Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blizzard Adventure!

Well, today was an interesting day. It started out about normal, Steve went to work, and I did some work here. Then, along about 13:30 we headed out to the bank and then to Dave & Buster's to spend some time with Steve's dad and sister, Michelle. We left from there for the airport about 17:00, to pick up Matt and his friend Truong. The roads weren't horrible, but they weren't great, either.

We started back from the airport about 19:00, and then the blizzard was really starting to pick up. Things were pretty good until we got into Wheat Ridge. By then the snow was already 4-5" high, there were few plows out, and conditions worsened on highway 58 into Golden. We almost got stuck at the top of a hill because someone else had either stopped or got stuck up there, and getting moving again in this snow when you're stopped is nearly impossible.

We made it to Golden, and stopped at the gas station so Matt could get some milk and other provisions, then we took him home and began the long trek up 93 to Boulder. The roads themselves weren't too bad, but the near-whiteout conditions made it a dangerous drive. I had to pass several people because they just weren't going fast enough. The Golf performed admirably. I never lost control and never got stuck, at least on 93.

We stopped and got a bunch of provisions at the grocery before heading home. Everything was going well, until I came to the corner right by our apartment building, when we got stuck in the middle of a turn! We called Brendan, and some other folks stopped to help as well, but it was to no avail; although we got it out of the middle of the street, it's definitely stuck where it is for a few days. Sigh... we almost made it!

Anyway, then we got the groceries in and I went out to take a couple pictures. While I was doing that, I came across someone else whose car was stuck, and so I (and another guy, who coincidently works at Silvermine [Brendan is apparently working there now]) helped push him into a parking lot.

Now, I'm just glad to be home, and planning to not leave for several days. It's a good thing I can work from home!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Twelve things you notice when you have Pentapedes

The pentapede is a semi-intelligent, tarantula-sized, five-legged hemovore (blood-eater... I can't find any real references online for this word, so...) with a spider-like carapace. They also like to dance. And bite.

Mostly they bite.

Steve and I have come up with a holiday song comemerating the pentapede, entitled, "Twelve Things You Notice when You Have Pentapedes," sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

The verse goes:

The first thing you notice, when you have pentapedes,
is the body on top of their legs.


And the things you notice are:
  • Twelve puncture wounds

  • Eleven beady eyes

  • Ten legs... wait a minute...

  • Nine hours recovery

  • Eight-minute poison

  • Seven foot-high jumping

  • Six daily feedings

  • Five Hairy Legs!

  • Four crying kids

  • Three dead pets

  • Two slavering fangs

  • And a body on top of the legs!


Merry Pentamas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A pinch of foolishness

I've been reading over my old blog posts, and I decided that I need to write more bad poetry here. I know, I know, if you wanted something that wasn't funny, you could read R'thoria, but I'm doing it anyway. Enjoy!

The snow falls in the quiet eve
For some time yet, I shall not leave
'Til the ice is gone and clouds are spent
I daren't drive with the roads this bad

The night has come again
The howling can't begin
The wolves and coyotes buried deep
The snow makes them want to sleep

Green snake, sugar cane,
Rapping on my window pane
'Kay, this poem's awfully lame
I think that I'm done with this game.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Go Free Software Foundation!

Wow, those guys over at the Free Software Foundation (http://www.fsf.org/) are real firebrands! They announced yesterday the opening of their newest project, BadVista, "a campaign with a twofold mission of exposing the harms inflicted on computer users by the new Microsoft Windows Vista and promoting free software alternatives that respect users' security and privacy rights." And, on the 13th, they announced a donation of $60,000 (!!!) to the Free Ryzom campaign, a campaign to buy the MMORPG Ryzom from its bankrupt parent company and release it under the GPL.

Go FSF!

Quotes from last night's viewing of Eragon

"I wish my sorcerer were emo, so he would cut himself!"

"Oh, look, a whole theater full of people that will be disappointed."

"And here, behind this tapestry, is where I keep my DRAGON!"

"BTW, George Lucas called. He wants his PLOT back."

"And so did Peter Jackson. He wants his SET back."

R'thoria's Used Plot Elements, Vol. 2, Ep. 001

Welcome back, everyone! I know that you all missed me terribly, but I assure you that that court-ordered sabbatical to the mental hospital has done wonders for my skin, and I'm ready to bring you some new and wonderful Used Plot Elements!

In the time that I've been gone, we've seen quite a few new plots come and go in the mainstream, and we here at RUPE have got some amazing deals for you!

But first off, an oldie but goodie, it's the "boy abandoned by his mother lives with his uncle until the evil Authority (be it empire, marauding invaders or otherwise) kills his uncle and so he must go off adventuring to defeat the evil Authority using strange powers he never knew he had before" plot. Made most famous in modern times by George Lucas' Star Wars Trilogy (ep. 4-6), this classic has been around for as long as there have been Authorities, evil, and uncles (since 1284)! With just one copy left in stock, I'm sure that the low low price of 65536 nuyen will ensure that this one goes to a worthy customer.

Next up on the block, we have something unusual for us here. Normally, we don't carry very many tangible goods—apart from our line of Wookiee products. Don't forget to get our new "Wookiee See Wookiee Doo" card game!—but in a recent shipment, nestled between the classic "Uncle Stilt's Pin" and "The Ever-So-Effeminate-but-Certainly-Not-Gay-(Unless-You're-Cute) Hairstylist of Seville" plots, was the complete set for Helm's Deep, from the epic movie trilogy, The Lord of the Rings! Normally we would, of course, return it immediately to the producers, but, well, we didn't want to pay the shipping.

So! For a mere 394.26 nuyen (plus tax) this incredible set can be yours! We will also giftwrap your purchase for free!

