The All-Thing
   


All carrot and no stick, since ought-three.

列女操 (孟郊)

梧桐相待老,鴛鴦會雙死。
貞婦貴殉夫,舍生亦如此。
波瀾誓不起,妾心井中水。

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Mon, 30 Jun 2003

Bogey in the 40's

Wow! Here's the Boston Public Library's schedule for Bogey movies this summer:

  • July 7, The Roaring Twenties (104 min. b/w. 1939).
  • July 14, The Maltese Falcon (100 min. b/w. 1941.).
  • July 21, Casablanca (102 min. b/w. 1942).
  • July 28, To Have and Have Not (100 min., b/w. 1944).
  • Aug. 4, The Big Sleep (114 min. b/w. 1946).
  • Aug. 11, Dark Passage (106 min. b/w. 1947).
  • Aug. 18, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (124 min. b/w. 1948).
  • Aug. 25, Key Largo (101 min. b/w. 1948).

I'm so there!

I was going to complain about the absence of The African Queen until I realized that was from 1951. (P.S. Katharine Hepburn just died yesterday.)

And unfortunately I'll be out of the country for The Big Sleep, which I was looking forward to having another crack at, having been completely confused by the plot the first n times....

Posted at 09:54 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 25 Jun 2003

Jazz Violin

Holy shit. I want this book so bad. I have been on an insane Grappelli kick, and the other Matt Glasser fiddle book that I have is fantastic.

It's cool to think that I'm only three degress away from Grappelli in terms of instruction.

Posted at 10:35 | /books | (leave a comment) | permalink

Tue, 24 Jun 2003

Kokoro

Just finished reading Kokoro. I liked it more than I expected, given that I generally have a very low tolerance for classics (often near-regardless of time period or country of origin—someone who sees tremendous value in, or has the patience for, classics, I am not). The fact that the entire thing was a long exposition on man's fundamental loneliness, inescapable except through death, might explain my appreciation. I tend to dig that kind of thing.

Anyways, it's written in very simple, clear prose, and has a nice personal take on generation gap issues, which, I suspect, were particularly strong in Japan during the giant cultural transition that was the Meiji restoration. Worth reading.

Posted at 10:52 | /books | (leave a comment) | permalink

Windows sucks

I always have fun transferring photos from my digital camera to my Windows laptop. When you're done USB devices on Window, you're supposed to go through a complicated series of actions to tell Windows you're about to unplug the device:

  1. find the little icon on the bar at the bottom; then
  2. right click on it; then
  3. click on Unplug or Eject Hardware; then
  4. select the device you want to unplug; then
  5. click Ok.

The alternative, of course, is to:

  1. unplug the frickin' device; then
  2. hit Ok when Windows whines.

Good user interface design, guys.

Of course, I use the Windows box in the first place because it took me about two hours of intensive effort to get USB working on my Linux box, and I promptly forgot how to do it. Some modprobe trickery... oh well, can't win 'em all.

Posted at 10:43 | /computing | (leave a comment) | permalink

Mon, 23 Jun 2003

Pleasing things

… about today.

  1. Sun is shining, weather is sweet.
  2. Crazy furniture acquisition over the weekend. Big hunks of solid chunky mahogany and indian rosewood. No pansy Ikea crap for me. This is furniture baby.
  3. In the mail: one 80Gb hard drive, for slightly more than 50c/Gb, and six CDs worth of Django Reinhart and Stephane Grappelli. Oh yeah, Minor Swing.
  4. New tasty batch of spring tea from Tenren.
  5. Fun perl scripting to do.

Life is sweet.

