November 30, 2006

Sparklehorse: "Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man"

This is one of the gems of Sparklehorse's more conceptual writing (without, honestly, trying as hard as Sonic Youth might).

It's 4:31 total. Beginning with a 45-second organ drone (descending/ascending span of a third in steps), then 45 seconds of an elliptical, pining pop verse as the guitar strumming fades and pops with between-the-dial radio distortion. A short chorus--all I want is to be a happy man--and abbreviated verse with more distortion. At around 2 minutes, the song completely de-tunes to static with the organ drone periodically returning.

The pop song eventually fades in and, once it dominates the sound, takes the remaining 2 minutes.

The pairing of the "happy man" chorus with the loss of communication is what's important. It expresses a formative desire repressed either by outside forces--a non-reactive medium--or by his own inability at the controls of that medium--the radio dial. Either way, as that impotence is resolved in the second half of the song, the desire remains.

posted by sstrader at 9:06 PM in Music | permalink

November 28, 2006

Peace rabbit

Peace symbol = The Devil. The funny thing is that I just had a co-worker tell me that my niece's drawing of a peace symbol (with a rabbit on top carrying a flag that says "peace!") represented witchcraft. A software engineer that doesn't understand the mutability of symbols--it took all of my energy not to kick him in the nuts.

posted by sstrader at 5:08 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

November 27, 2006


The first recruit for my robot army has arrived.

The Roomba was to have taken three hours to charge but was up robotin' around in less than and hour. It cleaned for maybe two hours, covered probably 90% of our nasty floors including the area rugs and the kitchen tile, then struggled to find its home base and died only a few feet away. It's been slowly recharging for the past few hours, so hopefully it will be back on its wheels in the morning. This thing's just too cool to have to return it.

Our floors were really dirty.

Anyway, it kind of wanders around with an apparent aimlessness and hums through its tasks. The humming's louder than you expect, but nice. The floor looks muuuuch better. Lots of hair and stuff gunked up the brushes--better them than my socks. I figure a few more passes and it'll be less of a shock to the Roomba's system, and finally I'll be able to justify the not sweeping that I do anyway.

And it's just really cool.

posted by sstrader at 9:22 PM in Personal | permalink

November 24, 2006

Lenny Bruce comments on Michael Richards' predicament

Are there any niggers here tonight?

Can you turn on the house lights, and could the waiters and waitresses just stop serving for a second? And turn off the spot. Now what did he say? ''Are there any niggers here tonight?'' There's one nigger here. l see him back there working. Let's see. There's two niggers. And between those two niggers sits a kike. And there's another kike. That's two kikes and three niggers. And there's a spic, right? Hm? There's another spic. Ooh, there's a wop. There's a Polack. And then, oh, a couple of greaseballs. There's three lace-curtain lrish Micks. And there's one hip, thick, hunky, funky boogie. Boogie, boogie. Mm-mm. l got three kikes. Do l hear five kikes? l got five kikes. Do l hear six spics? Six spics. Do l hear seven niggers? l got seven niggers. Sold American! l'll pass with seven niggers, six spics, five Micks, four kikes, three guineas, and one wop.

You almost punched me out, didn't ya?

l was trying to make a point, that it's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig. lf President Kennedy would just go on television and say ''l'd like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet.'' And if he'd just say ''nigger, nigger'' to every nigger he saw, ''Boogie, boogie, boogie, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger,'' till it didn't mean anything any more! Then you'd never be able to make a black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger in school.


posted by sstrader at 10:00 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

November 21, 2006


Michael Richards apologizes. It's as uncomfortable as the original video but for different reasons. It seemed like a sincere response to me. Seinfeld (the show) often dealt with all of the discomfort of prejudice and yet handled it in the most G Rated manner. Just look to what Family Guy does to get an idea of a more incautious approach to humor that challenges racial mores. This is not to say that Michael Richards was responsible for the writing of such Seinfeld scenes as Jerry Makes Stereotyped American Indian War Cry References, or George Gets Hyper-sensitive About Acting Like All Black People Look Alike--but he was part of a team that addressed the uncomfortable awareness of stereotypes. They joked that we all know these crude thoughts exist, even if we are uncomfortable about acknowledging that awareness.

