February 27, 2009

Random thoughts on this, the 27th of Feb 2009

Listened to Songs of the Auvergne on the way in to work this morning. I need to get a collection of orchestral song cycles: Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder and PIerrot Lunaire, and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde and Kindertotenlieder. I have a passing familiarity with these but have only seriously listened to Gurre-Lieder.

My new rule for the last month or so (minus this week of having a cold) has been to practice piano at the end of the evening no matter what. I would often skip practice because I didn't have an hour or more to give to it. The new rule forced me to work on pieces even if it's only for 10 or 15 minutes. Since the decision, I've finally tackled difficult passages that had been previously eluding me. 15 minutes 4 times a week > 1 hour once a week.

Got my new laptop Wednesday night: HP Pavilion dv9913cl Notebook, 64-bit Vista, 2.10GHz Dual-Core, 4096MB, 320GB HDD, 17.0" diagonal WXGA+ High-Def. $600 refurbished from Buy.com (full specs copied here). Still configuring/installing but so far no major snags. Reviews to come. Last night we connected it to the 42-inch Bravia and watched the pilot for Dollhouse via Hulu. I thought it looked great (after forcing the TV to full-screen it), but Lisa wasn't happy with the intermittent video caching. Next up: Netflix streaming. I had minor buyer's remorse yesterday when I sat down at the piano. Wondered whether I maybe should have shelled out twice the price (or more) for a tablet PC so that I could browse IMSLP's score library for sight-reading fun. I'm over it, but that's something I'll be looking for down the line, maybe with an e-reader that allows PDFs.

Stressing (mildly) over the other hardware items that need purchased. My web server has long needed to be upgraded, but I'm putting that off until after this next web project is published and beta-ed. Also need a 1TB external drive for local backups of media files. They're not expensive; I just need to take the time. Before that's done, I can burn to DVD put them in a (tobepurchased) fire box. The now-replaced laptop needs to have its harddrive wiped and tested, probably replaced, and then have Linux installed.

posted by sstrader at 2:44 PM in Home Network & Gadgets , Music | permalink

February 20, 2009

Your data is not your own

Facebook got the smackdown this week after they clarified their TOS (or was it TOU?) and declared that they own the data you upload and they will keep it in perpetuity, etc. It really didn't change what they had been doing (according to a law professor on NPR), but it had the appearance of menace. Another reason to hate the cloud.

Slashdot just reported on an astronomy project called Astrometry.net that uses Flickr's open API to catalogue and tag photos of the sky. It matches the photo's star patterns with patterns in its star charts and then tags the photos (with those neat popup Flickr tags) and adds them to its own library.

People don't seem to be up in arms about this instance, and it's a situation where sharing information results in an otherwise unachievable benefit for all. It would be nice if Facebook data could be used in such a manner studying social dynamics or psychometrics. This was done recently when the "25 Random Things About Me" meme on Facebook was shown to have the same propagation model as a biological virus. The data was gathered using a 3rd party, wetware API (i.e. a Slate writer requested information from his readers), so no personal information was harmed without full knowledge. Imagine what could be done in the hands of a non-evil sociologist.

posted by sstrader at 2:52 PM in Science & Technology | permalink

February 18, 2009


This has got to be my favorite story recently. Probably for the past six months or a year I've been reading /b/ on 4chan. First out of curiosity about the place that made lolcats, Rickrolling, and the always cautious Admiral Akbar, then from sheer enjoyment. It's not for the squeamish, but for me it's a perfect representation of what's best about the internet: near anarchy.

So, when I try to describe /b/ to people--people who don't spend that much time online--it's a little difficult but the best I've come up with is that it's a website where people chat and post porn and cute cat pictures. If you can imagine the intersection of such interests, that's close enough. Saturdays begin with an angry cat demanding that cat pictures be posted:


From there, hundreds of cats+wackiness images are uploaded and commented upon with the mandatory =^_^=. These people love their cats and this made a completely unfortunate situation for Kenny Glenn when he, anonymously, uploaded a video of himself masked and cruelly torturing his pet cat Dusty. Sunday morning the internets got wind of this and 4chan, Reddit, and Digg all posted their vows of vengeance. That being said, nobody does vengeance like /b/ and they quickly put up an irc channel to coordinate efforts to track down the evildoer (in a rare moment, I chose not to watch the video after reading the warning; it sounded grimmer than most of the shock stuff that gets posted). A day later, after geek forensics of the video and the YouTube account, all crowdsourced through irc, the kid was arrested.

Here are some of the relevant references for this weird-yet-happy story (Dusty is on his way to adoption):


I like the internet even more today.

[ updated 4 Mar 2009 ]

Reddit points to a story about the vet that's taking care of Dusty and his pal Patches. Balance returns to the universe.

posted by sstrader at 10:37 PM in Internet | permalink

February 16, 2009

Feed; M. T. Anderson

Quick read. Made me very depressed. It's sort of a 1984/BNW for young adults (although, we all read those as young adults, so the genre label is a little unfair). Many of the scenes are as bleak as those two anti-futures, with a more relevant, timely grimness. The future is defined by a combination of corporations taking over American schooling ('cause state-supported education is so Nazi) and the near ubiquity of brain implants providing internal internet, chat, entertainment, and pushed, personalized advertisements. Once knowledge is always available and without effort, learning is abandoned. There are many scenes where the female protagonist wonders why culture appears shallow and moronic only to her. This attitude doesn't need to be set in the future to ring so true.

To me, the technological possibilities--even when presented as such a destructive force--were fascinating. Late in the novel our heroine marvels sadly that, when she doesn't try to hide her preferences, the corporations' product-recommendation algorithms actually did work better than her own choices. Something we think we want can give us what we want and yet still be destructive.