Posted at 14:18 | /mortal | (leave a comment) | permalink

Thu, 19 Jun 2003

Santorum

Missed this when it came out a few weeks ago. Dan Savage's competition to define Santorum in a sexual context has been decided. (This is, of course, in response to Senator Rick Santorum's (R-PA) comments in April comparing homosexuality to incest, bigamy and adultery

Savage Love readers, by a wide margin, want U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's name to stand for... that frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex!

http://www.theonionavclub.com/savage.php?savage_id=24

Posted at 08:42 | /words | (leave a comment) | permalink

Bluegrassbox

I guess I had known about this before, but ETree is the modern incarnation of the old tape trees that I was briefly involved with as a youthman. Basically it's a set of FTP servers that people use to distribute recordings of live shows, from bands that allow it. It looks like they distribute a mixture of FLACs and Shorten files (which I've never heard of—some Windows thing?) and reject lossfully-compressed audio files, which is a little silly IMO but unsurprising.

A very cool idea, but the distribution mechanism is silly. They announce the servers once a week on some mailing list, and everybody runs over to them and tries to download as much as they can. I assume the unarchived, restricted-posting mailing list idea is just to raise the entrace barrier. So yeah, they need to move over to BitTorrent or some other distribution mechanism ASAP, and they can ditch this sillyness.

Anyways, there's an Etree node called Bluegrassbox that has a bunch of bluegrass shows that I'd really like to listen to (e.g. Bill Monroe performances from the 60's). This was the source of my harddrive purchase desire earlier. I need to get at these files.

Bluegrassbox also has a streaming radio which is a nice break from Bluegrasscountry.org, which insists on playing that godawful Australian show six times a day, the purpose of which seems to be solely to catalogue every whiny, saccharine, soul-less musical turd that is expelled from the anus of modern bluegrass music. I am personally insulted that these people relegate Eddie Stubbs to the back of the bus to keep this fluff on repeat.

Posted at 08:34 | /internet/links | 2 comments | permalink

Wed, 18 Jun 2003

95% of opinions withheld on visit to family

It's so, so terribly true.

Once you let go of the need to express your thoughts to your family, you suddenly feel much lighter," Wilmot said. "You just float along blissfully, finally liberated from the burden of having any presence at all. It's sort of like getting to return to the womb. Which is way more enjoyable than trying to explain to a tableful of Celine Dion fans why you can't stand her."

http://www.theonion.com/onion3923/95_percent_of_opinions.html

Posted at 17:53 | /internet/links | (leave a comment) | permalink

Remote destruction

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Tuesday he favors developing new technology to remotely destroy the computers of people who illegally download music from the Internet.

http://newsobserver.com/24hour/technology/story/920041p-6406536c.html

Posted at 15:39 | /news | (leave a comment) | permalink

Mass Storage

Dealnews has a pointer to a 160gb EIDE harddrive for $80. That's 50 cents a gig. Pretty amazing—I went to purchase one, but they're out of stock.

But 50 cents a gig is pretty sweet. At that price, I don't have to worry about storage space, ever. At work we're constantly having to fight with the sysadmin people for disk space, which they give out in 2gig chunks. So by the above metric, that's $1 worth of disk space, at the price of a few hundred dollars of people's time. (Of course, the disk space is more costly than that, because they have to back up and maintain everything, but still. It's just silly that we have to worry about these 1980's issues.)

This brings me to my theory (which may not be unique; I should do a literature survey) of pr0n-driven technology, or PDT. The idea is that pr0n is the major factor in pushing technology forward. In particular, advances in network bandwidth, storage capacity, compression schemes, peer-to-peer ideas like BitTorrent, etc. are directly related to people's appetite for pr0n.

I wonder how work on 3d hologram projection is coming along...

Posted at 14:58 | /computing | (leave a comment) | permalink

Mon, 16 Jun 2003

Somerville and Cambridge smoking ban

Somerville and Cambridge both plan to follow the City of Boston's recent ban on smoking.

Sigh. This is a bad idea. My dear hyper-liberal friends, let me splain you why.

It's easy to ban things. It's easy to legislate your problems away. But any time you subtract freedom from people's daily life, you should be exceedingly careful. This is doubly true when the free market itself can provide an alternative, even if it doesn't do so.

