Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pentapede Poems

Here are a couple of poems about Pentapedes, based on the form of Cethegrande, a 13th century English poem. The first few lines follow:

Cethegrande is a fis
ðe moste ðat in water is;
ðat tu wuldes seien get,
gef ðu it soge wan it flet,
ðat it were á neilond
ðat sete one ðe se sond.


The first is one that the Pentapedes seem to really like:

The Pentapede a Monster is,
Ferocious with a deaf'ning hiss.
They suck the blood of hapless foes
And suffer none to cause them woes.
With fangs like knives they bite and bite,
And lay eggs in your ears at night.
Resplendent in their armored suits,
They hide in shipping crates of fruits,
And jumping out in grocery stores,
They run and hide along the floors.
When unwary shoppers legs they see,
They climb aboard with merry glee!
For soon their troops will be in place
To obliterate the human race.


The next one they don't like so much...

The Pentapede a monster is,
But a small 'un, with a sickly hiss.
Its dullëd fangs cause folks annoyance
When it flails them with flamboyance.
Its desperate pleas to lay its eggs
Result in having fewer legs.
Delusional, it flies like a bat,
Or dances and sings in tails and spats.
It thinks it's a car, a truck or rock
And believes that it can talk.
Its golden 'armor' is deep-fried,
Crusty fat on its outside.
And though this creature thinks it's great,
A quick extinction is its fate.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

How Foolish I Was

How foolish I was!
How foolish I was!
I thought access to culture a fundamental right

How foolish I was!
How foolish I was!
I thought that free culture was the right fight

But now I can see!
But now I can see!
What's important's making money, every day of the week

But now I can see!
But now I can see!
The whole world's at my fingertips - ten cents a peek

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Beowulf (2007)

ImageMovers, Shangri-La Entertainment
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Beowulf - the movie - is a film adaptation of Beowulf - the epic Anglo-Saxon poem. It tells of Beowulf, of how he slew the monster Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a fierce dragon. (If you think those are spoilers, remember: the poem is more than 1000 years old!)

Although the movie follows the main plot of the poem, it does diverge in a number of ways intended, I believe, to give a more coherent plot, and to create the distinction between 'good' and 'bad', as opposed to 'man' vs 'nature'. For example, Grendel is merely a monster - nature - in the poem, but it is part the sin of a man in the story (the issue is a little more complex than that, but I'll leave it be).

However, the plot changes notwithstanding, the film is action-packed and enthralling. The music is well-suited (I'm considering buying the soundtrack, not something I do often) and engaging. Most impressive, however, is the fact that the entire movie is computer-generated. There are times when it's obvious that it is, but there are many times when it's very difficult to tell, and the camera motion that is enabled by the CG more than makes up for the deficiencies.

One of the nice touches was that Grendel speaks in Anglo-Saxon, which is a nice touch. The (partial) recitation of the Song of Beowulf is also in Anglo-Saxon.

There is a bit of nudity, but it is mostly covered (sometimes cleverly, sometimes not so cleverly) to garner a PG-13 rating. But what's surprising is that all the violence didn't push it into R; it's very graphic, and fairly realistic (though not completely, which is probably what saved it).

I certainly recommend Beowulf on the big screen, and it's probably amazing in Imax 3D.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Athiest Limericks!

Friendly Atheist has Athiest Limericks!

My entry:

Here’s a quick way to insanity:
Believe (in incredible vanity)
An omnipotent being -
All-knowing, all-seeing -
Would care one small whit ’bout humanity.

Monday, November 19, 2007

First blog post for AppVenture

Some of you may know that I've been working for AppVenture, Inc. these past few months, and one of our projects is blogging about programming. So, I'm proud to announce my very first post at AppVenture, Synchronizing Contacts in Outlook 2003 using an Add-in. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Audiveris

I tried out Audiveris the other day, and, although I could get it to run, it didn't work as expected, even with their demo. I haven't the foggiest what's going wrong, whether I don't have enough memory or am missing some library. Anyway, I can get it to run and load an image, but interpreting always fails, leaving me with nothing in the 'score' portion and a messed up display. So... that's unfortunate.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

OMG! GPL OMR!

I was pointed today to the first GPL Optical Music Recognition (OMR, also Music Optical Character Recognition, or MOCR) software I've ever heard of, Audiveris, and I nearly wet myself (well... ok, not really, but I am giddy).

I haven't tried it yet, but rest assured that I will do so ASAP (hopefully tonight!).

Friday, November 02, 2007

Youtube Evolution video

I think I'm going to have to agree with Greta Christina... the following video about evolution that discredits the IDiotic 'watchmaker' straw man argument is awesome.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

IMSLP is not dead!

From Feldmahler:

I have decided that in order to not kill myself (figuratively) from overload, I will not be taking major actions with regards to IMSLP until the end of this semester (in less than 2 months), unless circumstance dictate otherwise. However, I will continue accepting offers to own or host IMSLP, very preferably by Canadian organizations; please do contact imslp@imslp.org . I will also be responding to e-mails and discussion on the forums, and very possibly prepare and release the IMSLP Mediawiki database within this time. I'm already in the middle of preparations for the continuation of IMSLP. No, IMSLP is not dead :)

And since this has appeared on Slashdot, let me respond here: I greatly thank Gutenberg Founder Michael Hart for his continued support and help offer in this matter. However, I have my reservations about being hosted in the United States, not the least of which being the fact that the US actually has a *much* rarier copyright term than Canada (in fact, US' copyright term is unique). But again, I greatly thank Michael for the offer; I believe that PG and IMSLP share many common goals. Incidentally, I have contacted Project Gutenberg Canada, and am currently awaiting a response.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New blogs

Just a couple more links today:

Greta Christina's Blog. I came by this atheist blog through the post Atheists and Anger.

Ebon Musings has the Ten New Commandments. By the same author is Daylight Atheism.

IMSLP Update

Well, we've certainly generated some press about IMSLP.

Boing Boing says German music publisher claims that nothing is public domain until its copyright runs out in every country.

TechDirt says Canadian Public Domain Not Good Enough For German Publisher.

Howard Knopf of Excess Copyright says Über-Reaching C&D letter from Universal Edition’s CDN Lawyer.

ChoralNet's blog says Copyright vultures score again.

Usenet's rec.music.classical group mentioned it.

Messages from the Ether discusses IMSLP v. corporate lawyers.

Michael Giest, apparently a prominent Canadian lawyer and music-lover, says Canadian Public Domain Told To Cease and Desist.

EDIT: The Register Sheet music site forced offline.

There's definitely some good news: Project Leader Feldmahler is looking for a large institution (ie, probably a university) to partner with to reopen the site. Huzzah!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Symphonette No. 1, prog026-00 (Lehr, Geoffrey)

In defiance of inane copyright laws and the inane lawyers and anyone else who sues about them, I am happy to announce that I've gotten off my butt and posted one of my early compositions, Symphonette No. 1, online at my website. You can download both the Lilypond and PDF versions at http://www.emeraldimp.com/home/music/files.php#lehr. Enjoy!

IMSLP / Universal Edition Cease and Desist Letter

A transcription of the C&D letter from UE follows:

We are the Canadian counsel for and represent Universal Edition AG, the publisher of various composers including B. Bartók, A. Berg, I. Friedman, L. Janacex, G. Mahler, J. Mark, O. Respighi, A. Schönberg, R. Strauss, K. Szymanowski and A. von Zemlinkski ("UE Authors").

It is our understanding that you are the directing mind behind the International Music Score Library Project, ("IMSLP"), as its primary system administrator and founder. As such, you are legally responsible for the conduct of the members of the IMSLP, and have control over and may potentially authorize any copyright infringement committed by individuals who have access to and who may edit the IMSLP.