I liked the Uglies series better but only because it wasn't nearly as depressing.

Continue reading "Feed; M. T. Anderson"
posted by sstrader at 10:45 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | tagged ya fiction | permalink

February 12, 2009

Talking Heads, "Seen and Not Seen"

He would see faces in movies, on T.V., in magazines, and in books...
He thought that some of these faces might be right for him....
And through the years, by keeping an ideal facial structure fixed in his mind....
Or somewhere in the back of his mind....
That he might, by force of will, cause his face to approach those of his ideal....
The change would be very subtle....
It might take ten years or so....
Gradually his face would change its shape....
A more hooked nose...
Wider, thinner lips....
Beady eyes....
A larger forehead.

He imagined that this was an ability he shared with most other people....
They had also molded their faces according to some ideal....
Maybe they imagined that their new face would better suit their personality....
Or maybe they imagined that their personality would be forced to change to fit the new appearance....
This is why first impressions are often correct...
Although some people might have made mistakes....
They may have arrived at an appearance that bears no relationship to them....
They may have picked an ideal appearance based on some childish whim, or momentary impulse....
Some may have gotten half-way there, and then changed their minds.

He wonders if he too might have made a similar mistake.

posted by sstrader at 2:00 PM in Language & Literature | permalink


Coincidentally (after reading about the NL plugin for Firefox) came across a year-old article in some programming rag at work describing the ins-and-outs of parsing C with lexx/yacc. You couldn't pay me enough to write a C parser (unless, of course, you're a potential employer reading this, in that case I'd love to write a C parser (but I'd seriously question why you need one)). What with the wacky declarations and struct tags. Despite the clear-yet-recondite rules for visually parsing declarations, the stack probably gets pretty hairy.

posted by sstrader at 9:51 AM in Programming | permalink

February 10, 2009

Command line

I've been looking at the browser address bar as the future of the command line (as have others) and Firefox will be upping the ante with natural language in its "Ubiquity" plugin v. 3.2. The Slashdot wonks were particularly pissy seeing as how the dreaded "NL" phrase was dropped (there're a certain group of the technorati that hate the legacy of AI research...). The parser docs for the FF plugin outlines the basic imperative sentence parsing they're working on, with standard verb+subcats (e.g. "find X in Y" or "move X from Y to Z" where "find" subcategorizes for two objects and "move" for three). Similar to how Opera's custom search keywords work, Ubiquity would be able to expand on the simple concept that a web form is equivalent to a verb in an imperative sentence. Web searches only subcategorize on one object ("find X") because there's only one input in most search forms (the text box where search terms are typed). If a form had multiple fields then the form/verb would need to subcategorize for multiple objects. Ubiquity's example uses "translate X from Y to Z". I could also see websites and transports being subcategorized: "order X from Amazon," "IM 'X' to Y via Z," "email 'X' to Y's Z account."

posted by sstrader at 3:37 PM in Science & Technology | permalink

February 5, 2009

Where was I?

Been very busy with a new coding project at home, so I haven't been lazily logging my life here. To whit:

Saturday two weeks ago (Sat the 24th?) we went to a coworker's 40th b-day party OTP. Very fun. Got to chat with some people I don't chat with and with their wives that I never chat with. The rest of the weekend... hmm, not really sure. I guess that's why I need to write this stuff down more frequently.

Last weekend was our 10th wedding anniversary on Friday. Hotel room up in Vinings and an excellent evening at The Vinings Inn (where I had proposed to her some 11 years earlier?). Food is great, plus a fine fine low budget menu that would be good to take advantage of during the week. Saturday was late nite movie at The Plaza: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] (alternate title according to IMDB: Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: The Giant Monsters' General Offensive)! Before the movie was a live skit with rubber-suited monsters, evil doctors, and go-go dancing Asian chicks where, eventually, a cardboard version of Atlanta was nearly destroyed onstage before Mothra--a black leather, zippered and D cuped vixen with a fetching Mothra hat--triumphed over the others. Wacky!

Sunday was a Superbowl party at Alicia and Dan's. Crazy amounts of food and actually decent commercials.

posted by sstrader at 5:02 PM in Where was I? | permalink

February 1, 2009

Multivalent conversations and online presence

I was noticing on Friday at work that many of the conversations we have hop between domains. Conversations start in an email, jump to clarifications on IM then hallway drive-bys and sometimes become ossified into an actual meeting room meeting. I'd thought about this before and wanted someway to dynamically move a conversation to your phone (IM moves to SMS) if you walk away from your desk for a few minutes. The conversation can continue, but you don't need to be in a fixed location or use a fixed medium.


This week's On The Media had a segment on how kids these days (the digital natives) manage their online presences differently. The assumption is that they have poor judgement in their division of private and public--thus the recent report that 1-in-5 teens have posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. The findings were, as expected, unexpected. Those who have a regular online presence have a greater sense of the inevitability of them being googled and act accordingly. The ungoogleable are anachronisms.

The primary warning of the ungoogleable towards the googleable has been that you risk not landing a job if a future employer finds anything they don't like. Though correct at face value, I've always thought it a little evil that employers' transient tastes should dictate how you present yourself in your life. If I'm a raging socialist (if) trying to get a programming job, do I really want such an employer that would not hire me if they knew that I was? Self-censorship is insidious no matter the origin. The guest on On The Media went one step in a different direction and suggested that such issues will not even be issues when online presence is common (as it is with this next generation). When everyone's online to a moreorless equal degree, discovering another's non-work persona becomes less juicy and, appropriately, less relevant.

posted by sstrader at 3:23 PM in Internet | permalink