For some fun, I've been reading through Language Log's various posts skewering Dan Brown, in which Brown is described as
one of the worst prose stylists in the history of literature (with numerous examples). The criticisms seem ultimately to question how such pulply trash had become the most widely read book in the English-speaking world (
...at least four people [in the world] have not read it. I just wish one of them was me). Some of the quotes from the book are classic.
Several discussions with Mason this weekend about the ultimate hopelessness of freedom of information. Even as fact becomes more fully and precisely available, its access is limited by means (most of the population will still get information by fallible word-of-mouth or 5-minute news intros) and by volume (when fact is necessarily wordy or requires previous learning, who can take the time to discover and understand that fact). Mason compared it to burying the lawyers with tens of thousands of pages of useless disclosures. Who has time? Another example: we (bloggers etc.) are part of a technical aristocracy that knows how to circumvent DRM, even the weakest crippling of fair use, although easily bypassed by us, will impede most of the population no matter how readily available information is.
These discussions came at a time when I'm thinking about Cryptonomicon and its noble representation of geeks in their attempt to free information. It's a wonderful book and one that only a year later I'm anxious to re-read.
Similarly, a (less technical) friend had asked why anyone would want to use open-source software since it's less safe. As Titus says: more later...
I once had a co-worker tell me that Arabic was the perfect language because it was impossible to state something ambiguously. He's a Muslim, so the bias was obvious and offensive in its arrogance--the same goes for any Catholics boasting about Latin or Jews about Hebrew (closely related to Arabic, so wrestle with that one). When I challenged him on the absurdity of any language being this-er than that or more something than whatever, he huffed that he "has travelled all over the world" and therefore had more experience than me.
Needless to say, I lost most of my respect for him. I'm not a language wiz, but jackassed statements such as that push my buttons.Continue reading "Languages, cliches, and my favorite swear word"
Spent the weekend with Lisa & Mason & the Mother-in-law. Saturday wedding in Kingsport, TN with Lisa's b-day dinner the night before at Harmony Grocery in Jonesborough. Great Cajun food out in the wilderness of Tennessee. Recommended.
Back in Knoxville, we met friends of the Mother-in-law and ate at Sapphire--where the waitress got extra points for telling me that my favorite wine, La Crema Pinot Noir, was not listed but available. We passed on ordering the $350 Sapphire Martini with, you guessed it, a 2+ caret sapphire in it. Our waitress said that when she sold one the guy tipped her $100. Later in the evening, Lisa & I continued on to the Downtown Grill & Brewery for more drinks and jazz. The band opened with the Miles Davis standard "So What." When did Knoxville become so cool?
Just got home and am now ready to jog off the excesses of the weekend.Continue reading "Where was I?"
Finally giving a listen to Paul Creston's Symphonies. I'd breezed through them before and actually got hooked on a section from #3 listening to NPR late at night, then impulse bought the CD. They're pleasant enough, and might have some surprises. Not sure what to expect from the Penderecki Symphonies. He can be all over the map.
(These are going with us on a road trip to a friend's wedding this weekend, so they probably won't all make it onto Radio from the Ether until Sunday or Monday of next week.)
To balance out the Penderecki, I'm digging into my RadioWave files and listening to some Brahms: Piano Concertos #1 and 2, Piano Trios #1 and 3, and the Violin Concerto. Come on: who couldn't love Brahms?Continue reading "Currently listening to"
Matt sent this to me today: a high school percussion ensemble performing DJ Shadow's "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" and "Changeling." What fun. And these kids gotta be diggin' that they've had at least a few weeks where they weren't forced to play "Louie Louie" or the evil march music from Star Wars. Their teacher, Brian Udelhofen, needs to do a full arrangement of the whole album.Continue reading "DJ Shadow has spirit, how about you?"
First was a few days back on TiVo. I had gotten hooked on part of Below a couple of weeks ago but didn't have time to finish it, so I had TiVo get a repeat broadcast. Co-written by Darren Aronofsky, who directed Pi and Requiem for a Dream, Below is about an American submarine in World War II whose crew picks up a handful of survivors of a downed British ship. Both the crew and the survivors seem to be hiding something as they suffer ill-fated and supernatural accidents throughout the film. It has more mood than scares, but the mood was engaging with the surviving characters struggling to understand what's happening to them. Two effective scenes. First, when one of the crew presents a very plausible theory that they're all already dead and the noises outside the submarine are divers attempting to retrieve their bodies. Second, when one member glances at a mirror and his reflected image is almost imperceptibly delayed in its response.
