June 27, 2008

Schroedenberging (definition)

v. intr. 1. erroneously referencing Schroedinger's cat or the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle or both within unrelated domains, 2. combining the two into a hybrid that expresses neither: The rattle in my car is like Schroedinger's Cat as soon as a mechanic looks for it.

posted by sstrader at 11:51 AM in Language & Literature | permalink

June 25, 2008

First electronic music

Listening to the Future Tense podcast on synthesized music. The first computer to play computer-generated music was CSIRAC (pronounced SIGH-rack) in 1950. No recording exists, but the BBC reports that the song played was Colonel Bogey March (written by F. J. Ricketts in 1915; I always hear Bart from The Simpsons when he sings: Lisa, her teeth are big and green. Lisa, she smells like gasoline. Lisa, ta-ra-ra Lisa. She is my sista, her birthday I mista.). The oldest recorded computer generated music, reported only a week or so ago, was created by the Ferranti Mark 1 in 1951. The songs were God Save the Queen/America (interesting, uncertain history that includes John Bull and Henry Purcell and that dastardly musica ficta), Baa Baa Black Sheep (originally a French melody from 1761 titled "Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman"), and In the Mood (written not by Glenn Miller but Wingy Manone in 1929). The next attempt was in 1957 with an IBM 704. This was unique in that it was a 17-second composition by programmer Max Mathews. In 1962, the same model of computer was used to perform a synthesized voice version of Daisy Bell (Harry Dacre, 1892), with Arthur C. Clarke in attendance (2001: A Space Odyssey, Hal 9000, yadda yadda...).

Create Digital Music has a nice article summarizing this timeline with additional facts, links, and YouTube-ery. Also, good details in the linked Wikipedia articles.

posted by sstrader at 10:28 PM in Music | permalink

It's rant time again

Websites, stop putting your copious JavaScript ad embeds at the top of the page so that delays in the crappy ad site stops the page from loading. You want me to not use adblock when I look at your content? Well, stop having your ads block the content.

Search engines, now I know who to blame for my Apache server crashing every few days from overloaded requests. Yahoo! Slurp is virtually a DoS engine for small sites. You suck.

Creationists, you, along with flat-earthers and climate change denialists (although I feel that I'm insulting flat-earthers), need to crawl into a hole. Stealing from the recent Lenski imbroglio on Conservapedia: Why do people who believe in something with no evidence require so much evidence for evolution? Mason read the talk page for the article; I couldn't stomach more than a few entries. After such railings against science itself those people shouldn't be allowed to use a computer or to benefit from modern medicine. Make that any post-Enlightenment medicine. The god of the gaps has become angry and small. If you thought people who updated the Wikipedia pages on ancient Jedi and video games were losers, introduce yourself to the dementia of Conservapedia's entries.

posted by sstrader at 5:36 PM in Personal | permalink

June 23, 2008

Where was I?

Dinner at Parish on Friday with Tedra and Bill. Food was just OK, good-not-great, but the decor and ambiance was perfect and the staff was friendly and entertaining. Very much worth a trip. Aaaand, Alicia and Dan had dinner at some Mediterranean restaurant down the street and stopped by our table afterwards. Downstairs Parish has coffee, wine, and a variety of desserts with various brick-a-brack for sale a la Cracker Barrel (though not so hayseed). We bought a Doodle All Year coloring book for one of the nieces; it has drawings of various people with the scenes missing ("where is this car going?" or "draw someone who likes cold weather and someone who doesn't..." amidst breezy trees). Neat-o.

Saturday was a failed attempt to de-clog the dryer vents (professionals are coming this Wednesday) and a successful attempt to replace the kitchen faucet. The latter included cleaning out from the water trap the most disgusting congealment of protein goo I ever had the horror to gag over. I don't know how it got there, or what it was made of, I'm just glad it's gone.

Late lunch at The Vortex where we got sucked in to Women of Ninja Warrior on G4 along with a majority of the bar. Guilty pleasure (check out Ayako Miyake kicking Ninja ass). Home, clean up and off to The Seen gallery for a wine tasting and some Pete The Cat artwork that we originally saw at Summerfest. As a bonus, they had some crazy robot art by Travis Smith. No purchases were made. Post art wine at Palate right next door before going to dinner at Wisteria. Excellent eats; only the second time we've been there.