So you don't like smoke. It's bad for you. Everyone knows this. And yet, people still go to bars. You probably still go to bars. Why is this? Because you've used your adult judgment, you've weighed the tradeoffs, and you've come to an intelligent, informed decision.

So you see what you've just done, in supporting the ban? Rather than treating adults like adults, rather than allowing for American-style maximum freedom, you treat them like kids. You don't have a choice, you've said, "because we know better than you".

So how about, instead of trying to legislate your problems away, you put your money where your mouth is and open a smoke-free bar? Rather than removing choice from people's life, offer them more choice. Now one of two things will happen:

  1. People who don't like smoke will come to your bar. You win. You've created a new option that people didn't have before. And you can make money. Congratulations.
  2. People don't come to your bar. Hm, I guess they've decided that the tradeoffs didn't work out in your favor. I.e., they'd rather put up with second-hand smoke and its costs, for the value they get from going to their favorite smoky bar.

But no. You've done the most un-American thing of all: you've removed people's right to choose.

The most common argument I hear at this point is: "but what about the workers? We must protect them!". And to this I say: the above argument applies even to them. They have made an intelligent, informed decision with their adult minds. And you must provide me with an argument that doesn't apply to every other dangerous job.

It's easy to think that, after the ban, everything will stay the same except that the bartenders and staff will now breathe fresh air. But clearly this is 太簡單, as we say in Chinese. (Roughly, too simple.) How much business do you drive away from the bars, in terms of smokers and their buddies who choose to hang out at home more, or go to bars in neighboring places more frequently? How many staff do bars now sack because their income has gone down? Things are not going to stay the same.

And ultimately, when were they better off? Before, when they had a job, albeit a smoky one? Or now, when they don't have a job at all? Remember, they took that job despite its smokiness. Not only have you deprived them, and me, of the freedom to choose my bar and my job, you've potentially deprived them of their job itself.

Don't think that just because you're self-righteous enough to criticize other people's lifestyle choices (hm, sound like an argument you've applied against the religious right recently?) that legislating your morals onto other people's bodies (hm, ditto?) is going to help anything in the long run. That warm fuzzy feeling only lasts until you start thinking about it.

Posted at 11:31 | /mortal | 1 comment | permalink

Eddie Stubbs

One of my personal musical heroes is Eddie Stubbs. Not only does he host a fantastic traditional country radio show on WAMU, net-broadcast on http://www.bluegrasscountry.org, which I am listening to RFN, he played with the Johnson Mountain Boys and is of my favorite bluegrass fiddlers. Probably my third favorite, I'd say, after Chubby Wise and Kenny Baker.

Really tastefully, really classic bluegrass fiddling.

Posted at 10:00 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink

Turing machines

So BoingBoing had a pointer to this article by some dude about Turing machines and Turing computability. This guy allegedly has a PhD in CS from Duke. Wtf.

I posted a critical comment (comment #2) which I'm going to expound upon briefly here.

Turing machines are a model of computation. What makes them universal is that, for any set of separate Turing machines that do different things, including the infinite set of all possible Turing machines, one can find/construct a single Turing machine that does all of those tasks. In other words, adding one Turing machine to another does not remove you from the world of Turing machines—you simply end up with a third Turing machine.

Now what makes Turing machines a powerful idea is the Church-Turing hypothesis, which essentially states that anything that we as humans would call computation can be performed by a Turing machine. The C-T hypothesis, like many scientific theories, can never be logically proved, but it has not been disproved, and people believe it.

Computatability theorists have studied more powerful models of computation than Turing machines, in particular ones where you assume the presence of a magical oracle which answers correctly any question you pose it, but these models do not correspond to anything in the real world. Saying that because people have studied these models, Turing machines are somehow irrelevant or insufficient or outdated, is simply incorrect.

Anyways, I just find it a bit bizarre that this guy attacks Turing machines. It's a little difficult to really understand his arguments because he confuses a lot of terminology and ideas.