I'm not sure though that submarines were ever that large inside. Sure, everyone has to duck through doorways and such, but there seemed to be an abundance of rooms and levels.
Second films was John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness last night (keeping me up until 3). I only caught the last half, but it completely hooked me. A giant container of evil!! is found in a church and physics students and a priest attempt to discover its origins and contents. Moments of science v. religion matched with creepy possession. Some good Carpenter gross-out scenes, and very nice dream transmissions from the future (I know, cool!), but I'm not sure that it delivers as much as it could have. Lost opportunities include gangs of possessed people gathered outside the church that could have been more menacing, and the hacky use of the person wandering into a darkened room.
"Wow" trivia for the movie: the transmissions from the future are sampled on DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... album:
This is not a dream, not a dream
We are using your brain's electrical system as a receiver
We are unable to transmit through your conscious neural interference
You are receiving this broadcast as a dream
We are transmitting from the year 1-9-...
Almost the only source I could find was here.Continue reading "Two OK creepy movies"
I just got comment spam (from 126.96.36.199) recommending that I use Google. The only url in it was http://www.google.com. That's baffling.
Two items of fun from languagehat:
First, an interview with J.L. Lighter of UT on slang and his work on the much-anticipated final volumes of his "Historical Dictionary of American Slang" [ via languagehat -> Wordorigins -> Oxford University Press ]. And who doesn't love slang? It's the most ut. Interesting facts: no one knows the origin of "yankee," "dixie," or "jazz" (how can we not know the origin of such recent words?). "Spondulix" is slang for money (man, I'm using that one the first chance I get). No one ever uses the phrase "twenty-three skidoo" anymore, but everyone recognizes it (what's up with that?). In the 1600s and 1700s, "occupy" was a euphemism for sex (such ribaldry). Slang is interesting because it illustrates the slippery, changeability of language. These words are under the radar of standard English, so their origins and lives are more organic and volatile.
Second, a a reverse dictionary search [ via languagehat -> MonkeyFilter ]. This is one of those man-what-a-cool-tool things that will probably/unfortunately get lost in my bookmarks and forgotten for its infrequent need. Then again, I daily hit the dictionary and thesaurus for one reason or another. This might become an equally frequented site.
Running very late this week--my body is not adjusting to the work week. This month's question: "There's a natural disaster. You can only save one thing. What would it be?" This month's answers:
My involvement at the APWBWLTGTTD meeting was: Art/Las Vegas discussion with new acquaintance Neon Poisoning and blogger/writing discussion with equally new acquaintance Inside the Perimeter. Faces and names ... got it. And the general geek talk with the rest of the geeks. Aaaaand a knock-down-drag-out political row after hours at Manuel's (Man-WELL's?) with HollisMB and Lady Crumpet.
I am not fucking kidding, I am really fucking worn out tonight. I need a break.
Thailand et al. have begun saying about Google Earth what basically every person I showed it to had said first: won't that help the terrorists? I felt that they were missing the point (isn't this information openly available anyway?) but the article has a humorous examination of the issue, looking at a Thai Air Force base:
They've even got an awacs parked there on the hard shoulder ... Hmmm. The good General may have a point.
And from India:
Reuters quotes an anonymous security official there as confirming that "the issue of satellite imagery had been discussed at the highest level but the government had concluded that 'technology cannot be stopped'."
"We are aware that there are websites which give detailed pictures of buildings like the president's house including every tree in the compound. Our security agencies are aware of this but how can we stop technology?" he added.
And finally (gotta get to work!), be prepared for a Google blog search. Or, rather: a Google search for blogs. Who else has taken a sabbatical? Who else listens to WNYC?? Answers to these questions and more...
From the Microsoft Max page:
Today Max lets you make lists of your photos and turn them into beautiful slide shows to share with your family and friends. Tomorrow...who knows?
Could they have come up with a weaker line? Slide shows, eh? Ooooh. Maybe they'll have some good ideas for it, but still ...
Max makes it easy to share your memories with friends and family around the world. ... When you update the list, they get the new photos automatically. You just need a Microsoft Passport® network (or MSN® Hotmail) account. If you don't have one, you can get one right now.
That tears it.