Lazy Sunday (for me) until the afternoon when we went to a cookout at Danice and Mason's. We braved the heat, ate too much food, and then stopped at Pint and Plate after we got home for late night drinks and (oh god why?) more food.

posted by sstrader at 10:36 PM in Where was I? | tagged galleries and museums | permalink

June 14, 2008


Listening to the citizens of Jasper Texas recount how their town dealt with and continues to deal with the brutal murder of James Byrd 10 years ago, I was reminded of the distaste that people expressed for Obama as a black candidate and Clinton as a female candidate. The complaints generally followed the straw man suggestion that people were only supporting those candidates because of their minority representation in political office and not because of any political or leadership merits. What some failed to see was what the rise of qualified minority candidates represents how our country has changed. It should first be assumed that they are qualified considering that they have held strong support while in office. To say that it would be notable and noble to have a black or female president presupposes their qualifications and emphasizes instead that it would be notable to have the United States voting public finally accept such a leader. This ignores the question of whether viable minority candidates have been available before, but also ignores the fact that countries with more inequal treatment of women and minorities have had leaders from those groups. Cause won't easily be found, so I'd instead emphasize the result: this country finally has a social environment that accepts such a leader.

While listening to the Jasper story, I wondered why when it happened it couldn't have been passed off as simply the act of a few, hateful individuals that did not represent the town as a whole. Outliers. But considering that, I had to think that the citizens must have feared that somehow their town tacitly allowed such individuals to act. The killers weren't psychotic or depraved, just bigoted with the attitude that perhaps their actions wouldn't be judged too harshly. The fact that they could even act in such extreme ways suggests that--whether true or not--their society failed to put up walls against such behavior.

So, thinking now that our country as a whole can get this far, with Obama and Clinton, I think that a great deal of the bigotry and ignorance that might not allow such a situation is being push further into the fringes. One Jasper woman in the NPR story told of how she would often use the word "nigger" around her house. After the crime and after reconciliation meetings, her daughter finally confronted her and demanded she stop using that word. The woman admitted that only her daughter's demand could have opened her eyes to her own bigotry. The crime pushed her daughter to finally confront the environment of bigotry that can make violence more accessible.

posted by sstrader at 1:40 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

June 13, 2008

Activists, I tell you!

Many commenters in the Slashdot discussion on the SCOTUS ruling on habeas voiced the same slack-jawed terror that I felt when I heard the news: 5 to fucking 4?!? I guess it reflects how long we persisted with these insane ideas and how long it took to get us back to sanity, but it appears more likely that the forces of insanity are still strong. One commenter pointed out that Scalia has made similar convoluted leaps in defending torture. Thanks to Think Progress for the source quote, in response to a question asking if torture is cruel and unusual:

No. To the contrary. Has anybody ever referred to torture as punishment? I don’t think so. ... When he’s hurting you in order to get information from you, you wouldn’t say he’s punishing you. What is he punishing you for?

If this were a scene in a movie, you'd be justified calling the writing unrealistic. Until now. In its unlawful combatant entry, Wikipedia outlines the options as described by the Red Cross: Every person in enemy hands must be either a prisoner of war and, as such, be covered by the Third Convention; or a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention. The gray area that Bush et al. slithered around in is due to the fact that the phrase "unlawful combatant" does not exist in the Geneva Conventions. Read the opening section of that Wikipedia article for a good overview.

Particularly distasteful is Scalia's threat that the decision will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed. Fuck you.

posted by sstrader at 6:06 PM in Politics | permalink

June 10, 2008

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (4/5)

[ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]

Late in the movie our two protagonists, partners Batou and Togusa from an elite security force, case the inventively decorated mansion of a criminal hacker who's the main suspect for a recent stream of homicidal androids. As they walk down a hallway bordered on one side by tall, stained-glass windows, human silhouettes within the windows cast shadows against the opposite wall. The shadowed hands reach for doorknobs or various objects on shelves. This short scene is iconic for much of the movie's intent: intentionality can easily be simulated, and observers can be tricked into perceiving nonexistent consciousness.