The importance is that the humor of these shows is a delicate approach to the taboo. Now, add improv to that and add a few trouble-makers in the audience, and I can see the potential of that tightrope going terribly terribly wrong. How many times might this have happened to unknowns?

John McWhorter on NPR is having none of it. He compares Richards' apology to that of Mel Gibson. Think about that. Mel Gibson is very likely a Holocaust denier; Michael Richards got angry at hecklers and used the N-word. I normally respect linguists, but get over yourself McWhorter. To compare these two infractions and apologies is assinine. Comparing a harsh word to blaming all of the wars in the world on a single group of people is ... well, it's an argument that goes beyond the simple hatred of racism. To make such a judgement is to revel in your own hatred a little too much.

People have a tendency to be apologists for the "nice guys" and demonize the foibles of those not-so-nice. I don't think that tendancy is at issue here if we forgive Michael Richards his moment of insanity.

posted by sstrader at 7:48 AM in Culture & Society | permalink

November 15, 2006

My people are the shit

(if we don't pull a Gingrich)

100 Hours:

  • ...clean up Congress, breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation...
  • ...implement the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission...
  • ...raise the minimum wage...
  • ...make health care more affordable for all Americans [and] promote stem cell research...
  • ...cut interest rates for student loans in half...
  • ...achieve energy independence by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil
  • ...fight any attempt to privatize Social Security...

Although: Why not join the rest of the sane world by following the global warming recommendations in the Stern report et al.? For that matter, why not pledge to stop ignoring your own science advisors and the NAS? Why not get the fuck out of Iraq? You can't un-drop an atomic bomb: we screwed that country and don't have a fraction of the resources required to un-screw it. Our presence is only destructive. Finally, why not eliminate all of those worthless security measures that the Republicans (and Democrats) shackled us with?

The Republicans have taught us the caustic and devisive meaninglessness of both "family values" and "staying the course." They have themselves undermined both phrases and continually revised them to their liking (at times making them their own antonyms).

Whatever happens, we can at least savor this short period of hope.

posted by sstrader at 8:53 AM in Politics | permalink

November 14, 2006

Recent server oddities

About a week ago, the Perl.exe processes (for MovableType) started multiplying and taking over the CPU. As fast as I would chop off one head, two would spring up etc. I spent ~10 minutes trying to reboot with little memory or CPU available, and had to eventually do a hard reboot.

Today at work, my wiki stopped responding and I couldn't VNC or ping. Luckily, Lisa was at home and saw that DirectUpdate (which refreshes my dynamic IP) had crashed. After some short tinkering, we rebooted. Then after I got home, ZoneAlarm's TrueVector process stopped "on its own," and I just happened to see ZA's warning dialog. After I restarted it, the Perl.exe's attacked me again. This time, I used ZA's stop button and eventually eliminated the 40-or-so offending processes.

The Perl-thing is spammers trying to post morecommentsthanmyservercanhandle, so that may explain the other instabilities on my low-memory machine. We'll see.

posted by sstrader at 8:16 PM in Science & Technology | permalink

November 12, 2006

Weekend update

Watched a little of Weekend Update on SNL last night. Some pretty good jokes on current events, most memorable: This week on Tuesday night, in an ironic turnaround Iraq brought regime change to the US. Heh.

posted by sstrader at 10:40 AM in Politics | permalink

November 10, 2006

Media guide

I'm tired of going to Rhapsody to look up a CD, RealPlayer to look up personal CDs on my local drive, to browse what's currently playing on those pirate stations, podcasts to see what content is available from NPR or anyone else, and RadioWave to see what's being broadcast on the (handful of) internet radio stations that it indexes. I want all of those to provide a single (open) interface that a client could connect to and browse within. Browse by artist or browse by time or genre or tag.

Things are converging, and this is going to happen.

posted by sstrader at 9:26 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

November 8, 2006

Where was I?

In Knoxville last weekend getting more drunk than you.

The mom-in-law put together the 5th Annual Boat Party for Lisa and Mason's b-day (skipped last year for a wedding) and so there were generous amounts of shaking our booties down on the dock. Videos exist, but if they end up on YouTube I'll have to file a DMCA complaint so that my copyrighted image isn't compromised. We have a lifetime supply of leftover food, mostly bar-b-q, that thankfully a co-worker pointed out can be frozen. I've about reached my limit on pork sandwiches.