As you are aware the copyright in the musical scores published by the UE Authors are copyrighted in Europe for a period of at least 70 pears from the date of the author's death, and for 50 years after death in Canada. Certain of these composers' works are further protected in Canada or the United States under the appropriate Copyright Act of these jurisdictions.

It is our understanding that it is possible to filter IP addresses of those who take part in copying files from your site to prevent such unauthorized copyright infringement. However, we further understand that such safeguards are not in place. As a result of the lack of safeguards on the IMSLP from infringing Canadian and European copyright law, you and your organization are involved in a collective effort to breach copyright.

This is a violation of both European and Canadian copyright law.

We therefore demand that you cease and desist from offering on your web site the musical scores and any other copyrighted works of the UE Authors. These works should be removed by no later than October 19, 2007.

We further demand that you institute a filtering system to the IMSLP that would prevent any further uploading of the UE Artists's scores until after the expiry of European and Canadian copyright in those works.

Failing your agreement to these terms, we reserve our client's rights co commence copyright proceedings in Europe or in Canada against yourself personally and against the IMSLP as an unincorporated organization, as well as any other individuals who take part in infringing activity.

Please not that under Canadian law a judgment rendered in Europe is enforceable in Canada and that such a judgment may be enforced against yourself personally.

Please confirm in writing by letter or email to the undersigned to indicate your consent to the above demands by October 19, 2007. If we do not receieve such confirmation by that date we will be seeking instructions with respect to commencing legal action against yourself and your organization.

Yours truly,

AIRD & BERLIS LLP

Ken Clark

IMSLP Open Letter from Project Leader Feldmahler

Today, the following was posted on the main site of IMSLP:

Dear International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) Contributors, Users and Supporters:

I really tried.

What follows in this open letter is what I hope will be an accurate reflection of my tumultuous thoughts in the past few days.

On Saturday October 13, 2007, I received a second Cease and Desist letter from Universal Edition. At first I thought this letter would be similar in content to the first Cease and Desist letter I received in August. However, after lengthy discussions with very knowledgeable lawyers and supporters, I became painfully aware of the fact that I, a normal college student, has neither the energy nor the money necessary to deal with this issue in any other way than to agree with the cease and desist, and take down the entire site. I cannot apologize enough to all IMSLP contributors, who have done so much for IMSLP in the last two years.

I also understand very well that the cease and desist letter does not call for a take down of the entire site, but, as I said above, I very unfortunately simply do not have the energy or money necessary to implement the terms in the cease and desist in any other way. Prior to this cease and desist I was already overloaded with server maintenance and the implementation of new features (as some of you know). I do not intend this to be an excuse in any way, but I do hope that IMSLP users and contributors may understand, even if very slightly. At the same time, I again apologize profusely to all IMSLP contributors that it has come down to this.

Another major reason behind me taking the server down is the fact, which I have been made painfully aware of in the last few days, that I can no longer support IMSLP adequately. Rather than limping along and having to take down the site later on, I believe it is best to take the site down right now, so as to not waste the further efforts of IMSLP contributors.

I have to thank here the great efforts on the part of two outstanding university law teams with regard to this case, and the very helpful advice and assistance that I have received pro bono. I cannot imagine what I would be like right now without their legal and moral understanding and support.

* * *

Since this open letter will be all that is left of IMSLP, I would like to explain here my original purpose and vision in the creation of IMSLP, because I do not think I ever told this to any IMSLP contributor (except one librarian who asked a long time ago).

I originally conceived of this project after visiting a certain country a few years ago. In what is one of the largest bookstores there, I discovered less than ten orchestral scores. As a musician and music lover, I find unacceptable the fact that such a wonderful thing as music can be so inaccessible in certain regions of the world. I believe that access to our culture and the Arts is a fundamental right of every human being, and not simply a privilege. Therefore, I had created IMSLP with the intention that music, which is in the public domain, should be freely accessible to every single person.

And it is solely for this purpose that I have spent so much time, money and energy in creating and maintaining the IMSLP. I have paid all the server bills myself, and have not received a single penny for anything I have done in relation to the IMSLP. I am not saying this so people may pity me, but just to put to rest any concern that I had any ulterior motive in the creation of the IMSLP.

* * *

I owe a great debt to all IMSLP contributors and users. At the beginning of IMSLP, I would have never imagined in my dreams the amount of dedication and love of music which drove IMSLP contributors to spent countless hours on IMSLP promoting music, making IMSLP the biggest online public domain music score library in less than two years. You are among people with the most passion for music that I have met in my life.

Be proud. Be proud that you were a contributor of the IMSLP. Regardless of what happens, I refuse to believe that the vision of the IMSLP, and what you did for that vision, was wrong. I hereby give you the right to curse me and flame me as a failed project leader.

* * *

So what happens now?

I will keep the IMSLP forums online for as long as there is interest. You may access it at imslpforums.org.

I will release the IMSLP Mediawiki extensions to the public in the hopes that other people will find them useful. I will also prepare a copy of the IMSLP Mediawiki database (i.e. the text on the site), with private information removed, and send it to anyone who requests. In addition, I will be willing to help and transfer the 5 IMSLP domain names to any organization who would like to continue IMSLP in some form or other; please contact me via imslp@imslp.org if you are interested.

The IMSLP extensions are licensed under the GPL, and the IMSLP Mediawiki database is licensed under the GFDL. This letter itself is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

If you have any questions or comments for me regarding IMSLP or this situation, please send an e-mail to imslp@imslp.org, and I will try to answer all of them. You may also use the forums if you believe that the question can be answered by other IMSLP contributors. Translations of this letter are very much welcome; you may post them on the forums, and I will move them to the main site.

* * *

In closing, I would like to give my uttermost thanks to people who have helped IMSLP in the past two years. I say this in no particular order.

I would like to thank everyone in the IMSLP moderation team. You did all the grunt and janitorial work that kept IMSLP running so smoothly for almost two years.

I would like to thank everyone in the IMSLP copyright review team. You have done way more than enough, and this incident at hand is in no way due to any fault on your part.

I would like to thank everyone who participated in redesigning the IMSLP website. Without you, it would have been impossible for a HTML-illiterate person like me to bring IMSLP to anywhere near the prettiness and ease of use that the final IMSLP website was. It is a great pity that IMSLP v0.5 was stillborn; it held the results of your recent labours.

I would like to thank everyone in the IMSLP translation team for tirelessly translating IMSLP into eleven different languages so that IMSLP can be useful to many more people.

I would like to thank everyone who participated in the IMSLP official projects for being a main driving force behind IMSLP. The project to make available the Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe properly categorized and in its entirety, which was almost finished with one book to go (out of 46), will I am sure be sorely missed.

I would like to thank everyone else who contributed to IMSLP. You were and will always be part of the soul of IMSLP.

I would like to thank my host iWeb8 for the great experience I've had with them. Without them IMSLP would have not been possible. I strongly recommend them for anyone who is looking for hosting.

I would like to thank the Lighttpd development team and the Debian project, among many others, who write and provide great free software that was able to withstand a beating and then some.

I would like to thank the Mediawiki development team, not only for making a project such as Wikipedia (and, of course, IMSLP) possible, but also for writing very pretty and extensible code. I still throw fits after looking at the parser, but that is probably my fault.

I would like to thank all the libraries and educational institutions who have shown great interest in IMSLP. I am very sorry this has not worked out, but I was very happy for your support.