Along with somewhat slow philosophical discussions, Innocence contains vibrant scenes of violence, moments of dramatic tension, and elaborately rendered tableaux that stand as unique expressions in cinematic art. Within the framework of police procedural, we're immersed in examples of how human society has detached from nature by replicating a false environment. The movie examines the extent to which we will be able to extend such an environment in the future. Similarly, rituals and ceremonies are depicted as reimaginings of that ideal we are attempting to attain.

The mix of action and contemplation, more believable and more subtle than from The Matrix, is well-balanced, and as with the first GitS the cinematography is outstanding.

posted by sstrader at 11:10 PM in Cinema | tagged anime, ghost in the shell | permalink

June 9, 2008

Where was I?

Friday over at Mollie and Hugh's celebrating her new job and just doin' that Friday hang out thing. Shouldn't have moved from wine to vodka. I'm sure there's some saying that rhymes and tells you not to do such combinations, but I can think of nothing that rhymes with vodka, so there you have it.

Saturday was Lisa & I & Alicia & Dan first stopping off at a studio show at our neighbor's art studio near the Mattress Factory lofts. Around 20 artists were available with their works and works-in-progress. We all pitied the 2nd floor artists who had to suffer 110+ degree temperatures in their studio (making ice sculpture a desirable yet impractical medium). Odd coincidence of the year: after we left the gallery, we realized that not only had we all worked with Todd's brother (who was at the show) but also had drank with them several times after work. I'd been talking to him for months and we never made the connection. Weird. Eventually continued on to the 7:00 PM Braves game. We had tickets to the 755 Club and seats behind the Braves dugout, but ended up staying the whole game at an outside table at 755. Post-game bars consisted of The Shed, Depot, then Top Flr, where we were the Worst Friends Ever and made Alicia and Dan call for a taxi to get home.

Sunday was the Virginia Highlands Summerfest. We missed hanging out with the brother, sister-in-law, and niece at the Summerfest on Saturday, and missed the Murphy's wine sale, but made up for it on Sunday with the purchase of some new artwork!


A collograph by Linda Gourley titled The Red Baron: Study I. Her work was various mixed-media-type printing with crazy animals doing crazy things. Ducks riding a wiener dog was a must-purchase item. There's another version of the print on her site, but the colors and details don't appear as interesting as the one we purchased. The frame she made fit it nicely and it works well above our Asian-influenced China cabinet (Peking Ducks!). After an hour or so of hellish heat, we abandoned the fest for a late lunch at Atkins Park, then went our separate ways. The sun absolutely drained us, so it was lazy pizza dinner at home with the not-quite-as-bad-as-it-could-have-been Lucy Liu movie Rise: Blood Hunter.

posted by sstrader at 9:46 PM in Art , Where was I? | permalink

June 6, 2008

e-dundancy (definition)

n. Using one medium to prepare the recipient for a message via another medium. E.g. Calling someone to tell them you're sending them an email, IMing that you will be calling, etc.

posted by sstrader at 7:15 PM in Language & Literature | permalink

June 5, 2008

Obama roundup

posted by sstrader at 2:52 PM in Politics | permalink

Lars and the Real Girl (4/5)

[ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]

I was very lukewarm about seeing this. The reviews I had seen were good enough, but the premise sounded to preciously quirky to produce anything more than a diversion on cable some weekend afternoon. The movie is about a lonely guy in a small town who orders a Real Girl (aka Realdoll) and then proceeds to show her off as his fiance, all the while getting in conversations with her and signing her up for social events.

It's easy to make the sad-sack loner too pitiful, but I think that Ryan Gosling pulls it off with oddity more human than put on. His character and those of his brother and sister-in-law only slowly reveal a history you can sense from the beginning but aren't immediately privy to. Gosling's desperate attempts to just be left alone paired with his sister-in-law's increasing attempts to not allow him an out is a more central and satisfying dynamic in the picture. The other is Patricial Clarkson's deft role as GP/psychiatrist. She showed calm acceptance but also pushed him when he needed it.

The only issue I had with the film is its extreme gentleness in how small towns treat their eccentrics. There was one Absolute Disapproval (based on religion), but no kids mocking him in the street, no real morality outcry, no eww-it's-a-sex-doll. I felt the dramatic tension waiting for those events, but the absence made the movie--if I dare say this about a movie about a man engaged to a doll--less realistic. Still, it was a sweet, emotive story in the same spectrum as Eternal Sunshine.

posted by sstrader at 10:23 AM in Cinema | permalink