. an. hour. in order to get a parking spot--whereas they could've parked 10 minutes ago if they'd just accepted to walk an additional few feet to get to the store. Jackasses.

posted by sstrader at 12:54 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

Rats

Dear Scott D. Strader,

The following title(s) in your order is now permanently out of print at the publisher:

Chopin: Sonatas

They also have nicer editions with only #2 and #3 for about $18 each (instead of the more frugal $10 for all three).

At least they haven't canceled the Shostakovich scores. I'm getting familiar with the opus 34 preludes and have been very much enjoying them. For anyone who says that our culture is decadent with irony, listen to these works from 1934. Specifically #6. It's like everything he's saying has air quotes around it. I'm reminded first of the second movement from Prokofiev's Violin Sonata #1 with its rhythmic schizophrenia, yet that doesn't come close to the sarcasm that Shostakovich puts into this music. In an episode of Family Guy, Peter Griffin learned to play piano but could only play when he was drunk (naturally). During his recital, he began playing the theme song from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and was drunkenly shifted at the piano bench so that one hand was in a different key. That's Shostakovich. He doesn't use polytonality (at least not here, maybe not anywhere?), but he writes familiar passages with just-the-right non-harmonic tones. It gives a sense of desperate invention when faced with the boredom of conventional tonality. The final two pages (if you've read it) of Dave Egger's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a good parallel. It's a cry of "please make this mean something!"

Or maybe it should be viewed as less anguished. Like when Shostakovich's contemporary, Chico Marx, is playing the piano and mugging for the camera as his fingers literally walk up and down the keys. He too is saying "I'm bored with this," but his response to that boredom is a joyful capriciousness.

Continue reading "Rats"
posted by sstrader at 9:51 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 12, 2005

Kabao show tomorrow nite

Gotta support the team.

- David Puddy

Many of us will be meeting up at Northside Tavern at 8 tomorrow before the Kabao show (Music at an art gallery? We must balance it with drinks at a hole-in-the-wall!). I just found out from Ms. Kabao that [i]n the Vibes section of Creative Loafing there is an article about the show tomorrow night. Everyone was metioned EXCEPT KABAO. Curse those free newspapers! Is there no quality control?!? I suspect that word-of-mouth will have more of an effect on attendance anyway.

And tonight we venture to Spice for their every-Thursday $10 bottomless glass of wine (!) and then to Einstein's. Am I the only one who hated the old Einstein's and loves the new Einstein's?

Continue reading "Kabao show tomorrow nite"
posted by sstrader at 1:43 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Tofu marketing

These MP3 download sites kinda bug me.

They seem to be on everyone's mind these days sparked by Tofu Hut's meta-aggregation (see the recent BoingBoing and The Rambler entries). I had been tracking some MP3 sites after Mingaling recommended a few to me, and I got the genius idea to aggregate the links from them.

What I'd hoped is that people are posting Cool Music That They Love. What I often see are the same MP3s (of some band that just happens to be touring right now) plastered across three or four sites. Now, I can imagine that (a) a popular band going on tour would spark many fans' interests, and (b) that interest would result in having many sites just-happen-to-post the exact same MP3 from the band. I can imagine it. Is it that likely though? Or is it more likely that these sites have become guerilla marketing outlets?

Say that many of these MP3 sites are just corporate shills. Is that such a bad thing if, in the end, you get the music you want for free?

It's similar to actors on the talk-show circuit when their movies come out. But that again is corporations controlling the pulse of media. Wasn't this supposed to be some New Way? Weren't individuals supposed to control this pulse?

posted by sstrader at 9:23 AM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

May 11, 2005

Mr. and Ms. Robot

Yay: someone's created a self-replicating robot. And yet, I can't help but feel a little let down. The robots replicate by assembling a collection of four or five pre-built pieces of themselves. And those pieces are merely cubes that lock on to each other with magnets. Is this truly the first of its kind?

I guess robots that assemble themselves from more atomic components, or ones that must search for those components, will eventually be designed from this initial research.

It was pretty neat watching the movie, though! It was like my old Legos were building themselves.