Last but not least, I would like to thank everyone who promoted IMSLP on blogs and forums; I check the referrals every once in a while, and am always very happy when I read about someone finding IMSLP useful for them.

And to everyone that have helped IMSLP and me over the past two years, I am forever in your debt.

* * *

Let me end by quoting Vershinin in Chekhov's play Three Sisters:

"And I wish I could make you understand that there is no happiness for us, that there should not and cannot be. ... We must only work and work, and happiness is only for our distant posterity. If not for me, then for the descendants of my descendants." (thanks Project Gutenberg)

May we meet again under happier circumstances then.

Yours,
Feldmahler
Former project leader of the IMSLP

IMSLP has closed

The International Music Score Library Project has closed.

The brief story is as follows: On October 13, Feldmahler received a cease-and-desist letter from Universal Edition demanding unreasonable action be taken, based on (in my non-lawyery opinion) suspect legal reasoning and the usual money-grubbiness that you expect from corporations. He was given until today, October 19, to respond, and, after consulting with legal counsel, decided that, even if we were in the right, it would be too expensive and time-consuming for him to fight. So, with much regret, he has closed IMSLP.

Universal Edition's actions are despicable. I wish I could express my disappointment and anger currently.

What will happen now is unknown. But I pledge this: I will continue my scanning projects in the spirit of IMSLP, and will make available those pieces that I have.

Because Feldmahler is right: culture and art are for everyone, not just those who can afford it.

Long Live IMSLP!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thought of the Day: Security through Obscurity

Probably not the first to say this, but I was thinking today:

Saying obscurity is security is like saying camouflage is armor.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Life Update

What's been going on in my life since the last update?

Well, we made it out of the apartment in time (though it was fairly close) with some help from my parents and Naveen. Didn't leave it quite as clean as I wanted to, but it was pretty good. The condo is pretty awesome, even though it's still, technically, not quite finished. The laminated-wood floors look really nice and the paint job is pretty good, overall. We LOVE having the extra room; in the condo, we have an actual kitchen as well as a larger living room and a second bedroom that we're calling the office (and which houses the computers).

Steve and Matt have been preparing for rush; Rik decided to become associate for a while because he was afraid the commitment would be too much to keep up with his schoolwork. I am, at long last, an alumnus (woohoo!) although the distinction is pretty much a technical one since I have to take Steve to almost all the events anyway. We have two very promising rushees signed up already, with a supposed 2-3 more from Marcus. Also, Florencio and (hopefully) Efrain are planning on coming to some events, as well as the regional governor, Robbie, for induction.

Denver Pops Orchestra and BrightonMusic Orchestra have both started up again, good in that I enjoy both, but bad in that I once again have a regular schedule that I must follow. DPO has a bunch of good music for the upcoming September concert, which is an animal-themed childrens' concert, including Flight of the Bumblebee (from the Tale of Tsar Saltan), Peter and the Wolf, and the Overture to The Wasps. The Brighton pieces aren't so interesting, but, on the plus side, we are growing again, which is definitely a good thing.

A few weeks ago, I was hired by a programming startup in Boulder, which is incredibly exciting for me. The good news is that, although I had no real experience with C# (the language of choice) before beginning, I think I've picked up at least the basics pretty quickly.

Got together with Rader last week for the first time in a long time. We hung out, went to dinner and played some Illuminati. (Steve and I think there should be a Futurama Illuminati game, but we can't come up with enough Illuminati groups.

The refrigerator doesn't get as cold as it should, so it's been moved up on the priority list. We've had to throw away some milk and some lunchmeat already.

WarioWare: Smooth Moves (Wii) is a very bizarre game. Metroid Prime 3 (Wii) is pretty cool. Resident Evil 4 (Wii) is cool, but I heard that RE5 won't be available on the Wii, which is ridiculous because the control system on the Wii is the best I've encountered for the style.

Went to a family party last night in welcome of the Wayward Travelers, Amy and Terry, who had been away all summer (more or less). Also, mom's half-brother Dean was there, which was nice. Played Wise or Otherwise, Guillotine and RoboRally. Someday, I will win at RoboRally. Really.

I can't think of any other news that's fit to publish, so I'll sign off for now.

One reason IMSLP is an important resource

One reason I contribute to IMSLP is that the scans on the site can (with, perhaps, a few exceptions) be used by anyone to create new, worthwhile material. Although this is a simple example, I'll point to a recent Mutopia release, Scriabin's Etude in c#, Op. 2 #1, which is based on the IMSLP score (http://imslp.org/wiki/3_Pieces%2C_Op.2_%28Scriabin%2C_Alexander%29). Now that this piece has been transcribed into Lilypond format, it can more easily be updated, arranged, or reformatted, which benefits anyone who is interested in it. And, although this piece is just a piano piece, many other pieces are made available this way, including ones for which individual parts are not widely available.

And that's why IMSLP in particular—and the public domain in general—are important.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Little Pentapede, and other Children's Songs

The Little Pentapede
The Little Pentapede went up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the bastard out!
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain,
And there in the gutter were its broken remains!


Yankee Doodle
Yankee Doodle went to town
Upon a pentapede
But something that drinks your blood
Is not a very good steed.

Yankee Doodle, get some blood!
Get a fresh transfusion!
Pentapede venom works fast,
And causes some confusion!

Monday, August 06, 2007

8:15 AM, August 6th, 1945. Hiroshima, Japan.

Today is the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Radgeek points us to Dulce Et Decorum Est: 2007-08-06, a post in memorandum of those 140,000 people who died because of the bombing. Radgeek says,
"As far as I am aware, the atomic bombing of the Hiroshima city center, which deliberately targeted a civilian center and killed over half of the people living in the city, remains the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of the world."

Monday, July 30, 2007

Copying William Gillis (linkage)

via William Gillis: Shawn Wilbur has made Liberty (1881-1908), one of the most important Anarchist publications, available as PDFs in an archive. Should be interesting and fun. (Post on Human Iterations)

also via Gillis: LOLTheorists. My favorite (that would be Adam Smith, btw):

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Man Who Played Wii

There once was a man who played Wii
All day and all night, to his glee.
"Wii Sports and Big Brain,
I just love 'em!" he'd 'splain,
"I only stop when I have to go pee!"

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cleaning and Painting

So Steve and I have been working diligently on preparing his condo for our habitation come the end of July. We were originally going to start on July 1, but not only were we distracted by our brand-new Device of Distraction (the Wii), Steve's tenants weren't out yet (even though we had asked them in April to be out by July 1). They weren't, in fact, out when we arrived on Wednesday, although they were in the process of leaving. It's fortunate for them that they never paid a deposit or anything, because we spend 5 hours cleaning just the kitchen and the living room that day. And not cleaning as in "vacuuming, mopping and steam cleaning". Oh no. Cleaning as in "putting into trash bags the mounds of garbage left laying around". 6 trash bags Wednesday. We came back on Friday for another 5 hours of 'cleaning', resulting in 8 more trash bags. You don't want to know what the bathroom was like.

Yesterday, though, we were finally able to get some actual work done. With the help of Steve's stepdad, we tore up the carpet in what will be the office, painted it and the hallway, and cleaned (as in mopping and using bleach) the bathroom and the kitchen. Today we're planning on painting the kitchen and the bathroom (and any more touchup on the area we've already painted), and getting the bedroom ready to paint. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to lay the flooring in the next week or so, so that we can start moving stuff from the apartment down. It's a tight schedule, but I think we'll make it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Article Links for a Hot and Humid Tuesday

Magic Ink: Information Software and the Graphical Interface - Everyone involved in making software should read this.