Finally today, we decided to throw a copy of Dragonheart into the blender with McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern, hoping for a fiber-intense smoothie, but instead we got a new plot! I call it the, "Dragons are cool, let's tell a story about them, oh but we need people too so that the audience can relate", sifted through some cheesecloth to get rid of any semblance of dialog, plot, or politics, maybe a fifteen-year-old wrote it plot. We're letting this one go cheap, folks! All I'm asking is a strawberry smoothie, or maybe a banana daiquiri.

Why, hello, Mr. Fangmeier! Yes, sir, I'll wrap these up for you immediately! I hope everything goes well with you for that Eragon movie you're making... You're sure it's not a misspelling for 'dragon'? Okay, then! See you again soon!

Well, folks, just remember, at RUPE, we're proud to be the primary supplier for Hollywood, so, whether you want ACTION, ADVENTURE, or simply the best selection of subatomic particles around, come on down and let our professional harass your cares away!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

His name is Linus. He fights for the Users.

Ok, so, admittedly, I don't normally agree with Linus Torvalds. But, this time, he's got it right.

In brief: the issue at hand is whether to disallow non-GPL'd modules to be loaded into the Linux kernel. Apparently, a majority of the kernel developers said that that should be the case (it isn't now), and that it would start Jan 1, 2008. I think that this is a bad idea, because it restricts users' freedom, most specifically the freedom to modify their software to do what they want it to.

Now, don't get me wrong, these guys are also working for users' freedom. Specifically, they want to ensure the freedom of the users to modify modules that are used on their systems. But the method they've chosen is a step in the wrong direction. They are choosing to restrict the freedoms of their own software in order to pressure others to open the freedoms of the others' software (something that the FSF is often accused of doing, and berated for it, even if they don't actually do that). One of the quotes I saw was to the effect of, "in order to protect your freedoms, we have to make some restrictions on them...", which is wrong! This way leads to ever further restrictions. Think "Those who would give up their liberty to protect their liberty, um, will lose it, duh!" (This is why Nozick always slips into the State...)

Anyway, Linus has refused to add the patch to his source tree without broad consensus from major Linux distributions (which will never happen).

Again, I'm all in favor of a completely GPL'd kernel, with all modules that are needed (for anyone!) GPL'd, too. But not when it's forced on me.

Five-suited Bridge

I (finally!) found some rules for bridge with five suits! The rules are summarized in the TIME magazine article Super-Bridge, which appeared on March 7, 1938!

In brief:

Super-Bridge (Five-suited Bridge)

By: Walther Marseille

Players: 4

Deal: 16 cards to each player. One card is left over, and may be swapped with another card by the declarer if desired, but only before play begins.

Bidding: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades, Stars (or whatever), No Trump

Play: As normal, but with 16 tricks.

Book: 8 tricks

Points for tricks over book: Clubs & Diamonds, 20; Hearts & Spades, 25; Stars, 30; No Trump, 40.

Game points: 120

Possible Slams: Little slam (14 tricks), Grand Slam (15 tricks), Super-Slam (16 tricks)

I don't know how well the game plays (having not yet played it), but I'm somewhat wary of the point values. It might be better to combine Stars & No Trump. Also, leaving the game points at 100 would, at least, make for a faster game, though whether or not this is desirable is questionable.

The article mentions that this variant eliminates the possibility of a single-suit hand (since there are 16 cards in each hand and only 13 cards in a suit), which could be desirable, although such occurances are rare anyway.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Scott's Googl-oscity (and my reactions thereto)

So, Google has apparently decided to hire Scott, which is, of course, amazing but not all that much of a surprise when you think about it... Scott's exactly the kind of person they want there: creative, intelligent, hard-working, social, unconventional, not to mention his mighty programming skillz. It's an excellent opportunity for him, and I am sure he'll do phenominally there.

Meanwhile (talking about me because it's my blog, darnit!), I am stuck contemplating my life and what I'm going to do with it. I'm sad (as well as excited) that Scott's going away in January. He's been my friend the second longest at CU, but he's certainly my closest (non romantic-type) friend right now, and although we'll still be in touch and working together, I'm going to miss him terribly, which is kinda sad since we often don't even spend much time together.

But that's not all that's going on in my head right now. Scott's going to work for Google, undoubtedly the best job in the industry, and meanwhile I'm here, doing irregular contract work for Not-Quite-Enough per hour (I'm not complaining too loudly about the money, though; it's good, but not what I'd like). I have the potential to follow him to Google -- I need some more experience first, but the potential is there -- but is that something I want to do?

He once said to me that he was sure I could work for Google, even if it was only in the IT dept (don't screw up there!), and, even though I'm sure he meant it as encouragement, it felt like a consolation prize. And I'm sitting here asking myself, not only "What do I want to do?" but, "Where is my potential for Greatness to be realized?" I sometimes wonder if I haven't made poor choices in remaining in the shadow of Scott and others. Yes, it's true, I didn't want the commitment and time that it would take to do some of those things, but maybe I should've taken them on anyway. I couldn't have beaten Scott for President of the chapter, after all (not only is he far more popular than I ever would be, he was the best person for the job. I truly believe that he is the best president the chapter has seen), but I have shirked away from leadership when opportunity has come my way.

And so we come to Scott leaving for Google. I'm confident, given another year or two (including waiting until Steve graduates) that I could get into Google, even if only as IT support staff. But is that something I want to do? If I go there, will I be following Scott, standing in his shadow and basking in his glow (to mix metaphors a bit)?

Ah, well, enough of the whining and complaining. I've got too many errands to run today (our pledges become Brothers tomorrow, yay!) and I need a shower. I shall contemplate.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Promise of a Post-Copyright World

Head on over to Question Copyright to read Karl Fogel's The Promise of a Post-Copyright World, a thoughtful and thought-provoking treatise on copyright, its history and its place in the future.