Voting on Tuesday morning with the rest of Midtown. No real problems, but I did see another sign of how we've traded privacy for convenience: instead of curtained booths, we vote on bright screens that are tilted for anyone behind you to read. An enclosed booth would make it too likely that those feeble-locked Diebold machines would get molested.

Doctor's appointment today at Atlanta Medical Center, for my leg, that ended up being a whole-day ordeal. First to the neurologist where I was attacked by rubber mallots then by electroshock doo-hingeys. The shocks were disturbing and not really painful but kinda so, then one of the female doctors seemed flabbergasted that I wasn't showing more serious symptoms. The only thing worse that expecting bad news is being treated like you're overreacting. Ultimately, however, they were all very nice and I was quickly whisked away to get an MRI in Dekalb. A nice 30-minute nap while I listened on headphones to the president blab on WABE about the Democrat's non-win, and then back to AMC with a CD of spinal images:


Third one down, that's the fucker. So the doctor says that I need to go through 20 sessions of IDD physical therapy to try to fix a herniated disc. Yay. All in all a successful day, and I do have to say that the doctors and assistants were all very helpful.

posted by sstrader at 8:29 PM in Where was I? | permalink

November 3, 2006

Operas for sale! Fresh operas!

Just ordered the Black Dog Opera Library Deluxe Box Set for a cool 63-bucks + shipping. Includes 12 CDs with booklets/librettos for each: Aida, La Boheme, Carmen, Madame Butterfly, The Marriage of Figaro, and La Traviata. Only three left in stock now. I had previously gotten Black Dog's release of The Magic Flute. Discounty goodness and a good way to get opera-literate.

posted by sstrader at 2:56 PM in Music | permalink


Another troublemaker tries to denounce the efficiency of C/C++ and gets the smackdown. Good discussion. Check out especially the shootout results and the short digression on template metaprogramming. It's statements like this, along with their responses, that produce useful information; it's only when you state your biases publicly that someone can correct them (or support them). This is the only context where I might praise a silly language war.

posted by sstrader at 10:40 AM in Programming | permalink

November 2, 2006

Suck the vote

/. points to an article over at Computerworld that provides a state-by-state overview of e-voting. Basic information on what each state has along with its legal requirements. Here's Georgia's. Ars Technica paints a bleak picture for anyone hoping to have their vote count:

[T]wo major new reports from independent research groups detail the myriad security breaches, and procedural and technical problems in the 2006 Ohio primaries; stories from early voting in Texas indicate that the paperless DREs in at least two counties may have a partisan bias; another major new report from the University of Connecticut details a whole raft of security vulnerabilities in Diebold's optical scan voting machines; finally, has released "push this, pull here" instructions for multiple voting on a Sequoia DRE, no hacking skills necessary.

My initial impulse is that extra fear is being spread in order to exaggerate the problems and dissuade people from voting. That is: dissuade only the segment of the population that feels they'll be disenfranchised. I'm tired of being the fringe person that has to bring up the subject of 2004 electoral fraud and be treated like I'm praising the scientific honesty of Chariots of the Gods? Still, the more Rolling Stone articles and Ars Technica editorials I read and the more I feel that maybe the sky is falling and people just don't care. The current alerts about Diebold, although they could be considered within acceptable fault range, hold more weight coming after the research of the Kennedy article. What appears to be paranoia just isn't so.

I heard on NPR that the next generation (13-19?) trusts the UN more than the US government. Nice. That one good thing that will come out of the corruption and deceit of the Bush administration.

[ updated 3 Nov 2006 ]

Technology voter guide via Declan McCullagh on CNET. Lists tech-related votes brought up in Congress and rates each Senator (16 issues voted) and Representative (20 issues voted) on each vote (tech-friendly, tech-unfriendly). Here's a map to click on Georgia.

[ updated 6 Nov 2006 ]

AJC voters' guide. The same link is updated every year. Georgia elections rules and Candidate info from

posted by sstrader at 5:26 PM in Politics | permalink