Social Software and the Politics of Groups - Interesting short article discussing how software developers design for a single user, not for groups, and how this can affect the success or failure of that group's goals.

Representation Versus Depiction - An old (in web terms) essay about the differences and advantages of representation (eg, text, icons) vs. depiction (eg, photographs).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Eben Moglen's "The Global Software Industry in Transformation: After GPLv3"

From the introduction at James Eaton-Lee's transcription of Moglen's speech:

On the 26th June 2007, Eben Moglen gave a talk on "The Global Software Industry in Transformation: After GPLv3" hosted by the Scottish Society of Computers and Law, at the Edinburgh University School of Law. This was a highly interesting talk, and particularly topical, since the official release date for GPLv3 was just 3 days later, on Friday the 29th of June 2007.

-- http://jeremiad.org/moglen.shtml


I read the transcription on Groklaw, but there's also one on James Eaton-Lee's site (linked above) and one that's harder to read on the Internet Archive. There's also a video if you have the bandwidth.

Please take the opportunity to read it; Moglen's speech covers much more than merely the GPLv3 and the software industry, but also the changing world we live in.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Obama fails vocabulary test, note sent home to parents

So, apparently democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama doesn't understand the meaning of 'grave', 'breech' and 'intentional'. To the back of the class, Mr. Obama.

In this article from the International Herald-Tribune, says,

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama laid out list of political shortcomings he sees in the Bush administration but said he opposes impeachment for either President George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney.

...

"I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breeches, and intentional breeches of the president's authority," he said.


Excuse me?

Also, what about the horrible violations of the Geneva Convention? All the human rights abuses and torture and all that? Dunno, seems like those might be reasonable grounds for impeachment and/or execution for war crimes. I'm just sayin'.

It's just as well, though, since he didn't really stand a chance anyway.

GPLv3 released

And, it's done. Version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GPLv3) has been released.

IMSLP: Viola Sonata, Op.49 (Rubinstein, Anton)

Hidey-ho, neighborinos!

Yesterday, I uploaded Anton Rubinstein's Viola Sonata, Op. 49. There are two files: the piano score (34pg, 2.8MB), and the viola part (9pg, 705KB). Enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace"

danah boyd (web site http://www.danah.org/) presents an interesting discussion of American class divisions, their effect on social networking site usage, and vice-versa. "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace".

Lawrence Lessig Changes Direction

In a recent blog post, Lawrence Lessig announced that he will be shifting his focus away from "IP" ('Intellectual Property', better called 'Intellectual Monopoly' or 'Intellectual Privilege') towards fighting the corruption endemic in the system of government. Best of luck to him.

You should also read Lessig's blog (added to the blogroll) because he's really that awesome. :-)

A Note to Speaker Pelosi

Not that I actually believe it will make any difference, but on the off-chance that it does, I sent the following message to Speaker Pelosi today.

Speaker Pelosi,

It is far beyond time to impeach. The continuing disregard that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, their staffs and others in the administration show for not only human rights, common decency and the Geneva Convention but also the Constitution of this Union indicate that they are unfit for service. They should be handed to the Hague for war crimes, but instead they are allowed to flout their power while the Congress stands by and makes idle threats to remove funding and more and more evidence of the horrors they have enacted is revealed.

Stop playing games, Speaker Pelosi. Stop playing politics. Every day wasted is an affront to humanity, yours and mine and everyone else's.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey Lehr

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Interesting New Yorker article on Linguistics

Here's an interesting article from the New Yorker. It's about a remote Amazonian tribe and how different their language is from other known languages.

"Interpreter"

David Morgan-Mar's Comments on Atheism and Morality

Over at Irregular Webcomic, David Morgan-Mar has, with today's strip, a rather insightful bit of commentary on morality and atheism, and the difference (he supposes) between reasoned morality, that is, a moral code reached through introspection and thought, and authoritative morality, that is handed down from some authority, generally a deity.

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queer (8x) gay (2x) abortion (1x)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wil Wheaton on Gene Roddenberry and Sci-fi

I've got nothing substantial to say about this, but Wil Wheaton hits the nail on the head with his latest Geek in Review: Gene Roddenberry: Boldly Going Where No One Had Gone Before (warning: suicide girls is generally considered not safe for work...).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

IMSLP: String Quartet No.3 in e-flat minor, Op.30 (Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich)

I thought that maybe I could drive a little more attention to IMSLP by posting when I upload a new piece (Ok, I admit it, it's also a vanity thing), so...

Today I posted a scan of Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No.3 in e-flat minor, Op.30 to the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP). It's about 3.4 MB, 47 pages long, and, for those of you unfamiliar with IMSLP, is a PDF. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More Doctorow, with some Queer

Every time I read Doctorow, I think to myself, "Yeah!" (or, at least, "Hey, that's really interesting") So, here's "In Praise of Fanfic", "The March of the Polygons: How High-Definition Is Bad News for SF Flicks", "You Do Like Reading Off a Computer Screen", "How Copyright Broke", and "Science Fiction is the Only Literature People Care Enough About to Steal on the Internet," all from Locus Magazine Online.

And, for a perspective on queer publishing and community, Scotty Nola at Queer and Loathing in America writes "Burning Bridges". For the record: I don't read queer books (although I adore science fiction) for exactly the reasons stated in the article: it's always all gays, or dealing with coming out, or blah blah blah gay blah. NOT INTERESTED. Have queer characters, have them be the protagonists, but don't make it the primary focus; I've got enough gay drama as it is! The Front Runner satisfied that itch, thank you very much.

Linky Linky

It's time, once again, to share some of the links I've found whilst trolling the 'tubes.

Cory Doctorow, renowned sci-fi author and blogger, tells us why the 'information economy' isn't about selling information in How Hollywood, Congress, And DRM Are Beating Up The American Economy.

Dresden Codak is a bizarre but extremely compelling scifi/fantasy(?)/surreal webcomic by Aaron Diaz (not the 'Latin sensation', apparently).

Cheetah is a python-based templating engine that I'm seriously considering using, and CherryPy is a python web-framework.

And, of course, there's the Open Letter to Parents Who Bring Their Children to Extremely Violent Horror Films.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End (2007)

Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures, Second Mate Productions
Directed by: Gore Verbinski

I wanted to write an in-depth review for Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End, but, firstly, my writing skill doesn't seem to be improving, and it's been a couple weeks since I've seen it.

So, briefly: I really enjoyed this movie. I liked the cinematography especially, particularly of the scene in Davy Jones' Locker (with the crabs). The plot was convoluted and everyone had his or her own agenda (these turn out to be good things in this movie, though others disagree). My complaints would be: c'mon, seriously, you can do better than "The Amazing Growing Fifty-Foot Tall Woman!" Seriously, turn her into a crab fountain instead. Much more awesome. Also: Calypso talks big, but when it comes down to it, what does she do? Effectively nothing. Three ships in the maelstrom. Whoop-de-do.

As usual, sit to the end of the credits for a treat.

Pan's Labyrinth (El Labertino del fauno) (2006)

Warner Bros. Pictures, Tequila Gang, Esperanto Filmoj, Estudios Picasso, OMM, Sententia Entertainment, Telecinco
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Pan's Labyrinth, set in 1944 Spain, is a dark fantasy centered around a young girl, Ofelia, and the fairytale that engulfs her. Ofelia is brought to the countryside by her mother to join her mother's new husband, a captain in the Spanish Army. Capitán Vidal has been sent to put down guerrilla resistance fighters at any cost, and it is against this cruel backdrop that Ofelia's fairytale plays out.