A short excerpt:

The Internet did something the Company of Stationers never anticipated: it made their argument a testable hypothesis. Would creators still create, without centralized publishers to distribute their works? Even minimal exposure to the Internet is enough to provide the answer: of course they will.

Art

One of the things that I like best about Irregular Webcomic is that its creator, David Morgan-Mar, is not afraid to be experimental. Take, for instance, today's comic. It's best if you go look at it yourself, and if you read his annotation for the strip, and, of course, it's better if you have read the comic up to this point, so you can understand parts of the annotation, but take a look anyway.

For those of you that don't, it is four panels of black. There's no speech, nothing except the black.

Morgan-Mar justifies this in his annotation by comparing the strip to 4'33", by John Cage, which is a piece, in three movements, of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Morgan-Mar explains the piece quite well in the annotation, so go read that for a detailed explaination.

I like the strip, not for the strip itself, but because of the annotation that comes with the strip, which is as much a part of the strip as the pictures themselves. I always read the annotations, because they're often funny or interesting, but this one is thought-provoking. In explaining his motivations for presenting four black panels with no text, he presents us with a dilemma: what is art, and is this it?

My answer: the strip itself is not art. Four black panels could be done by anyone. The strip is art only in the context of the annotation, and the body of work that Morgan-Mar has previously presented to us (he lead up to this strip quite well... there is a preceeding comic wherein there are four black panels, but with dialogue). I think this is part of the point he wanted to get across in his annotation, that art--any art--is only art within its own context, whatever that may be.

Just some thoughts that have spewed forth from my mind and fingertips.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Hey, all.

Today, November 20, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Please take a moment to reflect on the needless violence inflicted on our fellow human beings simply because they wear the wrong clothes or some other equally inane reason for violence.

Thank you.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Mandate Pictures
Director: Marc Foster

Kate Eiffel has writer's block. She doesn't know how to kill her main character, Harold Crick, but she knows he has to die, and soon. Unfortunately for Harold, he's real.

One normal Wednesday, Harold starts hearing Kate's voice in his head, narrating his life. This, of course, sets him down a path that will lead, eventually, to his death. In the meantime, he tries to figure out who the voice in his head is, and how to save himself.

The plot and dialogue in Stranger Than Fiction are good, and captivate throughout the movie. You want to know the same thing that Harold does: how is he going to die, and can he stop it? Harold begins the movie as a one-dimensional character, a compulsive bean counter working as an IRS agent. He is, perhaps, the dullest person you'd ever meet. But throughout the movie, he grows on you, and although you begin the movie from the clinical perspective of the narrator, you gradually come to care about Harold and the other characters in the film, even the two characters who play a pivotal role in Harold's death, although they never speak. Most of which is yanked away near the end when Kate must complete her novel, and you are left contemplating: will he die, or not? and how?

Will Ferrell plays an excellent Harold Crick, growing throughout the movie and yet not going over-the-top, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman turn in good performances as well.

I recommend seeing Stranger Than Fiction. It has its moments of comedy and suspense, but it is a drama, and a compelling one at that, asking us to examine ourselves and our roles in life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Score by Clark Genser
Based on "Peanuts" characters by Charles M. Schultz
As performed by the Platte Valley Players

Well, musical time has come and gone again 'round these parts. Actually, this year was the first year that the PVP has put on two shows in a year, instead of just one, so the musical was quite a bit later than usual, in November. I played viola in the pit orchestra, and ended up conducting one show due to a schedule conflict with the director.

YaGMCB is, essentially, a musical 'sketch' comedy. It contains a number of scenes, some musical, some not, that are linked thematically by the Peanuts cast, rather than as a simple narrative structure. It feels very much like a compilation of Peanuts strips. The revised score is somewhat lacking in places (among other things, the instrumentation is quite sparse), but there are some nice numbers in the show nevertheless.

The Platte Valley Players have once again impressed me with their talent, dedication and skill: the choreography was good, and well-executed; although there were some rough spots, there wasn't a huge problem with keeping the actors with the orchestra (and vice-versa); the set design was good and fit well with the style of the show. It is remarkable to me how well the troupe can do with the limitations that they have as a community group (low budget, time constraints, etc), which they have shown before in their production of The Mikado.

In particular, though I doubt they will ever read this, kudos to Charlie Brown, who, so far as I noticed, only messed up a line once during the performances; to Lucy, who did a remarkable job singing in the annoying voice of her character (and not the actress's normal singing voice... it's always hard to sing poorly when you've been trained to sing well); and to Sally Brown, who worked so very hard to get the rhythms right, and eventually did.

I never know beforehand whether I'll play for a musical or not, but I think I'm inclined to play again for PVP if they ask.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Terry Hancock on Why Free Software is Important

In a recent blog post at Free Software Magazine, Terry Hancock explains (some reasons) why free software is important, and why we should spend our time promoting it and working on it, even though there are "bigger problems to worry about" in the world.

I would still point out that there are many other things that one could do, including protests (among others), although some are not terribly effective. Nevertheless, long-term planning and creating stable, ethical and expandable communities and methods for the future to build on is certainly worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Thud!

Terry Pratchett

Thud!, a Discworld book, tells the story of Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork, and the events surrounding Koom Valley Day, which commemorates the Battle of Koom Valley, fought a thousand years ago when a band of Trolls ambushed a band of Dwarves (or maybe the other way around) in the treacherous Koom Valley. Vimes must solve the mysterious murder of a Dwarven agitator, and keep the city from descending into a troll-dwarf gang war in the meantime, not to mention dealing with the bureaucracy and, of course, Lord Vetinari, the city's Patrician.