Posted at 09:26 | /computing | (leave a comment) | permalink

No telephone in heaven

I don't have any internet access at home for the next week (and haven't had it for a week already). And I have mixed feelings about it.

Obviously it makes some things a lot more difficult—e.g. all the brilliant ideas that I have, I'm forced to remember them until Monday morning when I can finally inscribe them in the stone tablet of the anti-blog for your (my non-existent reader's) pleasure—but it's also a no-underwear kind of liberating. E.g. I sat around last night sipping my new favorite bourbon, barrel-proof Wild Turkey (which, by the way, is both exceedingly delicious and exceedingly alcoholic—this batch was about 108 proof) and reading this big book of Chinese art I've had for years but never really looked at.

Of course the book was still boring as fuck BUT given that my traditional activity for the evening would have been compulsively reloading Craigslist, I felt it was a significant improvement.

But I'm hoping this sort of this will continue even post-internet installation, now that I have separate rooms for reading, internet access, and sleeping. I've always had a difficult time mixing contexts so I'm hoping this will make it easier to get some reading/studying done at home.

And if not, the 1369 Cafe is two literal blocks from my doorstep...

Posted at 08:51 | /meta | (leave a comment) | permalink

Tue, 10 Jun 2003

I Suck

Re-reading the last few days' worth of posts, I realize that they really suck. I don't think I'm this poor of a writer in general. But my good writing tends to have a lot of time devoted to it, so perhaps it's just a matter of practice to get these once-over'd, ne'er-edited posts come out well.

And as a complete non-sequiter, accidentally having capslock on while trying to use vi is like being under the influence of really, really strong drugs. You can't figure out what's going on, and everthing does the opposite of what you'd expect. You'll try to move your arm and instead your eyes switch to monochrome and start babbling about your childhood.

Posted at 14:40 | /meta | (leave a comment) | permalink

Make Jobs Not War

I guess I'm a little late to be commenting on this, but I was reminded of it yesterday. During the Gulf War part Deux or whatever it was called, I kept seeing signs and stickers that said Make Jobs Not War. (Incidentally, there was a fantastic picture in the Economist recently that showed a protest with someone holding up a sign that said Iraq is French for Hollywood. WTF?)

Now I'm plenty pro-employment and anti-war, but seriously, what the fuck is that sign supposed to mean? I mean, it's a nice sentiment, but it doesn't reflect any kind of reality. Both of these things—jobs and war—are not made simply by willing them to be, nor can they be exchanged for one another in any kind of meaningful way.

One doesn't simply say here, I'll add 200 more jobs to my company and turn a knob and it's done. Jobs are a function of an incredibly complex system—the entirety of the global economy, at this point. Having the money to employ new people is a function of having the customer base to support it is a function of the customers' having money to buy your product/service is a function of them wanting your product, knowing about it, having a job themselves, etc.

And while war, at least, can hypothetically be turned on and off at the touch of a button, it's not without massive repercussions for either action. These signs were appearing in the middle of the war and pulling out would arguably have been worse than not going to war at all.

So I guess the upshot is that, while I agree with the basic sentiment that jobs are good and war is to be avoided, and I understand the need to express oneself in a sufficiently pithy manner that one can fit one's opinion on one's little sticker, seriously guys. It's just dumb.

Posted at 12:35 | /politics | (leave a comment) | permalink

Mon, 09 Jun 2003

Joey Skaggs and media reponsibility

Ever wondered just how accurate, fair, and well-researched the media is? Rather than blathering endlessly about it, run an experiment. Invent a false news-worthy story, publicise it, and see how the media lies, embellishes, and fails to do even the most trivial amount of research. And see how the public believes what you and the media tell them at face value.

This is basically what Joey Skaggs does. A brief accounting of his pranks is at http://www.snopes.com/critters/edibles/dogsoup.htm.