Although I had never heard of this movie before we rented it, I was immediately hooked by it. The rich, dark fantasy setting is well juxtaposed with harsh reality, and though the fantasy is gruesome and mysterious, reality is far darker. All the performers did a wonderful job, from Sergi López who made me want to put a bullet between the eyes of his character, to Maribel Verdú, whose Mercedes nearly made me want to join the resistance.

I highly recommend this film, but be warned: it has very violent moments and is certainly not for children.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Time Machine

H.G. Wells

And, having finished reading The Time Machine (Project Gutenberg; also available as a computer-generated audio book, a human-generated audio book, and a Dover Thrift Edition), I've decided that H.G. Wells is one of my new favorite authors.

The Time Machine is the story of an inventor's journey into the future, told from the point of view of someone he told the story to, where he meets mankind's descendants, a pair of symbiotic, half-sentient species called the Eloi and the Morlocks. Although at first the future seems idyllic, if slightly pitiful due to the lack of intelligence, there is a growing suspicion that something is terribly wrong.

The timescapes described in the novel are very interesting; they are obviously the basis for the timescape in the first episode of Futurama, among, I'm sure, many others. Characterization is somewhat scant; the only two we really learn about are the Time Traveller and his Eloi companion, Weena. But, it is sufficient.

Throughout the book, I kept thinking to myself: this would make an excellent Interactive Fiction (think 'Zork' but with all the conveniences of 2007 [except graphics]) game; I am half considering writing one myself.

Also see The Grey Man (wikisource), a deleted section from the novel.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Songs

Oh eBay, oh eBay,
I bid the whole night through.
Oh eBay, oh eBay,
Screw you!

Oh eBay, oh eBay,
I'll find a deal yet
Oh eBay, oh eBay,
Screw you!

When the auction opened up,
It was only $1.50
Now I've just been overbid
And been charged another fee!

So, eBay, oh eBay,
I've filed for bankruptcy,
Oh, eBay, oh Ebay,
Screw you!
--Parody of "Good Mornin'", from Babes in Arms


Midnight, not a sound from the server
Has the disc lost its memory?
It is spinning sans pause.
In the NIC light,
The transferred bits collect in my RAM
Let cronjob begin again!
--Parody of "Memory", from Cats

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Island of Dr. Moreau

H.G. Wells

A while back, I'd come across a set of Dover thrift classics consisting of five works by H.G. Wells, and, since I'd never read anything by Wells (not even The Time Machine or The War of the Worlds!), I picked up the set, but since then it has sat on the shelf, not even opened until yesterday, when I picked out The Island of Dr. Moreau to read.

The Island of Dr. Moreau (Project Gutenberg; also available as a Dover Thrift Edition) is set around the end of the 19th century, and concerns the strange adventure of Edward Prendick, a passenger on the Lady Vain, and what befell him after that ship's wreck. Prendick is saved from starvation and thirst by a passing schooner, which then leaves him marooned on a strange little island with some of the schooner's passengers. He learns that the owner of the island, a Dr. Moreau, after having been forced out of London for performing unusual and terrifying experiments, has set up shop on the island, and is continuing his pursuit of knowledge.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is, as are many others of Wells' works, a seminal work in science fiction, exploring the themes of morality in biological experimentation, "Playing God", and the question of what constitutes 'humanity', very common themes in modern discourse and fiction. The novel doesn't shy away from these ideas, but instead presents them unblinkingly for the reader. Although we are presented with what is a rather stern denunciation of biological experimentation (and, consequently, "Playing God"), the further question of humanity is left undetermined; at the end, Prendick, having lived amongst the creatures of the island, has difficulty re-adjusting to life among humans, even sometimes confusing them for the creatures, making us wonder whether the creatures were closer to humanity than one might expect.

All in all, I recommend this book, not merely because it is a science fiction classic, but, like most science fiction, poses questions that don't have easy answers, or perhaps any answers at all.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Patternmaster

Octavia E. Butler

Patternmaster is the first-published, but last-chronologically, book of Butler's Patternist series, set in the far future when Earth is ruled by a race of telepathic humans, who subjugate humans without telepathy (called "mutes") and fight against the Clayarks, humans mutated into sphinx-like creatures by an alien virus. It tells the story of a young man and his struggle for freedom in this society.

I've read, and am quite fond of, several of Butler's novels, mostly from the Xenogenesis and Parable series, but this is the first I've read of the Patternist series. Not long ago, I was in the bookstore buying some books for mom for mother's day. I saw Patternmaster on the shelf, and, since I hadn't read it and I knew that she liked other books by Butler as well, bought it for her. Amazingly, while they were on vacation, both she and my father read and enjoyed it!

I enjoyed the book as well. It has strong science fiction themes, and allows us to see ourselves from another viewpoint. It also has a slightly dystopian setting, which is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, I felt the characterization was somewhat lacking (I didn't care about the characters very much), and sometimes the characters' actions didn't seem to quite match their motivations. I also felt that the ending didn't quite fit; that it was too abrupt.

Nevertheless, I recommend this book and others by Butler if you're a science fiction fan.

Small Gods

Terry Pratchett

Small Gods, a discworld book, is set in Omnia, which is in the Klatchian desert, and in Ephebe, which borders the desert and the Circle Sea. On the Disc, gods need believers - not just worshipers, but actual believers. They don't need them to survive, exactly, but the more believers a god has, the more powerful he, she or it is. Some gods are very small gods indeed, like Om, who happens to be (at the moment) a tortoise. He's doing better than some, though; he's got a whole city of violent, expansionist worshipers, and exactly one believer.

Which is why he's a tortoise.

Small Gods is in Pratchett's usual satirical style, poking fun at religion and helping us see it from another angle. Unfortunately, this book doesn't sparkle like some of the others I've read. It's alright, and it has moments of humor (see below for some quotes), but it didn't have me laughing out loud. I wish I could point to a defect and say, "here's the problem," but I can't.

If you like Pratchett, you'll enjoy this one, but if you've never read him before, start somewhere else!

Quotables:

Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum.

"...That's why it's always worth having a few philosophers around the place. One minute it's all Is Truth Beauty and Is Beauty Truth, and Does a Falling Tree in the Forest Make a Sound if There's No One There to Hear It, and then just when you think they're going to start dribbling one of 'em says, Incidentally, putting a thirty-foot parabolic reflector on a high place to shoot the rays of the sun at an enemy's ships would be a very interesting demonstration of optical principles."

XIX. Hah! You Want A Constitutional Religion?
"Why not? The other sort didn't work."

VI. This Is Religion, Boy. Not Comparison Bloody Shopping! You Shall Not Subject Your God To Market Forces!

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Project Gutenberg, though I read the Dover thrift edition. Also available in the 13-chapter form), tells of a young man, Dorian Gray, who, in a moment of whimsy wishes that he could remain ever young and handsome, while instead a portrait of him should bear the sorrows and age that he would suffer. This is, of course, exactly what happens.

I had been aware of The Picture of Dorian Gray for some time, probably since before the 2003 movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but I became interested in the movie's portrayal of Dorian Gray's curse, and so, some time ago, I bought the book to read it for myself. I finished it yesterday, and I'm not as happy with it as I'd like.

I don't really care for extended descriptions, which the novel had in abundance, nor for tangents with little bearing on the story. The novel was too long for what it covered, and put too much irrelevancies forth that belong somewhere else (although, there were occasional quips that I enjoyed). I think I'm glad I haven't read anything else by Wilde; I'd be bored practically to tears.

Nevertheless, the plot and characterization of the novel were good, although any suspense was killed by the long descriptive passages. I wonder whether the shorter version is any better, but I suspect that the additional material added more to plot and substance than otherwise.