Like most of Pratchett's novels, Thud! is not merely reflective of our own world, but highly entertaining. Dealing with themes of love, devotion, family, jealousy, prejudice, ancient grudges and more, it allows us (as good science fiction and fantasy do) to examine ourselves from the outside, in order to gain a bit of perspective. It also allows us to laugh out loud at Terry's imaginative and sometimes surprising turn of phrase. The book is easy and fun to read, but hard to put down.

I highly recommend this book, as well as the other Discworld books, to anyone over 13 (parents, use your own judgement for younger).

Edit: That should be Vimes, not Grimes. Dunno what I was thinking!

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Gregory Maguire

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is the story of Cinderella, told from the point of view of the Ugly Stepsister, in usual Maguire fashion. Set in 17th century Holland (about the time of the collapse of the tulip market), the story is not so much revisionist as a simple retelling of the classic story, removing somewhat the fantasic elements of fairy tales and making it seem, if not actually true, then plausible.

Unfortunately, Maguire's storytelling is merely adaquate. The ideas presented in the book are good, from murder and betrayal to sisterly love and devotion, but the entire book is rather bland, as if it were a story told a thousand times.

Although I enjoyed Wicked, Maguire's first novel, it, too, suffered from the fault that reduced the novel from adaquate to poor: near the end of the story, everything suddently twists around, as if he had forgotten that he was writing a retelling, a new telling, of a fairy tale, and suddenly has to make it conform to our memories of the story it is based on. Each of the novels of his that I have read, Wicked, Mirror, Mirror, and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, has felt adaquate until this sudden, jarring, forced inclusion.

My advice, Mr. Maguire, is don't force it. It's a retelling. People have done it for thousands of years. Don't get hung up on the most popular details; make it your own.

My advice to the rest of you: don't read it. Go find a nice collection of Fairy Tales if you want a different version of Cinderella. You'll enjoy it more.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ethics Questions

If I have the ability to stop, without risk to myself, someone from performing an act that conflicts with my ethics, do I have an obligation to do so?

What if the method I have for doing so is the same act that I intend to stop them from doing?

What if my act will only stop a portion, perhaps even a tiny portion, of the total set of "unethical" acts that this person (or group) will perform?

(Nothing sinister, just wondering)

Random Quoteness

"She couldn't have married a better man... he'd have run too fast." -- Steve.

"Without email, my life would be plunged into darkness!" -- Random ITS caller.

"Text is neat. You can do all sorts of stuff with it that you can't do in speech. And vice-versa." -- Me.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Essentials in Conducting

So, I'm working on a Distributed Proofreaders (check it out, proofread a few pages if you have a few minutes...) project right now called Essentials in Conducting by Karl W. Gehrkins. And, I swear, it contains the following line:

The conductor must see to it ... that, in general, the musical performance be permeated by that steady throb of regular pulsation...


He is, of course, speaking of rhythm... ;-)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Jokes

What do witches and wizards use while typing up their incantations?

A spellchecker.

What do grasshoppers use when they're typing up theories on grass consumption?

Locust Notes.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A piece of computing history

Every once-in-a-while, it's good to look back at events that become turning points in history.

15 years (and two days) ago, Linus Torvalds made the first post about Linux on the comp.os.minix newsgroup. Torvalds' work, enabled by the GNU project's tools (such as gcc), gave us a completely free-as-in-speech operating system, just as the GNU project had been working towards for years.

w00t for GNU/Linux!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Interesting Article

Terry Hancock's recent post, Ghost in the Shell, describes and somewhat analyzes avatars—what they are, how they're used, how we relate to them, based on context, and how the "Ghost", or the persona behind the avatar, is more important than the "Shell", or the avatar itself, be it physical or digital. Go take a read.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Posted "The Galway Shawl"

I've posted a Lilypond trascription of "The Galway Shawl" on my website. There are also PDF and PS versions available on the site as well. I was unable to find very much information on it, so I have not posted it to Mutopia (yet), but I do believe that the original is in the public domain. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fleas and Mathematics

In the popular-mathematics book I'm reading, there are a number of little poems and quotes. You may have heard the following before. Quotations are courtesy the Wikipedia.

"So nat'ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller fleas that bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum."
-- Johnathan Swift


"And the great fleas themselves, in turn,
have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still,
and greater still, and so on."
-- Augustus de Morgan

Monday, August 14, 2006

Eulogy for a Dog

Several weeks ago, the longtime (13 years, I believe) family dog, Aspen, died. It's been kinda strange; no one has seemed particularly upset about it, not me, not even the other dog, Miko. We'd been expecting it for some time now. But I think a short note about her life is appropriate.

Aspen was a kind-hearted runaway. She was chosen from the animal shelter because she was the only one not barking at the time (how soon that changed!). At the time, she was two, and though she sometimes tried to escape, she always made it back somehow. She loved to chase the squirrel, and one time almost caught the bunny. She never understood fetch, but she loved tug of war, and chewing on bones. She had a stout heart and was an optimist, even at the end. How do we know? Her spirit was always strong, even when she must have been in terrible pain. At the end she had warts, cataracts, a limp and probably cancer. But she was always cheerful. She died on the way to the vetrinarian following a stroke several days prior. She was 16.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Richard Stallman hits it on the head

Now, as some of you may know, Richard Stallman is the founder and leader of the Free Software Foundation, and is therefore an influential and generally important guy in the Free Software movement. I don't always agree with him; in fact, I often think he deliberately provokes people, which, I admit, is a time-honored rhetorical and activist technique. Nevertheless, I respect him and his willingness to do what he believes is right. Anyway, I was reading a transcript of his speech about the GPLv3 at the conference in Barcelona, and I read these lines:

[People who choose free software for practical reasons] are the kind of people that assume that you should choose between Free Software and proprietary software based on practical convenience, which is another way of saying that they value freedom at zero. How sad. How can freedom ever be safe, when people don't appreciate it. People have had to fight for freedom, over and over.