My personal favorite:

"His earliest stunt dates back to 1966 when he (and a few friends — he's not that strong) took a 200-lb. sculpture depicting a naked rotting skeletal corpse with a human skull, barbed wire crown of thorns, long human hair, and a metal penis dangling between the legs, affixed it to a 10-foot cross made from telephone poles, dragged it to the top of a knoll in Tompkins Square Park in New York City, and erected it upon that spot."

Which admittedly doesn't have a specific media impact, but for personal reasons I find highly appealing.

I'm glad this guy is out there. I'm glad he's doing this stuff explicitly to raise people's level of critical thinking—this absolutely has to happen. Plus it's just freaking cool.

Posted at 10:53 | /internet/links | (leave a comment) | permalink

Fri, 06 Jun 2003

Perl Obfuscation

Writing code to generate more code really turns me on. I wrote an obfuscated Perl code producer (in Perl of course) a few weeks ago based on a trick I found somewhere on the web. Unfortunately I forget where I found the trick, but it's pretty neat and took me a while to understand.

Here is some sample output:


 '?( {(@@.}('=~('(?{'.('+/)@[@|);##_]*@@=^*|'^'[]@./`^A^OO0}^(%O; ^').'})')

This example just prints a string, but in principle could execute an arbitrary set of Perl commands. Neat eh? Perl as a decryption engine.

(You'll need to pass this in to perl directly; using –e typically won't work because the shell will interpret the single quotes.)

Posted at 10:51 | /code | (leave a comment) | permalink

Moving, part 1

Here's a brief summary of my moving experience thus far.

Sunday: Plan to move small stuff to the new place over the course of the week.

Monday: Start packing. Put some boxes in the car. Call landlord to set up a time to pick up keys. He's not there. Leave a message. He does not reply.

Tuesday: Still no reply from landlord.

Wednesday: Call again. He says roommate-to-be picked up the keys a few days ago. That's weird. Why wouldn't she tell me? Call her. No reply; leave a message. Call her again. Still no reply; leave another message. Send her email. Finally she replies saying she's in Newton, and can I pick up the keys from her tomorrow? Argh.

Thursday: finally meet up with RTB and pick up a set of five keys. Some confusion as to what they're all for. Drive to new place. Spend half an hour trying to get any one of the five keys to work. None does. Call RTB. No reply; leave message. Drive back to her place. Get her key. Drive back to new place. Cry with joy when I finally manage to open the door. Start unpacking the boxes that have been sitting in my car since Monday. Get parking ticket. Fall to my knees and curse God and the City of Somerville parking office. Go home.

Total percentage of possessions tranferred: 5%.

Posted at 09:59 | /mortal | (leave a comment) | permalink

Thu, 05 Jun 2003

Pirate

I really have issues with the word pirate when applied to DRM.

"The Court of Appeals decision confirms our long-held position that music pirates must be held accountable for their actions, and not be allowed to hide behind the company that provides their Internet service," said RIAA president Cary Sherman.

No. Pirates were people who forcibly boarded other ships, killed men, raped women, and other horrendous acts. To equate people who copy music—an action which causes no physical harm to any other being in the universe—with murderers and rapists is, in my opinion, to engage in a very henious act of language engineering.

Unfortunately this usage seems to have been around for quite a while. At least since 1913.

Posted at 15:36 | /words | (leave a comment) | permalink

Flexibility and Law

One idea that's been slowly emerging in my mind over the last few years is the concept of flexibility in law. I'm talking specifically about the judicial aspect of things: what you are responsible for when you take on the role of judging another human.

I used to believe that the letter of the law was what was important; you as judge or jury member had the duty of interpreting the law to the best of your ability and determining whether or not the defendant had violated it. That was the whole and the extent of your duty.

Nowadays, I don't think it's quite that cut and dry. I have come to believe that we as human beings have a responsibility to society to create and maintain human society, and this means taking into account what we intuitively feel is right and wrong—our a priori beliefs in the degree of wrongness of an act. This means that the our judgment should not be based solely on the letter, or even the spirit, of the law.