Continue reading "Mr. and Ms. Robot"
posted by sstrader at 11:45 PM in Science & Technology | permalink | comments (0)

the intelligence and facts were being fixed

I've been waiting to see what gets published on the now-stale-yet-still-very-relevant Iraq memo from the London Times. Web posters have been buzzing about it, yet the American press has mostly ignored addressing it in any context. From a Google news search a few days back, I found < 8 articles, mostly from conservative damage control. FAIR has an assessment of the few outlets where it's been discussed. More articles are appearing (including one from Media Matters). This needs to be addressed, and I'm baffled why it's not.

Continue reading "the intelligence and facts were being fixed"
posted by sstrader at 12:31 PM in Politics | permalink | comments (4)

Sheet music purchase

I haven't purchased any new scores in quite a while. I finally received the Shostakovich piano pieces from Amazon (24 Preludes and Fugues for Piano, Op. 87 and 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 34) and heard a review of a recent recording of the Chopin Piano Sonata #2, so I decided to purchase the scores to study. A quick Google search took me to Sheet Music Plus, a site that I believe I've been to before. I finally committed to the Mel Bay edition of the complete Chopin sonatas. When I think of Mel Bay, I think of glossy, 20-page how-to-play-beginning-guitar books, but the publisher is also listed as Koenemann which brought up some favorable comments in Usenet. Also, they appear to be Urtext editions. All for just $10. Nice. The Shostakovich editions are published by DSCH [Wikipedia] of Moscow, with text in Russian and English. His music, I think, is still controlled by family copyright (not really sure how that works internationally), so these should be like getting them from the source.

Based on the search and purchase process, I highly recommend Sheet Music Plus. They rival Amazon in clarity and simplicity of page layout and processing. I hope to soon buy much more music that is beyond my skills!

Chopin: Sonatas (MB.800172)
  - Ships from our warehouse within 24 hours. 
  - Qty: 1 at $9.95 each, $9.95 total

Dmitri Shostakovich - 24 Preludes and Fugues for Piano, Op. 87 (HL.50484225)
  - Ships from our warehouse within 24 hours. 
  - Qty: 1 at $32.50 each, $32.50 total

Dmitri Shostakovich - 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 34 (HL.50484224)
  - Lead time before shipment - 4 to 6 business days. 
  - Qty: 1 at $22.50 each, $22.50 total
Continue reading "Sheet music purchase"
posted by sstrader at 9:56 AM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

May 10, 2005

Two unrelated points on creativity and skill

First:

Write as though everyone you know is dead.

I know I've heard this before, but hearing it again helped reassert its importance. Are you writing from yourself or writing as guided by a perceived audience? The counter-question being: is your work completely self-indulgent?

Second:

Amateur musicians practice a piece until they can play it right; professional musicians practice until they can't play it wrong.

It's tempting, when practicing a difficult passage, to move on to the next difficult passage after a few successful run-throughs. Instead, phrases must be practiced hundreds (etc.) of times alone and within the whole before they're actually successful (the counter-rule being: don't let the passage become mechanical). I had never heard the can't-play-it-wrong quote before, but it's a good consolidation of the intent.

posted by sstrader at 4:28 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Religion and science

Finally, someone else points out the otherwise obvious complaint that those who deride evolution as a mere theory seem to forget that gravity falls into the same bucket. Daily Kos recently made a similar but more nuanced argument that [t]he boundary lines between God and science, however, are always exactly laid at the limiting lines of the practitioner's own education. Fancy that. No creationist is complaining about gravity or even most of biology, yet the assertions of all of these disciplines evolved from the same processes as evolution.

In Joseph Campbell's lecture The Way of Art (originally recommended by The Centrifuge), he defines all of religion as metaphor:

All religions are mythological. You see what that means. They don't realize that Yahweh is a metaphor. The terrible thing about Yahweh is, he didn't realize it either! He thought he was the connotation, don't you see? So, when a metaphor is read with reference not to the connotation but to the denotation, it's a lie. Hence atheism.

Meanwhile, the ones who are worshipers of the metaphor don't know what they are doing, so they are missing the message. Do you get what I'm saying? This is really important stuff. I don't know whether its in the N. Y. Times yet but its important.

If you think your metaphor is the connotation then you think the other guys metaphor is a lie. You see what I mean? And here all these people all over the planet talking about the same connotation, sticking to their metaphors and we're having trouble. I think I've got the answer to the contemporary problem.

This is important stuff. The spiritual is important not because there's a big bearded guy that will help Homer get Moe's bar back but because it's an external metaphor for our understanding of humankind's purpose in this world.