And when people do not value their freedom, they are very likely to lose it. But that's the fact. Most of our community does not appreciate freedom. Most of the World, lets go of vital freedoms whenever some crooked politician tells them "I'm going to protect you from terrorists, give up your freedom, let me protect you."


Right on, Mr. Stallman.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Time for some Linkage!

An interview with Defective By Design, a campaign by the Free Software Foundation (again, that's free as in speech, not beer) against DRM.

Also, RMS's essay, The Right to Read.

And a quote from his explanation on a Harry Potter boycott:

[...]one of the biggest threats to all these freedoms today comes from the general climate of fascism--the idea that government should support the power of business over human rights.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Thoughts on Music and Text

This isn't revolutionary, but I was thinking last night about the difficulties involved in music-scanning software. That is, software that scans an image of music (presumably that you scanned in from paper) and creates a representation of that music in a format that's understood by one or more music-writing programs, such as Lilypond or Sibelius.

Text-scanning software, as evidenced by the quality of the scans at Project Gutenburg's Distributed Proofreaders, is pretty good, at least if you have a nice, clean page. However, the last time I tried out music-scanning software, I was very sorely disappointed. So, I began thinking about what the difficulties were with music, and how these were different from text.

Humans can easily recognize and interpret words in all different fonts and sizes, and with a standard font, like Times, very little time is spent actually interpreting the symbols (letters, punctuation). Instead, many common words and phrases are recognized by their structure and form, and the mind replaces any missing words or lettrs as needed, giving a very powerful method of interpretation, even with relatively minimal data. Does music operate in the same way?

First, let's look at fonts and sizes. While it is true that there are some different fonts, sizes, and sometimes even different symbols for musical 'letters' (but then, think of 'A' and 'a'), the variation is relatively small. An eighth note, for instance, is almost always a small, filled oval, with a line attached (called the 'stem') that has one flag. But then we have to consider the equivalent of ligatures.

A ligature, in typography, is when two separate letters are set together as one character. For example, fl and fl. It's sometimes hard to see on a computer screen, but open up a professionally-printed book and you'll see them. Anyway, in music, ligatures can occur when flagged notes are next to one another. Two eighth notes, for example. The flags are joined, and instead a bar runs between the stems.

Musical ligatures are very useful. The composer, arranger or typesetter can change the interpretation of the music based upon how the notes are joined together. For instance, two sets of three eighth notes is different that three sets of two eighth notes, even if they occur in the same time signature.

Anyway, one of the problems involved in scanning music is the lack of semantic understanding by the software. With text, it is much simpler; not only can you improve the recognition of each character, but you can include a dictionary of common words, which can be referenced to check each word as it is scanned. I don't know if any software actually does this, but the human mind does, which leads to the correcting mechanism above.

I wondered whether musicians do this with music, too. The answer is yes. At least, I do. Many times, there is a passage that I have played before, even if it's only a few notes. I glance at the music, see the starting point and recognize the relationship between the notes, and my brain sends the sequence to my fingers. Of course, this doesn't always work perfectly, but it is very helpful in sightreading, and practice corrects the times when it doesn't help. Additionally, musicians, while playing, can understand the context of the passage. They are aware whether the key is minor or major, and can sometimes guess the structure of the music, even if they're playing alone.

This ability to understand the minute pieces of music in context helps musicians read it, which is something that a computer could probably not do. However, music-scanning software could include samples and compare the relationship between notes to the samples.

Another difficulty in scanning music is that it is much more cluttered than text. In text, each character stands by itself, and so the software can pick each one out separately. Of course, sometimes there are complications, such as spots of ink on the page or underlining, but in general text can be isolated.

This is not so with music. Each note is in relation to a staff, which determines its pitch, and usually other notes. For example, if we were to take a slurred, dotted eighth note connected to a staccato sixteenth note, we must consider first their pitches, then their durations (keeping in mind that there is a dot to the right of the eighth note that applies to it), their articulations (the slur passes from the eighth note to the sixteenth, but the staccato is only on the sixteenth--or is it a smudge?), and any text that might be connected to them, for example dynamic markings. Some software attempts to enforce duration constraints on the scanned music by making each measure have exactly the correct durations. Musicians do this, too, but they have the flexibility and intelligence to decide if one note is actually an over-sized grace note or where the extra needed rest should go. The software, free from context, has more difficulty doing this.

Anyway, that's all I have for the time being on that topic.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jim Baen is dead

(No, not Jim Bean, Jim Baen.) He died on June 28, 2006 from a stroke on June 12.

From the notice at http://www.baen.com/:

Jim Baen was a founding partner of Baen Books, one of the largest independent publishers of popular fiction. Since its inception in 1984, Baen evolved to be one of the leading publishers of science fiction and fantasy, and in recent years a leader in electronic publishing and the fight against encrypted books.