So, if you like lots of descriptive prose, then read The Picture of Dorian Gray, and maybe if you think you need to complete your yearly Classic Literature quota, but otherwise, I'd steer clear.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Gnomopoly update and initial ruleset!

Well, it looks like I've found some players, and although it's not quite as many as I'd've liked, I'm going to proceed with the game.

For the record, the players so far are: ap (from blog comments), oni, JTC (maybe), and Steve.

Additionally, I've posted the proposed Initial Ruleset to http://gnomopoly.blogspot.com/. That blog will also be the website for the game, where I'll post updates, moves and such (you might want to point your feed reader to it). I'd appreciate comments on it before the game starts, in case I've missed anything.

I'd like to start on June 18th, and I'd also like to have some proposals ready for voting for Round 1, so feel free to submit them before the game starts!

To register your email and nickname, go to http://emeraldimp.ath.cx/~imp/gnomopoly/, or, again, contact me directly if you know me.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thief of Time

Terry Pratchett

Thief of Time is a Discworld book set in Ankh-Morpork and also in the hub mountains. In it, the History Monks, along with Death's granddaughter (Miss Susan), save the disc from the machinations of the Auditors, beings whose job it is to record all information about everything in the universe. Their diabolical plan is to stop time, and they've found just the man to do it...

I enjoyed Thief of Time, because, as usual, Pratchett manages to keep everything making sense while also being fantastic. Well, making sense in the disc, anyway, where light moves at 600 MPH and the world rests on four elephants standing on the back of a turtle. While I didn't have very many moments of actual laughing-out-loud, there were a number of quotable passages and the tone was generally amusing throughout. Pratchett throws in a couple twists as usual, and everything works out in the end.

So, if you're into Discworld, give ToT a whirl.

Skallywaggs

Bent Castle Workshops

Skallywaggs is a pirate-themed collect-the-sets card game, much like Rummy. Each person attempts to collect a set of ten buccaneers to set sail open the high seas by playing and swapping heads, bodies and feet, while obstructing er opponents with event cards and body parts (such as the peg leg or the eyepatch) that stop a sailor from sailin'.

My sister let Steve and me borrow a copy of this game, which she had obtained at a card convention and thought it looked really neat. So, last night we gave it a try, and, after a failed start (we misread the rules regarding hand limits), we played a full game.

I was mostly disappointed with this game, which is a shame because the premise is promising; it may just have been my luck last night, but it felt terribly unbalanced to me. Additionally, the game took FAR too long; again, it may have been our play style, but 10 complete pirates is a lot to go for. The game may be more balanced with more players, and it may also be designed for less strategic play than Steve and I attempted (we went through the deck FOUR TIMES before Steve won, and that was largely because I gave up).

So, I wouldn't recommend this game to anyone, although I probably wouldn't disrecommend it, either. But I doubt we'll be playing it again.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gnomopoly

Hello everyone!

I've decided I'd like to run a game of Nomopoly, but in the interest of not confusing anyone looking for the usual game, I'm calling it Gnomopoly. The initial ruleset will be derived from the Nomopoly V initial ruleset, though there will have to be some modifications.

I'm planning on running the game via email, with 2-day turns, and 1-week proposal lengths. I can be talked into changing these plans.

I'm looking for at least 6 players, and probably no more than 12.

For those of you who don't know, Nomopoly is a Nomic board game. Nomic is a game about changing the rules of the game, so Nomopoly is a board game about changing the rules of the game, or, as the Nomopoly site says:

Basically, you can propose your own rules, and if the majority of the players approve of your proposal, it is accepted and becomes an official rule.


The game may last a couple months, or only a couple weeks, depending on how the rules evolve. So, is anyone game?

Leave a comment on my blog or on facebook, or email me directly if you know it, and we'll get things set up!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The tale of Kansas Mutual Aid and the State

Radgeek brings to our attention the efforts of Kansas Mutual Aid to assist in tornado-ruined Greensburg, KS. The first report:


Somewhere over the Rainbow: A report from a Kansas Mutual Aid member from tornado devastated Greensburg, Kansas

by Dave Strano

On Saturday May 12, four members of Kansas Mutual Aid, a Lawrence based class struggle anarchist collective traveled to the small South Central Kansas town of Greensburg. Our intention was to go as a fact-finding delegation, to report back to the social justice movement in Lawrence on what exactly was happening in the city.

On Friday May 4, 2007 Greensburg was almost completely destroyed by a F5 tornado. 97% of the buildings in the town of 1500 were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Nearly every single resident was left homeless, jobless, and devastated. At least eleven people died in the storm, and hundreds of companion animals, livestock, and wild animals were killed as well.

According to the 2000 census, 97% of the population of Greensburg was white, and the median income of the population was a meager $28,000. The city was and still is comprised of overwhelmingly poor, white working people.

Shortly after the tornado, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took control of the recovery efforts in Greensburg. The United Way became the coordinating organization for relief volunteers but, after orders came from FEMA, halted the flow of volunteers into Greensburg. FEMA demanded that Greensburg needed to be secured before the area could be opened to real recovery efforts.

So, as hundreds of recovery volunteers were told to not come to Greensburg by the United Way, hundreds of police from dozens of Kansas jurisdictions were mobilized to enter the city and establish control.

Reports coming from the recovery effort in Greensburg had been woefully short of information. We made multiple phone calls to the United Way and other aid agencies, and were told repeatedly not to come, that We don’t need volunteers at this time. We were told that if we wanted to help, we should just make a financial donation to the Salvation Army or United Way.

With the experiences of Katrina and other major disasters fresh in our collective conscious, we decided to go anyway, to assess the situation and be able to present a better picture to those people in Lawrence that were rightfully concerned about the effectiveness of the relief efforts.

On the night of Friday May 11, in the spirit of offering solidarity to the working class population of Greensburg, members of KMA traveled two hours to Wichita and spent the night there. A mandatory curfew had been imposed on Greensburg, with no one being able to be in the city between 8pm and 8am. So after a nearly sleepless night, we piled into our vegetable oil burning car and made the final two hour drive to Greensburg, careful to not arrive before 8.

Multiple news agencies had reported that because of FEMA, all volunteers were being denied entry at the checkpoints set up outside the city. As we approached the checkpoint, we became really nervous, and tried to make sure we had our story straight.

We were stopped by an armed contingent of Kansas Highway Patrol Officers. We explained that we had come to help with the relief efforts, and after a quick stare and glance into our car, the officer in charge directed us to a red and white tent about half a mile into the town.

It turned out that on Friday the 11th, a week after the tornado destroyed Greensburg, the Americorps organization was finally given permission to establish and coordinate volunteer recovery efforts. Americorps members from St. Louis had set up their base of operations in a large red and white canopy tent that was also being used a meeting place for the residents of the city.

Americorps volunteers proved to be pretty reliable for information, and good contacts to have made while we were down there. Despite the hierarchical and contradictory aims of the national organization, the Americorps people on the ground were the only people really offering any physical recovery aid to the residents of Greensburg.

The four of us from KMA, signed in to the volunteer tent and were given red wristbands that were supposed to identify us as aid workers. We decided not to wait to be assigned a location to work, and instead to travel around the city on foot and meet as many local people as we could.

Our primary goals were numerous. We intended to analyze the situation and assess how our organization could help from Lawrence. If long term physical aid was needed from us, we had to make contacts within the local populace that could offer a place to set up a base camp. We also intended to find out what happened to the prisoners in the county jail during and after the storm, and what the current procedure for those being arrested was. In a highly militarized city, the police and military were the biggest threat to personal safety.