There're really not that many, and they all dovetail to a basic core philosophy:
"The liberal media exaggerated all/some aspects to find cause to criticize the president." Valid criticism is calling out emergency management officials who don't know the basic facts concerning the state of an emergency. This is a very surface-y argument that avoids the issues.
"State and local officials are equally culpable for the affects of the failed response." From most reports I've read, the federal government has the responsibility to take over when, and this is a primary rationale, states' resources are strained. Local officials screwed up, but to what degree? Those school buses would have saved many had they been deployed, but those same officials who screwed up also declared an emergency and requested help before the storm hit. Does that absolve the federal government of its responsibility? Or of their lack of follow-up? FEMA had ample time and an understanding of the destructive power of the storm and should have responded.
"Federal support in general and FEMA specifically is an extravagant entitlement. States are better able to respond on their own." This gets closer to the heart of the issue. Ignoring the expansion of government that we've seen with Bush, this administration represents itself as a proponent of small government. Any facet of non-military government spending will be looked upon with suspicion. And yet no state is an island: what effects one greatly will quickly cascade to others. It is in the best interest of the country as a whole to aid those states that are in trouble. Isn't it?
"This is what happens to poor people. Accept it." This sentiment goes hand-in-hand with the previous one but takes it to its moral conclusion. This is the "shit happens" approach and presumes that throwing government money to mitigate the problem would be to join in an endless cycle of waste. "There will alway be the poor and crippled who are unable to flee from harms way." When I hear some from the Christian right so brazenly defy Christian teaching in this manner, it makes me proud to be an atheist.
There seems to be no common ground. Either you believe that people are best suited to self-organize in a form distinct from the federal government in order to assist the needy, or you believe that the federal government already is that self-organization.Continue reading "Round-up of Katrina arguments"
Playing Mr. IT Person today with the rents. First up: move data from old computer to new via poor man's click drive (digital camera). Bulkier, but it got the job done. Man-oh-man do applications have a long way to go to making porting easier/less tedious. Next up: wipe out all personal data. I need to put together a CD of useful apps for just such occasions. Those occasions only happen every five or so years, but it'd be nice to have that virus/adware scanner, disk cleanup app, etc. all bundled together when you need them.
Finally, I turned my mom on to OpenOffice. She and dad have only MS Works on their new machine, and she needed some way to edit a spreadsheet she brought home from work. The OO installation, although generally non-technical, still hits the wall for users who just do not live in the world of technology (and don't need to). It's a problem that will always be there and is not new to computers--clean my carburetor?!?--so there are no easy answers. Once told about OO and how it came about, her response was "who would take the time to do that?" That was a more philosophical question than I could begin to get into while wearing my IT hat. "Nice people, mom. Very nice people."
I reached a milestone of sorts with EventNet this past week. I have the filter for date ranges, relative dates, and keywords written. It's a little slow right now, possibly because some of the schedule logic is executed in code and not on the database side, but that's a point for refactoring later. I also have the basic views written--calendar, timeline, and list--with links to drill-down by week and day, and pagination of longer lists. Most of the read-only aspects of the site are written, with the most important part--user editing--yet to be done.
The past few days have been mostly finishing a couple of site aggregators. I had realized that, like RadioWave, an app on the server could populate the database by screen-scraping from the information that's already out there. Duh. It was oddly easy to write a bot to spider the information from a major-events-calendar-site-who-will-remain-nameless. Instant data, tagged and scheduled.
The primary issue has been the constantly nagging decision of how much work to offload to the database and how much to put in code. That's always an issue and resolved generally case-by-case. You want the code that represents database objects to be as generic and reusable as possible, but often need to write very specific queries to retrieve the data you need. And there's a balance between executing repeated queries but getting hit with extra memory allocation, and executing fewer queries but taking up extra CPU cycles in code. Ideally, the design should be such that you can easily make alterations in either direction. Ideally.
Anyway, production may slow considerably, what with the new job starting this Wednesday. A change, and a return to C++, will be good.Continue reading "Recent work"
Who wasn't thinking about Gareth from The Office when they read this report from Time [via BoingBoing] that Michael Brown (Brownie to his friends) was not an
assistant city manager as his FEMA bio says, but rather an
assistant to the city manager [emphasis mine].
After a second interview, I'm employed again! Oh sabbatical, I hardly knew you...