Jim Baen started his career in publishing in the complaints department of Ace Books. He moved on to Galaxy magazine in 1973, where his editorial acumen turned the magazine into one of the leading short story venues of the day. He returned to Ace under publisher Tom Doherty to run the science fiction line. When Doherty left to found Tor Books, Jim went with him and established its science fiction line, purchasing its first 170 titles. In 1984 a deal with Simon and Schuster/Pocket Books gave Jim a chance to found his own independent company. S&S has distributed Baen Books ever since. Recently, Baen Books has enjoyed a string of New York Times bestsellers by such authors as David Weber, John Ringo and Eric Flint. Jim also personally worked with Jerry Pournelle, David Drake, Larry Niven, Charles Sheffield, Lois McMaster Bujold and many other authors who shaped the field of modern science fiction. In recent years Jim continued to develop a whole new generation of science fiction writers.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Beginning Place

Ursula K. LeGuin

The Beginning Place is, essentially, a modern fairy tale. Hugh, a young man of about 20, finds escape from his dreary, everyday world as a supermarket checker when, one evening, he dashes from his house and finds a secluded, quiet stream where time seems to stop. Meanwhile, Irene, also about 20, who has been coming to the land beyond the stream for many years, discovers that Hugh has been using the spot for a reprieve from his life. Eventually, they must work together to save the land, called Tembreabrezi, from a growing fear that has crippled trade.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. It isn't the best book I've ever read, and it isn't the best of LeGuin's work. But, it has a certain charm that makes it worthwhile. The pace keeps up through the relatively short novel, but it has a dream-like quality to it (or, maybe it's just because I read it entirely on the plane, I dunno). Throughout, I couldn't help but think that it would be a perfect gay novel, trading Irene for another boy. It has just the perfect touch of sweetness and innocence to make it work, I think.

6-Player Cribbage

As played by the Lehr family

Sometimes, you really want to play a certain type of game, but you either have too many or too few players for the game. What do you do? Make up a variation, of course!

This variation is simple to execute, but can lead to different gameplay than usual.

Players: 6 (either three teams of two, two teams of three, or six players [try to find a board for that!])
Deal: Each player is dealt 5 cards, as with four players.
The Crib: Every player, except the dealer and the third player to the dealer's left (generally his partner, but not always) chooses one card from eir hand to put into the crib. The dealer and the 3rd player to his left each discard one card from eir hand.

Play then proceeds as normal with a turn card and the player to the dealer's left beginning play.

The biggest difference in gameplay is that the sixth player in the hand often doesn't have a chance to play in the first round of 31! Also, with three teams of two, you can't set your partner up for play after the next player, as in 4-player; instead, it is much more like three-player.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Two Things

Firstly, had a funny conversation with (what I presume to be) a spambot last night:

whotookallthegoodskreenames23423: feel like a little cyber fun with me ? pleaase please...

me: Umm.... I think you may be barking up the wrong tree, sweetie.

whotookallthegoodskreenames23423: alright :) how bout i get down on my knees in front or you and help you out of your pants?

me: Umm.... Are you going to become an attractive male first?

whotookallthegoodskreenames23423: tell me what you want me to do with you while i slip out of my pantirs

me: Leave.

whotookallthegoodskreenames23423: oh yeah babe.. dont stop. wile i slide my hand down between my legs and part my moist lips


Hehe. Ah, so many memories. I just love it when someone wears sexy pantirs! Seriously, as Steve points out, who makes a bot that just has cybersex? It didn't even advertise anything, or respond to anything I said. I theorize that a gracious nerd, tired of being refused for cybersex, created it so that he would never have to feel lonely again. Unfortunately, it escaped his benevolent clutches and now runs amok, spreading its legs across the internet for all to behold! That poor nerd. It's probably evolved so far that by the time it contacts him again, he won't even recognize it and will actually think it's a woman! Ah, how appropriate!

Actually, earlier in the conversation when it asked my age/sex/location, I almost said 53/intersex/Siberia, but Steve was like, "What if it's someone who really needs help? Some poor teenager just beginning to come out of the closet? You'll scare him and then he'll kill himself!" Ok, well I inferred the last sentence, but still. And I was like, "Come on, anyone who asks 'a/s/l?' is looking for cybersex, especially if I don't already know them." But I didn't do it anyway. So there. That's all for this story.

Second, gayprof has an interesting post on the lack of queer heroes in the media that you should read.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Books I've read but probably won't review

the telling, Ursula K. LeGuin
Thirty Years that Shook Physics, George Gamow
Parable of the Talents, Octavia E. Butler
Myth Alliances, Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye
Seventh Son, Orson Scott Card
Common Sense, Thomas Paine
Mirror, Mirror, Gregory Maguire

Flatterland – like flatland, only more so

Ian Stewart

Flatterland, as Stewart points out in the introduction, is another sequel to Flatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions (note that this version has ASCII illustrations, which are no substitute for the real thing), Edwin A. Abbott's most famous work. Stewart also points out that Flatland was written as a satire and commentary on Victorian English society and customs. Stewart continues this in Flatterland, though how effectively or to what particular purpose I'm not sure.

The story tells of Victoria Line ("Vikki"), the great-great-granddaughter of A(lbert) Square, and her journeys through the "Mathiverse" with the Space Hopper (yes, that's really what it was based off of). Use a device called the "Virtual Unreality Engine," Vikki is able to experience the various realms of the Mathiverse in their full glory, instead of merely her natural two-dimensional viewpoint. Together, they explore the concept of dimensionality, discrete geometries, fractals (and thereby fractional dimensions), topology, hyperbolic geometry, and even some physics such as relativity and super symmetry before returning back to Flatland, where Vikki begins Flatland's version of a feminist revolution.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I read it all on May 20, so it must've been at least decent. Most of the time, however, I already understood the concepts, so it was easy going. When I didn't understand, however, I didn't feel as if the book did much to clarify them. I enjoyed the more colloquial style of Vikki's journal, although it used what I guess is British slang like "BRILL". The book is not without obvious reference to Lewis Carroll: once the Space Hopper used "frabjous," a word from the poem Jabberwocky (and one that I also saw yesterday in Larry Niven's Tales of Known Space), and there is a 'doughmouse' and a 'harsh mare' and even a 'mud mutter' (sometimes the puns were almost too much). I also enjoyed how Vikki matured through the book, as shown in her journal. However, some of the commentary was, I felt, unneccesary. There was a large bit about the "Hawk King" that rather confused me, and the ending of the story, while it would make sense for a 1960s/70s book, seemed a bit out of date to me.