When the journals Science and Nature were accused of editorial abuse by excluding papers from scientists that doubt climate change, I felt that their charges should be addressed by those journals to avoid the assumption of conspiracy. I don't think I feel the same way concerning the silence/absence of scientists at the recent hillbilly creationist debate. Could flat-earthers command such attention?

Continue reading "Religion and science"
posted by sstrader at 1:22 PM in Science & Technology | permalink | comments (0)

May 9, 2005

1 year

My first official post was one year ago today--a rambling review of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver. I was hoping to have a redesign by now (I've got a lot of self-loathing with the layout and CSS), but well ... it was a busy weekend. I need to clean up the layout and clarify the organization so I can find stuff a little easier. I had a few phases of redesign early on as I got comfortable with CSS and MovableType and am finally getting in the mood to dive in again. It's one of those spring-cleaning things: you're happy when it's done, but it eats up too much time to do it.

So, I made it a year and now I can stop with these silly anniversaries.

Continue reading "1 year"
posted by sstrader at 2:32 PM in Misc | permalink | comments (2)

Busy weekend

Which began last Wednesday with The Interpreter [IMDB] at the Lefont Theatre on Ponce and dinner at Pura Vida. Thursday, we missed the bloggers at Manuel's Tavern and the subsequent Simpson's quotes, but made it to a 5 de Mayo party (which later moved to Manuel's, but alas the bloggers had already dissipated). By Friday, I was too wiped out to make it to Oglethorpe's Shake on the Lake performance of Macbeth at Piedmont Park. It was a beautiful night and a great performance from what I heard, but I needed rest and some piano-time. Ended up meeting up with the theater-goers et al. later at Hand in Hand. Saturday was packed with Weirdbabe's wonderful Kentucky Derby party with the wife, Lady Crumpet, and Mr. Arkadin (who won the pool, whereas my horse, Galloping Grocer, didn't even make the race), moved to the amazing movie Born Into Brothels [IMDB] at Woodruff Arts Center with friends, then to Fuego for tapas. Sunday was recycling day (yay!) which included boxes of bottles I snatched from the 5 de Mayo party that were steeping in my trunk (boo!). Dinner at Cafe Lily in Decatur. Drinks at Da Vinci's (which had become my newfavoritebar a while back), including a long discussion with some-guy-whose-name-I-now-forget about the history of ska, In the Realms of the Unreal, postmodernism, the pros and cons of cover songs, and more about pop music and cinema than I could possibly remember now.

I need a break.

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posted by sstrader at 9:10 AM in Misc | permalink | comments (0)

May 8, 2005

Historical art

Recently, I've been struggling over the question of historical accuracy in Kingdom of Heaven [IMDB] with regard to aesthetic license. From what I've been reading, Ridley Scott has elided many religious issues from the movie in order to emphasize political and social themes. A historian, specializing in the fourth crusade, defended this shift in focus on NPR by pointing out that art throughout history has always transformed historical events to fit the taste of the day. That seems like a good point, but are artists always allowed the play the entertainment card when their accuracy is criticized?

There have been several recent films based on historical events: Alexander [IMDB], Pearl Harbor [IMDB], Troy [IMDB], etc., and many more before those, each with varying levels of fidelity to the source.

In a recent article from the Skeptical Inquirer, Massimo Polidoro (whose writing I had previously read concerning The Priory of Scion) highlights some of his investigations into the Kennedy assassination. He points out some of the flaws in Oliver Stone's movie JFK, flaws that were compelling to the author before his research but that now seem contrived. To write his book, Polidoro did not take advantage of any information that was unavailable to Stone, he merely examined the existing information more critically.

You can't really blame Oliver Stone for making mistakes: he put his theories out there to be either accepted or disproved. Fair enough. This is similar-but-different to the artistic license taken in other historical dramas. At what point is the art abusing its subject? Is it ever? Pearl Harbor was a movie with issues similar to Kingdom of Heaven (and another movie I haven't seen). It apparently ignored it's main subject to focus on secondary stories. Again, artistic license, but aren't critics justified in their complaints? Isn't there an amount of attention deficit going on with the director to make a movie about the crusades that ignores religion? And what would be more relevant to the interests of our current society than a historical examination of the relationship between Christians and Muslims?