And last night I broke the rule of no frivilous spending by ordering some more stuff from Sheet Music Plus (plus what?):
Igor Stravinsky: Three Early Ballets - The Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite Of Spring (HL.50481614) - Ships from our warehouse within 24 hours. - Qty: 1 at $15.16 each, $15.16 total Robert Schumann: Fantasiestucke, Op. 12 (HL.50252660) - Ships from our warehouse within 24 hours. - Qty: 1 at $5.56 each, $5.56 total Carnaval, Op. 9 (HL.50252630) - Ships from our warehouse within 24 hours. - Qty: 1 at $5.56 each, $5.56 total Papillons (Butterflies), Op. 2 (HL.50259950) - Lead time before shipment - 4 to 6 business days. - Qty: 1 at $3.96 each, $3.96 total Kreisleriana, Op. 16 (HL.50263110) - Ships from our warehouse within 24 hours. - Qty: 1 at $4.76 each, $4.76 total
I had gotten familiar with the Schumann stuff a few months back, so it'll be nice to get the scores and nice to get them on the cheap. Sheet Music Plus is having a 20%-off sale on all Schirmer editions. I've been out of the scene for a while, but remember coming across some horrible editions of Haydn Piano Sonatas from Schirmer. Very questionable phrasing. I'm not sure how pervasive those deficiencies were, so I'm not sure what I'll be getting with the Schumann. But a sale's a sale.
And who doesn't love Stravinsky? The piano version of Shrovetide Fair will be scarey and fun to try to play. Or not. I've also always wanted to play Spring Rounds--probably more within my abilities. Either way, good to have around.
From FWMJ, "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" produced by Kanye West with words by Big Mon and Damien:
George Bush ain't a gold digger, but he ain't fuckin' with no broke niggas. Recommended. Although I wish they would've sampled some MC Nagin.
[ via BoingBoing ]Continue reading "Some of my best friends"
Continue reading "Jon Stewart disasters"
When I was on the cusp of unemployment, I stocked up on the things that I refuse to pay for while unemployed. One of those is magazine subscriptions. One of those magazines is The New Yorker.
All these years of getting it, I never realized that those little b&w ink drawings that ran throughout were depicting a contiguous drama. Stupid, huh? Here's a recent one:Continue reading "A day in the life"
BoingBoing is doing a good job trying to keep up with the media chaos that is Katrina. Check out this IM transcript from the Astrodome.
Fox News is down on the floor. I'm in dome, hiding in seats. They're allowing some media on the floor, not others. The situation seems very uncertain. Although I'd like to think that we should be able to know with certainty if there're unreasonable restrictions being put on the press, anyone who'd want to place those restrictions would want to work within a gray area--making it difficult to determine what to dismiss as merely rumor.
A few days ago, languagehat dropped an article on the recent debates about changing the Chinese characters for "Jew." The current characters could have pejorative connotations (from the original transliteration by Christian missionaries). The commentary, still going strong today, has been fascinating and has had the breadth of contribution and considered opinions that you'll see in many of the languagehat discussions. The "Jew" issue brings up not only the complexities of Chinese writing in relation to speech, but also the historic influence and questions (true or false) of veiled racism. Good stuff.
They've been my newfavorite radio station for a while; here's another reason why: with every editorial page and their mother invoking Hobbes to explain the social and governmental response to Katrina, Brian Lehrer devotes a segment of his show to discussing Hobbes with SUNY philosophy professor Dick Howard. With call-ins. I'm sure listeners of Neal Boortz or Rush Limbaugh will soon see copycat shows covering John Locke.
Just as they act evilly in the face of charity (here and here), PayPal gets closer to supporting micropayments (5% plus $0.05 per transaction, apparently for merchant accounts). Adam has campaigned for using Ads by Goooooogle on blogs as a form of tip jar to allow kindly individuals to click-through to donate. I have taken, showing my groovyhippyartschool roots, an idealist position against allowing ads into the personal space of personal blogs. With this new offering by PayPal, the pragmatic approach using ads, being the only game in town, may no longer be needed, but I would still like to see some reasonable competition in consumer to consumer commerce.
Had a good interview this morning. Well, "good" as far as I could tell--my "good" interview meter is generally broken. At least I think my Tourettes of Cracking Wise was kept in check. And we were in general agreement that Eclipse really needs to fix that problem with duplicate views of a file getting out of sync. Overall it was a fun interview: I like hearing how other companies' development groups work and talking out the pros and cons of such things, even if I dislike the stiffness of the surroundings. All interviews should be done at a bar!