Ah, well. I would still recommend the book, particularly if you have an interest in science and mathematics. It's a worthwhile read and interesting subject matter.

Blogroll Down-Paring

I've removed a number of blogs that either: haven't been updated in a long long time (most of them) or suck (one or two). Or maybe for another reason, but I can't think of any that fit that description right now.

Also, you'll notice that there is now a link to Chris B's LJ. It's interesting to see what people write about.

Baby Incubators

It's good to know that the Washington Post thinks so highly of women that the best reason for them to be healthy is because they may someday bear children.

William Gillis, Radly Balko at the Agitator, and Echinde all protest the article better than I could. Also, see Echidne's later post.

As for the actual report... my take: healthy = good, but healthy solely for the purpose of bearing children = misguided and scary.

I wonder if you could found an anarchist commune on Mars.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mozart's Fifth String Quartet, Movement 2

I've sent the Lilypond files for the second movement of Mozart's fifth string quartet to the Mutopia Project, Mutopia-2006/05/30-711. They're also available at my website. This release also includes Lilypond files for the seperate parts. Enjoy!

Even more blogginess!

BOULDER, CO -- Blog madness is sweeping the nation! In a breathtaking move, U56J shattered everyone's expectations by starting U56J takes on the world, a stunning commentary on the state of the nation and the world and the adventures of, well, U56J. Stay tuned for more exciting action!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Geoffrey am passing again!

I am the greetest! Now I am leaving college for no raisin!

(As a sidenote: Now I am leaving X for no raisin is an almost completely unused phrasal template, or snowclone, as the Language Loggers call it, with almost zero variation [I saw a "I am leaving town for no raisin" and the slightly more amusing "I am leaving peel for no raisin"] and around 50 google hits total. This probably has more to do with Futurama's relative unpopularity compared to the Simpsons than any other factor. Shame, though. I like this one.)

Final college report:

Cumulative GPA: 3.273
Term GPA: 2.894 (A-, 2 Bs, B-, C)
Degrees (come graduation time): BA in Physics and Linguistics
Time spent: 4 years.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Adding more blogs

I'm pleased to note the addition of Alas, a blog and Center of Gravitas to the blogroll. Just two of the very many worthy blogs that you should read if you get the chance.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Language Log

I don't think I've yet mentioned the Language Log yet. As usual, I don't agree with everything, but they are linguists, and they are interesting. Check 'em out!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy (insert day)!

Today is quite a day!

It's:

  • Steve's Birthday

  • Duke's Birthday

  • My 19-month anniversary with Steve (yay!)

  • and Mother's Day


So, happy day!

Strange Dreams

I've had some rather strange dreams lately. And now you're going to find out about them.

Last night was tornados. First, I dreamt that, for some reason, my sister and I were back at our elementary school. We had gone outside, and were playing in the sand (and unintentionally annoying some nearby idiots) when I spotted a relatively small tornado (about 4-5 feet across) that was within a few hundred yards. Don't ask me how we didn't hear it coming. Anyway, we all ran down to a nearby ditch and waited for it to pass, only it didn't pass. It came up to my sister and tried to suck her up into it. I was holding onto her and wouldn't let it, so it tried harder (being all malevolent-like), so then I somehow lifted my arm up into it and disrupted it. Then we ran. There was something about the idiots trying to attack us, but anyway.

Then, the next dream I had was when I was at my parents' house. My parents, sister and I were all set up to play some four-player chess (I've been researching chess variants lately. There are some really neat ones out there) when, once again, I looked out the window and spotted a huge tornado. This one was really big, and I was screaming and yelling for everyone to get into the basement but no one would listen. So I went down there by myself. It was the usual; howling, blowing, thundering, windows suddently breaking. When it was finally over, I went outside and saw that the neighbor's house was on fire. And parts of the yard. Dunno why that should be the case, but I put out what I could on the yard, and that was the end of that dream.

So much for tornados.

A few nights ago, I had a dream about a guy that I knew while I was in the dorms. Somehow or another, I was inside an MMORPG, looking for Steve. I was headed outside the little city-area I was in (it was kind of a middle-east feeling, and there were all sorts of animals; tigers and bears (no lions) and a few things that were purely of the imaginary world) and, just as I was coming to the gate, I saw him. We greeted, and moved out into another area of the city, and he gave me some advice on the game. We came to an arena where a huge crystal-like thing was suspended with hundreds of ropes. My friend tells me that, when it's swinging, then the newbie players can respawn easily, or something like that. So I start tugging on it. Meanwhile, he goes up a little ways, and jumps out onto a rope. He starts swinging, which manages (presumably with my help) to get the pendulum moving again. Then, he swings up and over the rope a couple of times, lets go, and does the most beautiful dive, head first, right into the hard dirt below. Broke his neck, I'm sure. Then, he was pulled to the center by a large, tentacles creature, and pulled down into a hole in the center. It was quite disturbing. Of course, then he respawned near the entrance to the area, and I saw him and he waved before he left, but it was still strange. Plus he has a nice ass. ;-)

Anyway, that's all for this post.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Happy Founders' Day, Delta Sigma!

We just did the alumni ceremony for PSP, and it was very emotional. I'm going to miss everyone that's graduating, and I wish them well in their lives to come.

Today is May 2, 2006. Delta Sigma is five years old today, and in the best shape I've ever seen it. Congratulations to the Chapter. You all make me proud.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Humanity (?)