As we traveled further into the ravaged town, it became clear that the photographs I had seen had not done justice to what truly had happened here. All that could be seen was endless devastation in every direction. There wasn’t a single building in this area of the town that had been left standing. The devastation was near complete. Every single house we came across in the first moments we entered the town had completely collapsed. Every single tree was mangled and branchless. Memories of watching post-nuclear warfare movies filled my head as we walked around the city.

This was a post-apocalyptic world. The city was eerily empty for the most part. National Guard troops patrolled in Hummers and trucks. Occasionally, a Red Cross or Salvation Army truck would drive by. Very few residents were there working on their homes.

After a short while, we met with several people evacuating belongings from their home. They told us that FEMA had been there for a week, and that all FEMA could offer them was a packet of information. The packet, however, had to be mailed to the recipients, and they had no mailing address! Their entire house had been destroyed. Their mailbox was probably in the next county. All they were left to do was evacuate what few belongings could be saved from their house, and then pull the non-salvageable belongings and scraps of their house to the curb for the National Guard trash crews to haul away.

No agency in the city besides Americorps was offering to help with the removal of this debris, or the recovery of people’s homes. FEMA’s mission was to safeguard the property of businesses in the area and offer low interest loans to property owners affected. The National Guard was on hand along with the local police, to act as the enforcement mechanism for FEMA, while occasionally hauling debris and garbage out of the city.

The only building in the city that FEMA and others were working in or around was the County Courthouse. When we approached this area, we quickly took notice of the giant air-conditioned FEMA tour buses, along with dozens of trailers that were now housing the City Hall, police dispatch centers, and emergency crews.

The media had reported that residents of the city would be receiving FEMA trailers similar to the ones in New Orleans. The only FEMA trailer I saw was being occupied by police.

At this location, we tried to formulate some answers as to what had happened to any prisoners being housed in the county jail during the storm, as well as the fate of the at least seven people that had been arrested since the storm.

Not a single person could offer us a real answer. As of the writing of this article, we are still working to find the answer to that question. We have ascertained that any prisoners that were in Greensburg during the storm were sent to Pratt County Jail immediately after the storm had subsided. However, we still don’t know how many people that accounts for, nor do we know the fate of any arrestees in the week since.

Several of the arrestees after the storm were soldiers from Fort Riley that were sent in to secure the town. They have been accused of looting alcohol and cigarettes from a grocery store. The residents I talked to said that they had been told that the soldiers had just returned from Iraq. Is it a wonder that they would want to get drunk the first chance they could? The social reality of this situation was beginning to really set in. The city was in chaos, not because of the storm, but because of FEMA and the police.

In the immediate recovery after the storm, FEMA and local police not only worked to find survivors and the dead, but also any firearms in the city. As you pass by houses in Greensburg, you notice that some are spraypainted with how many weapons were recovered from the home. This is central Kansas, a region with extremely high legal gun ownership. Of the over 350 firearms confiscated by police immediately after the storm, only a third have been returned to their owners. FEMA and the police have systematically disarmed the local population, leaving the firepower squarely in control of the state.

Later in the day we traveled with an Americorps volunteer that turned out to be the sister of one of the members of the Lawrence anti-capitalist movement. She gave us a small driving tour of the rest of the devastation that we hadn’t seen yet, and then deposited us in front of a house of a family that was busy trying to clear out their flooded basement.

Two days of rain had followed the tornado, and with most houses without roofs, anything left inside the house that may have survived the initial storm, was destroyed or at risk of being destroyed. The casualties of the storm weren’t just structures and cars… they were memories and loved ones, in the forms of photographs, highschool yearbooks, family memorabilia and momentos. People’s entire lives had been swept away by the storm.

We joined in the effort to help clear the basement, and listened to the stories of the storm that the family told us. They explained that they had just spent their life savings remodeling the basement, and now it was gone. It had survived just long enough to save them and some neighbors from the storm.

We removed whatever belongings were left in the basement, and sorted the belongings into five piles. The smallest of the piles by far, as the pile of things that were salvageable and worth keeping. The other piles included one for wood debris, one for metal, one for hazardous waste, and another pile for anything else that needed to be removed. From under one of the piles, a scent of rotting flesh wafted through the air. The family was afraid to look and see what may be hidden under the metal.

As we were preparing to leave the work site after clearing the entire basement, we were thanked heartily by the family and their friends. Next time, one of them said, bring fifty more with you.

Next time we will. It should be obvious to most by now, that the federal, state, and local governments that deal with disasters of this magnitude are not interested in helping the poor or working people that are really impacted. Only through class solidarity from other working people and working together with neighbors and community members will the people of Greensburg be able to survive and rebuild.

Kansas Mutual Aid is in the midst of organizing a more permanent and structured relief effort. We are continuing to make contacts to secure a base camp for our work. We hope to have things organized and solidified by Memorial Day Weekend when we plan to travel back with as many people, tools, and supplies we can take.

Our goals are three fold:

1. To provide direct physical relief support to the residents of Greensburg by being on hand to help salvage their homes, and provide any other physical support they ask of us.

2. To offer solidarity and aid in any future organizing or agitating efforts that will be needed to retain possession of their homes, or to acquire any other physical aid they demand from the government or other agencies.

3. To provide support and protection of human rights during the police and military occupation of the city. We will work to document arrests and ensure that human rights of arrestees are protected.

If you live in Eastern Kansas, or are willing to travel, we need your help and experience. We also need a laundry list of supplies including:

* Money for fuel for our vehicles
* Respirators and filtered face masks
* Headlamps and flashlights (none of the city has power, and there are a lot of basements that will need to be worked in)
* Shovels, pickaxes, prybars, crowbars, sledgehammers, and heavy duty rakes
* Gloves, boots, goggles, construction helmets and other protective clothing
* First Aid supplies
* Water and Food (non-perishable) for volunteers heading down
* Chainsaws and Gasoline
* Portable generators
* You and your experience

Please, if you have anything you can offer, or want to help in the relief, e-mail us at kansasmutualaid@hotmail.com.

We will be hosting a presentation on Monday May 21st at the Solidarity Center in downtown Lawrence (1109 Mass Street) at 7pm on our experiences in Greensburg, and on our plans to offer relief in the form of solidarity and mutual aid, and not as charity. Please join us if you can.

There seems like there is much more to say, but with the experience fresh in my mind, it’s hard to keep typing. Action and organization is needed more than a longer essay at this moment. In love and solidarity,

Dave Strano
Kansas Mutual Aid member
Lawrence, Kansas


And the second, showing us, once again, why the State is bad:


Tornado Ravaged Greensburg, Kansas: Kansas Mutual Aid Relief Workers forced out of city by police

Saturday May 19, 2007
by Dave Strano

On Saturday May 19, five members and volunteers affiliated with Kansas Mutual Aid, a Lawrence based anarchist collective, made the trek back to Greensburg to again help in relief efforts in the tornado ravaged city. A week earlier, four KMA members had traveled to Greensburg on a fact finding mission to assess the situation there. What KMA members found was a militarized, entirely destroyed city where relief efforts were moving tragically slow.

Today’s trip back to Greensburg by KMA members and volunteers was intended to solidify the bonds we had created in the first trip, and establish a base of operations for future relief efforts. KMA spent the morning working on a house with members of AmeriCorps, and then proceeded to meet with contacts with the Mennonite Disaster Services.

We then headed out of town to a church just outside of city limits that we were told would be a place we could probably set up a base camp for our work. The church had been converted into a fire station by the state, so we continued down the road and met a farmer who was willing to work with us and let us use his land.