The fundamental idea that provides this belief is that we are humans and not machines. It can be convenient to think of the universe as clockwork around us, and at some deep physical level it may be, but at the level of social interactions, we live in a human world. A world where there are always shades of gray, there are always situations which the creators of the law simply didn't take into account or couldn't forsee (through fault or no fault of their own), and things are rarely black and white.

This doesn't mean, I don't think, that the idea of declaring things legal or illegal has to change. (Though certainly it is related to my hatred of so-called zero tolerance and 3 strikes laws, which are attempts to apply fundamentally inhuman principles to human situations). All it means is that, if you find yourself on a jury and you have a gut feeling that what you're doing is wrong, DON'T DO IT. Regardless of what the judge says, you have the ability to use your better judgment in determining the degree of punishment that the defendant deserves, if any.

Related issues:

  • The case of Ed Rosenthal, who was convicted of federal marijuana charges by a jury of twelve, nine of whom later regretted the decision when they discovered what the judge had not allowed them to hear during the trial—that he had been working under the auspices of the city of Oakland and of California state law.
  • Jury nullification.
  • Copy protection is a crime against humanity, an essay by David Weinberger.

Posted at 14:53 | /society | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 04 Jun 2003

TenTea

TenRen, possibly the only decent supplier of oolong in the U.S., has changed its domain name to tentea.com and is offering a 10% discount on all products until June 15th. Which is good, because while they're the best source of Formosan oolong, they're also very expensive.

I'm still undecided as to whether buying Taiwanese oolong is ultimately good (i.e. for the economy) or bad (i.e. for the environment, in terms of erosion—high quality tea is generally grown on high mountaintops and replaces the original, deeper-rooted, flora). It's certainly good for the ol' mouthball.

Posted at 21:42 | /mortal | 2 comments | permalink

RSS 1.0

Well I've spent a little time trying to get an RSS 1.0 feed working. I'm not entirely sure of it because Blosxom doesn't seem provide a complete set of functionality, but you can try it here and let me know if it works or not.

In particular Blosxom doesn't have to seem to have a built-in per-post idea of descriptions, so I'm using the entirety of the entry for now. Not sure if this is or is not the right thing to do. Regardless, there's probably a plugin that does some kind of LJ-style cut that I can co-opt for this purpose.

Posted at 16:10 | /meta | (leave a comment) | permalink

DOS by algorithmic complexity

Very cool research on forcing worst-case behavior from server-side data structures/algorithms, allowing for low-bandwidth DOS attacks. Mostly seems to focus on hash tables, but some other stuff in there as well. Various versions of Perl, glib, and others are all affected.

Seems mostly to apply to open-source software (because you know the implementation details, including choice of algorithm), but of course, this is ultimately a strength, and not a weakness, of OSS.

Just another datum on how difficult it is to write good software, and how subtle the problems can be.

Posted at 14:35 | /computing | (leave a comment) | permalink

The beginning

Well here it is. The blog from he who hates blogs. The blog to end all blogs. Partially due to my good friend Y.C. Cheng, and partially due to my realization that static content is the least interesting, least useful aspect of the internet, I've jumped on the blogwagon, at least for a while.

There are two other aspects of blogosity that I find appealing. The first is having a permanent record of ideas, links, thoughts, memes, etc.—I know I burn through a lot of ideas, most of which are lost in the ether. Permanent searchable record = good.

The other aspect that's very appealing to me in a technical sense is the RSS aggregation stuff. I think that's a very cool idea. Similar to mailing lists, at least from my point of view, but finer-grained, lower entry/exit barriers and higher posting barriers, which I hope will be the right combination to reduce the traditional mailing list issues. We shall see.

Anyways, that's enough rationalization. If I can stay away from the "the type of peanut butter that I ate today" kind of entries, which are the source of most of my anti-blogness, I'll consider this experiment a success.

We'll see how things go.

Posted at 13:03 | /meta | 1 comment | permalink


   

Never laugh at live dragons. -- Bilbo Baggins [J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Hobbit"]