...for in every human is the humanity that we all are a part of, and in every face is the mass murderer as well as the saint. The capacity for absolute destruction is in every person, the irrational held back only by the fruits of civilization, be they a flimsy mantle of religion, or a solid constraint of considered ethicality and mutuality. Even so, when we hold our lovers, we also hold a representative of a species that can and does commit any horror imaginable, and which is possessed of the literal power of apocalypse.

Footnote to Pastel Defender Heliotrope.


Yes, and no...

A few links

Firstly, a webcomic I've just found and have absolutely fallen in love with, Pastel Defender Heliotrope, which is Sci-fi with a fantastic story and backstory. Read it. Now!

Next, Misfile, a story about a mixup in heaven and its consequences on earth. Also a good read.

Finally, a site that, while isn't perfect (as few things are), but nevertheless quite good, transsexual.org. Particularly powerful is the maintainer's own story; read it, even if you're certain of your gender. Seriously. Expand your compassion.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mozart's Fifth String Quartet

I've sent the Lilypond files for the first movement of Mozart's fifth string quartet to the Mutopia Project, Mutopia-2006/03/27-711. They're also available at my website. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lilypond 2.8 is out!

Hurrah for the latest stable release of Lilypond, 2.8! It's available as source, of course, and there are binaries for Windows (apparently everything since 2000), FreeBSD, Mac OSX >= 10.3 and Linux (x86).

Lilypond is a GPL'd (that is, free [as in freedom] software) music typesetting program, and is the one that I have moved almost exlusively to.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Octavia Butler is Dead

From seattlepi on February 27, 2006:

Butler, 58, died after falling and striking her head Friday on a walkway outside her home in Lake Forest Park. The reclusive writer, who moved to Seattle in 1999 from her native Southern California, was a giant in stature (she was 6 feet tall by age 15) and in accomplishment.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Catchy little tune...

From the haze of the internet:

A friend of a friend:
I/O, I/O, It's off to disk I go, A bit or byte to read or write, I/O, I/O, I/O...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Auld Lang Syne

May all the Zombies stay at rest,
And not come eat our brains!
May all the Ghouls and Goblins not
Be 'wakened in our time!

Self-aggrandizement

Ok, so I've updated my personal webpage at http://www.emeraldimp.com/home/, and also I've put my "The Holly and the Ivy" transcription there, in Lilypond format and PDF.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Relatively Busy Weekend

Busy, but productive. Saturday morning I went with PSP to do our forestry service project, which involves cutting down trees infected with either mistletoe or pine beetles (so the infection doesn't spread) or to create firebreaks (so that, in case a fire breaks out, it stays contained) and piling the results into piles so that they can be burned (the county can't sell the wood, because then they'd have to open up the area for logging, or something. Doesn't quite make sense to me, but anyway that's what they do). Afterward, I hung out with Steve and Kyle and ate pizza for about a half hour before I had to get ready to head to the Sheraton Four Points (in south Denver) for the DPO fundraiser Sweethearts Ball. The ball went OK, but the turnout was kinda low (I blame ticket prices being $35/ea). Somehow I got put in charge of the sound, and was blamed when it wasn't ready on time, despite having NO help. And then, the mixer power went out in the middle of a song (fortunately the mics weren't being used at the time) and I had to go over and try to fix it. I think someone knocked the cord out of the wall and plugged it into the wrong outlet (the outlets in that room were TERRIBLE. Half didn't even work!). Anyway, got that fixed and the rest of the concert was fine. Paid $25 to eat, and it sure wasn't worth it, at least not for me. I wanted some wine, but it was $5.50/glass, so I passed.

We also had induction for DLP last night, but since I was at the dance, I couldn't attend (I didn't even get finished much before they were done with the after-dinner, and then there was the hour drive back). We have 3 new pledges, and hopefully they will all finish their pledge periods and initiate.

Today, had lunch with Kyle after doing some financial stuff and depositing some checks for the fraternity, and then came back, let Randall borrow the homework assignment for Elementary Particles (he missed the handout), and finished reading Richard III for Shakespeare (not the Gutenberg text; I have a Dover copy, but just in case you're interested). Also, read the latest issue of Discover Magazine, applied to join the Society of Physics Students, and did my chemistry lab writeup. Still to go: dinner and DLP Meeting.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Treasure Trove!

So, it seems that Lauri is moving out (planning on moving to Italy) and that Terry isn't going to live in the house, which means that Lauri is going to have to sell it. Consequently, the piano that was in Grandma and Grandpa's house is now in my parents' house, and it came with (of course) the piano bench. Inside the bench was a whole lot of music that Grandpa had owned, dating mostly from 1890, 1900 and 1910, though some was from the 40s and 50s. There were even a couple compositions of his own! All in all, I'd estimate from 75-100 pieces of seperate sheet music and several books. Even a songbook that, presumably, had belonged to Hazel, his sister.

Needless to say, this is very exciting. The concern I have about the original compositions is that some of them indicate that 'Jimmie Crane' was the author of either the words or the lyrics. At first I thought that it must've been a friend of his, but it seems there are several popular tunes from about the right time (one of the compositions was marked '1940') by a 'Jimmie Crane.' So, I dunno. We'll see what comes of it. But there's plenty of stuff there to work on, so that makes me happy (not that I didn't have enough to work on, but still).

Friday, January 27, 2006

Worried

I'm worried about my relationship with Steve. He came all the way up to the PSP Office with me just now... only to decide that he should be going to the GLBT Resource Center instead. After saying that he was thinking he just wouldn't have lunch with me on Fridays since he comes from the 4th floor of Muenzinger and doesn't want to climb up to the PSP Office right away. Then I said that I should probably not have lunch with him on Wednesdays because I should be getting to work right after class.

In short, I'm hurting right now - granted, it's not yet a great hurt - and I'm worried.