Something Awful has provided a summary of their pained dealings with PayPal. Heh. He had to contact customer support (many times) and of course could only obtain their number by going to PayPalSucks.com (although present on the PayPal site, it is arguably difficult to find). These gripes have been going on for a while, and I guess you could say that anyone with any savvy should already be forewarned about PayPal. I guess. SA's assessment:
I'm not going to tell people to close their Paypal accounts. I'm not going to say all their actions were completely unwarranted. I'm just presenting my experience with them and will allow you to draw your own conclusions. However, I harbor a fundamental disagreement with their business practice of assuming all their clients are filthy criminals who must repeatedly prove their innocence to a series of unmanned servers and computer systems. I do not support their ability to freeze entire accounts, take money from whoever they want at whatever time they want, and impose whatever arbitrary rules and regulations they deem necessary without having to answer to any organization. Every single cent in every single Paypal account is earning their company ungodly amounts of interest in their central bank account. They offer users credit cards and the chance to put your money into interest-generating accounts. So exactly why are they not under banking and FDIC rules again?Continue reading "Awful, part 2"
Something Awful came back online at 9:20 this morning. Scroll down and read about those incredible jackasses over at PayPal who tied up ~$30,000 that Something Awful collected for NOLA, and that SA has to refund all of the money to the donors because of PayPal's jackassed handling of the money. Unbelievable. PayPal should die.
So busy bitching that I lost track of where I've been.
Wednesday, we had intended to so see March of the Penguins (my nieces give it four thumbs up) and ended up re-routing to 97 Astoria to celebrate Alicia and Dan's house closing. And because I'm such a shut-in, I goofed off here and missed all of the fun, so after all of that I guess I did nothing. No wait! Lisa picked me up and we went on a successful search for the new-and-cool Slice down in Castleberry Hill. We felt a little out of place at first (ifyouknowwhatImean), but it's nice and laid back and had a good DJ--not too loud. Lisa says best pizza ever.
Last night was The Brothers Grimm and The Skeleton Key at the Starlite Drive-in to celebrate another Robert's b-day. There was a slight emergency room related incident--everyone's OK--which kinda dowsed the rest of the evening.
And I have an interview next Tuesday! Look at me, Mr. Going To An Interview, Mr. Trying To Get a Job. Woop-de-doo!
And so today we get the backlash backlash: people bitching and tut-tuting about others' bitching. "I refuse to be one of the angry rabble" or "how dare they politicize this tragedy" and the such, quickly followed by "I'm going to be more constructive and less petty." As if the federal government's actions aren't based on political issues! The poor are blamed by those whose only responsibility is to help the suffering. That same group recommends sending money to a religious hypocrite who promotes assassination. The president, consistent with his philosophy of willful ignorance, insists that no one could anticipate this, then today praises the speed of Congress's actions. The Secretary of Homeland Security flatly refutes eyewitness reports that thousands were on the verge of dying. And the Speaker of the House suggests abandoning New Orleans.
If these aren't simple and obvious reasons to bitch, I'm not sure when it would ever be valid.Continue reading "Obvious"
People who don't have the funds to drive fifty miles inland almost certainly do not have the money to stock up for a week's worth of food, diapers, pet kibble, or bottled water. Come Tuesday morning, the kids were getting hungry. The toilets weren't flushing anymore. The power was gone, and it wouldn't be back for months, maybe.Continue reading "The poor"
BoingBoing has an excellent round-up of readers' comments and links on what the
single best thing Joe Geek can do to help. It's a long-ish post, with many comments, but well worth the read and informative. Xeni will be adding more information as it comes in. Read especially the list of suggestions from Erik V. Olson.
That post has many links to sites with information on how to help. They are:
The general assessment seems to be: give money. If you haven't already trained as a volunteer, going there could get in the way of the help organizations and run counter to the evacuation. I heard a story on WNYC about a couple driving from Idaho to pick up the first homeless family they see and house them for a few months. This is a wonderful act of charity but could be a problem for rescue workers if too many people did it.
The Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, has a list of contacts. Some places are looking for people with boats (who are
able-bodied and capable of lifting 100 pounds!) and health-care volunteers.
Everyone should be careful of scam sites fishing for personal information and money. BoingBoing has also reported on a few suspicious sites.
There's a lot of information out there and the whole tragedy, even when you do something to help, is frustrating because of its scale. Will we be talking about the people of the Katrina diaspora decades from now?Continue reading "Help"