I don't know, maybe I should just blame those damn liberals in Hollywood.

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posted by sstrader at 4:02 PM in Cinema | permalink | comments (0)

May 7, 2005

Tags and emergent systems

I had previously lamented the limitations of a semantically empty tagging system (e.g. de.lici.us), and suggested that incorporation of the wonderful WordNet would solve that. The same tag system would be used, but a search tool would be added that allows ontological searches (e.g. a search "flower" would match the "Hydrangea" tag).

Before that post, I also rambled about tagging as a subset of centralized emergent systems on the Web (e.g. flickr or MySpace) as opposed to distributed systems (I had suggested harnessing existing Web sites to create more specific tools, a la Paul Rademacher's stunning use of Google Maps to automatically map Craig's List apartment listings).

The benefit of an emergent system is that you only need to define the rules of the system, not the content. AI long ago discovered the brittleness of creating top-down systems (e.g. write every rule of logic) compared to the fuzzy elegance of bottom-up systems (have genetic algorithms discover those logic rules). Often, these two approaches are merged to harness the benefits of both. Tags seem to be a dumb form of bottom-up system. This could be merged with WordNet (or something similar). I originally felt that the deficiencies of tagging were fixable-but-flawed. Based on a project I'm about to start, I'm now beginning to think that emergent systems are the best method for creating Web content that will evolve. Rather than being "brittle" ontologies (as Tim Bray suggested), I think tags should be viewed more as emergent ontologies.

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posted by sstrader at 12:00 PM in Programming | permalink | comments (0)

May 6, 2005

Eat this way

When will the world come to its senses and create a new utensil to complement the knife, fork, and spoon: the mini-tong. This would be a greater invention than the spork. The tong would definitely kick the spork's ass.

posted by sstrader at 3:32 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

May 5, 2005

Michael Eric Dyson and Cosby on NPR

Listening to Michael Eric Dyson on NPR discuss Bill Cosby's remarks of a year ago in a speech to educators. Cosby said quite a bit in the speech, but it mostly chastised blacks for embracing dialect and frivolous spending:

These people are not parenting. They are buying things for their kids - $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.'...They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk: Why you ain't,' Where you is'...And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk...Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads...You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.

The other speakers were described as being "stone-faced" after he finished. No doubt. On NPR not long after Cosby's original speech, Dyson criticized it and Cosby clarified it. Any dialog with Dyson quickly turns into a monologue--he's a preacher and often got on a roll that pushed Neal Conan off of his own show.

Through all of the noise, Dyson seemed to be saying that Cosby was attacking the poor. I'm not so sure, but I'll listen to more of his arguments if only to avoid trying to read his book Is Bill Cosby Right? [Amazon] that is currently getting ripped to shreds by customer reviews.

He also railed upon, coincidentally, anti-intellectualism in the black community.

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posted by sstrader at 12:07 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (10)

May 4, 2005

May 3, 2005

Audacity

PC Magazine recently had a flurry of reviews on stream rippers and wave editors. I'm trying out the SourceForge app Audacity to edit out the announcers in the recordings I ripped from Internet radio using RadioWave. It processes a little slowly, and the UI flashes quite a bit, but it's got quite a few effects.

SourceForge is god.

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posted by sstrader at 11:57 PM in Science & Technology | permalink | comments (0)

Genius idea #7

A service that de-logo-izes you car. Logos are on the hood, the trunk, the hubcaps, the door handles, the steering wheel, the glove box, the gear shift, the parking brake ... have I missed anything? Probably. Take your car in and get rid of all of them. Each part would be replaced by a "null" version of the same quality. It'd probably be too expensive to be feasible, but I can imagine that at a reasonable price it'd catch on.

I though about this while I was noticing the big-ass VW logo on the steering wheel of my Beetle. It's like, I swear, three or four inches across. I realized that a logo for something you love is still a logo and then wondered at how we succumb to all of this. It's in or nature, so fighting it is probably more unnatural than otherwise. But a logo-free car? That'd kinda be cool.

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posted by sstrader at 11:22 PM in Misc | permalink | comments (2)

Another music coincidence

During a lunch last week at one of my co-worker's homes (a fish fry of King Mackeral from his most recent fishing trip), three of us got to kick around on the instruments in his home studio. It gave me an opportunity to play through a little of my "Starship Trooper" arrangement and lament, to the guitarists, the difficulties of a pianist playing guitar music. Today, one of them pointed out that the newest Guitar Player magazine arrived, and its "How To Play Like..." article features Steve Howe along with his apparently knuckle-busting fingerwork from the acoustic section of "Starship Trooper."

posted by sstrader at 10:27 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 2, 2005

Am I being too loud?

Over at my bro' and sis'-in-law's on Saturday. The nieces apparently thought I was too loud.

starring in too loud scott as too loud

The loudness was confirmed the next day upon receipt of this email:

Uncle Scott, last night you were very too loud. Can you please try to be quieter. Plus also your nose is very too roundish. And one eye is bigger than the other.

I would have argued about the eye problem, but the drawings seem to confirm that fact along with a considerably diminished vocabulary.

posted by sstrader at 11:43 PM in Misc | permalink | comments (5)

More on The Who Sell Out

Found a short interview with Petra Haden on NPR. She's so funny and harmless and almost valley girl (nasal) sounding. She talks about both her album with Bill Frisell and also her cover of The Who Sell Out. She seemed almost embarrassed about what she did. I guess it is kinda silly. There's this review from Pitchfork (released on April 1st to probably suspicious readers), this one from Stylus, and finally this extremely angry review from PopMatters (listening to her work her way through this material in such a manner is just nauseating).

And there are these wonderfully detailed liner notes to the original: Most of the commercials that we recorded ourselves were done at Kingsway Studios in London. Me and Keith thought them up in the pub next door. Those crazy kids. And it was interesting that [Who manager] Chris Stamp tried to interest advertisers in paying for the adverts inserted by The Who on the record but, with only 50,000 copies of the album expected to be printed, none of the companies would buy. Take that, Prince. It sounds like the pop music scene in the late 60s was considerably less ... artsy and pristine. I can imagine maybe L Lo succumbing to product placement on an album, but what's the equivalent today of a band like The Who searching out sponsors?

All this revisiting because I just made my first purchase from Rhapsody. Sorry, Petra, I had to go for the original first. Twenty-three songs (13 + 10 bonus) for $9, burned to a CD, and immediately ripped to (apparently non-DRMed) MP3s. I'll probably/maybe still buy the original to serve some obsessive, completist impulses, but it was an otherwise pleasant experience.

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posted by sstrader at 9:36 PM in Music | tagged the who | permalink | comments (0)

The other voice of climate change

The Telegraph is reporting that many scientists are being shut out on the debate on climate change. Dr. Benny Peiser and Prof. Dennis Bray both say that the reported consensus among scientists doesn't exist, and if it appears to exist it's only because contradicting opinions are barred from publication.

A search on Dr. Peiser brings up both his links to ExxonMobile funding (which has little to do with the truth of his assertions) and also that he argues against catastrophism. Is he the tip of an iceberg of ignored scientists? I don't know, but such an accusation needs to be addressed by those journals (the eminent Science and Nature) that he accuses. Prove him wrong, and we'll all be more comfortable.

He sees the debate on climate change as a frenzy of extremes. Apocalypse has always been a compelling drama for societies throughout history, yet for such careful research as is found in Jared Diamond's Collapse [Amazon] or even in David Keys's Catastrophe [Amazon], "apocalyptic" is a less-than-fair generalization. Still, accusations work themselves into tacit truths if left unchallenged.

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posted by sstrader at 8:49 PM in Science & Technology | permalink | comments (0)

May 1, 2005

The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories

Beautiful two-volume hardback edition of Conan Doyle's [Wikipedia] short stories of Sherlock Holmes [Wikipedia] edited by Leslie S. Klinger. A third volume from the same editor containing the four novels is coming out later this year. There is some discussion on Amazon that the binding quality and content is somewhat below what editor William Stuart Baring-Gould offered in his edition. The arguments seemed more of a dispute over originality than over flawed research, so it shouldn't affect my enjoyment.

I became interested in Sherlock Holmes from the references to Moriarty [Wikipedia] and their confrontation at Reichenback Falls in Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Then, last Sunday, Lisa and I lucked upon The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes [IMDB] and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution [IMDB]. Both well-done movies from 1970 and 1976 respectively. I'm overdue to read the source material for this famous literary character.

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posted by sstrader at 6:45 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | permalink | comments (0)