Soon after meeting the farmer, we were approached by officers with the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Department. After a brief exchange, the officers left, and we were told to report to the Kiowa County Emergency Response Command Post to receive official permission to set up our base of operations. We were notified that if we did not do so, we would risk having our operation ceased by the state.

Two of our delegation went to the Command Post, while the other three of us went to the County Courthouse to pick up some water and provisions being offered by the Red Cross. While we were picking up water and food, I was approached by an Olathe Police Officer named Ty Moeder who knew my face and identity. I was ordered to take my hands out of my pockets and follow the officer to a side street to avoid making a scene.

I and the other people with me followed the officer, and were repeatedly ordered to keep our hands out of our pockets, where they could be seen by the officer. Soon more officers approached, as well as at least one member of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and some people from FEMA. Surrounded by agents of the state, we were ordered to produce our identification.

When I asked the police why we were being detained, Officer Moeder responded We need to check to see if you are affiliated with the anarchists. At this moment, our remaining two comrades approached to see what was happening. They were detained as well, and made to produce their identification.

Officer Moeder asked how we had gotten in to the city. We drove in, someone replied.

They weren’t supposed to let you in at the road block, responded Moeder, seemingly frustrated and perplexed by that answer.

They even gave us a day pass to drive in and out, we shot back.

A waiting game ensued for the next several minutes, with more officers approaching, now numbering almost fifteen. A Lawrence police officer approached, and was ordered to take photos of the car we had driven that was parked down the street. Officer McNemee from the Lawrence Police Department took extensive photos of the car, even of the inside contents of the vehicle.

Officer Moeder ordered me to step away from the rest of the relief workers and speak with him. You’re being ordered to leave and not return. This is not negotiable, not appealable. You can’t change it. If you return you’ll be arrested on site. And believe me, you don’t want to push that right now. This system is pretty messed up, and you wouldn’t be issued bail. You’d disappear in the system.

I asked repeatedly what we had done and why we were being ordered to leave the city. You’re part of a dangerous anarchist group that will only drain our security resources, he responded. We’ve been monitoring your website and e-mails, we know what kind of agenda you have.

So this is about our political beliefs? I asked.

No, he responded. This is about you being federal security threats. Kansas Mutual Aid is not welcome in this city, end of story. I know you are going through legitimate means to work in the city, and you’re story seems picture perfect, but we know who you are, and you’re not allowed here.

We were ordered back into our car and escorted out of the city by several police vehicles with their lights flashing, and left just outside the city.

We returned to Lawrence just moments ago, unhindered in our resolve to provide support to the people in the disaster area. We will continue to work in whatever capacity we can in the areas around the city that we may still be allowed into, and provide support to those entering the city.

The area is a police state, to be certain. Police and Law Enforcement from across Kansas and the country are making the rules about everything. Relief workers were banned from Greensburg today because of their political beliefs and work against oppression and tyrannical state control.

We will still be doing our presentation on Monday at the Solidarity Center, 1109 Mass Street in downtown, and at this point, are still planning on doing some sort of relief work on Memorial Day Weekend, even if that limits us to the farms in the surrounding area.

A longer, more in depth update with an announcement for future action will come soon. Please spread this story far and wide.

In love and solidarity,
Dave Strano, on behalf of KMA


Radgeek also lets us know:

money to support their relief work can be sent to their P.O. Box. Checks can be made out to Kansas Mutual Aid.

Kansas Mutual Aid
PO Box 442438
Lawrence KS 66044

Friday, May 18, 2007

finger imp

$ finger imp
Login: imp Name:
Directory: /home/imp Shell: /bin/bash
On since Fri May 18 11:22 (MDT) on pts/0 from 192.168.0.11
No mail.
No Plan.

Friday, May 11, 2007

If it's friday, it must be linkage

Today's links deal with marriage and the State.

From the denialism blog (which is Yet Another ScienceBlog [YASB], is focused on methods for recognizing and refuting the methods used by denialists, cranks, quacks, and other types of People Who Want to Mislead and Confuse [PWWMCs], and also worth a read), Myths About Divorce.

And from Halfway There, Let Slip the Sharks of Love, a discussion that's a couple years old but that I still agree with: inasfar as the State believes it's its business to [exist/regulate relationships between consenting adults], it should be purely a matter of contractual law, and involve as many consenting adults as are willing to enter into the contract.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Project Gutenberg's Science Fiction Bookshelf

Despite the flaws and complexity of the US copyright system, there are some good things that come of it. For example, Project Gutenberg's Science Fiction Bookshelf, which was apparently just released. With over a hundred titles (that's a guess; I didn't count), this is probably one of the largest public domain scifi collections on the web.

How can Project Gutenberg release so many scifi books—some even from the past couple decades—without having publishers pounding at their doors? Once upon a time, copyright in the US had a very short term, but it was renewable for a second term. But, for various reasons, renewals weren't always done, and so a number of works rose to the public domain that normally would still be under copyright. Additionally, some authors choose to release their works under licenses that allow redistribution, such as the Creative Commons licenses.

So, take a look at the collection, try a few out, and if you can spare it, throw some bucks Project Gutenberg's way. They do a lot of good work completely for free, but it takes money to run the servers, so they can use it!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Radgeek's Over My Shoulder #34

Radgeek has an interesting passage this week from Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World on parenting a free and autonomous child. Interesting reading; seems to make sense to me. Now I want a copy of How I Found Freedom, but the amazon listings are > $80. :-/ Maybe a library around here has it.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Some people have WAY too much LEGO on their hands


IMG_1935
Originally uploaded by Proudlove.
Found this (and the others in the set) whilst trolling teh intarn3ts. I must say, it's quite impressive... And I must resist the urge to pull out my own Legos!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Good Math, Bad Math and the Twilight Zone

Just a few more interesting articles. First, a funny article in "The American Conservative" (not my usual fare!) about the Bush administration and possible a explanation for their bizarre conceptions of reality, entitled "Twilight Zone". (Article link stolen directly from Human Iterations).

Next, if I haven't mentioned Good Math, Bad Math to you yet... it's amazing. Just about the geekiest blog on the planet, the focus is on math and computer science, with a light sprinkling of blasting IDiots for their failed use of math. The specific article I wanted to share with you was Strange Loops: Ken Thompson and the Self-referencing C Compiler, which discusses how Ken Thompson introduced a back door inserter directly into the C compiler itself, in such a way that the source for the compiler doesn't need to contain the back door after the first compilation of the compiler. Brilliant and terrifying at the same time; how much do you trust your compiler?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Grainger's Molly on the Shore

I learned something new today: Grainger's Molly on the Shore, from his "British Folk-Music Settings", is based on two Irish Cork Reels: "Temple Hill" and "Molly on the Shore". I found this in my copy of "Country Gardens and other works for piano by Percy Grainger", but the book goes one further: it says that the tunes are numbers 901 and 902 in Petrie's Complete Irish Music, which I happen to own as well. And, sure enough, the two reels listed are two of the sections of the piece, although there is some other material in there that I presume was Grainger's.

Thanks to scribd, you can look at them below!

Joshua Bell Article

The Washington Post's Pearls Before Breakfast is an article that answers the question: "What if you take one of the world's greatest musicians, playing some of history's greatest pieces on one of the world's greatest instruments, and put him in the Washington, D.C. metro, playing for tips?" (Admittedly, not a question I'd ever asked before). Although the result isn't terribly surprising, the article is amazing. So, go read it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Open Source CMS Summit 2007, Day 2

The day started out fine; I had a shower and then went down to enjoy some of the hotel's free breakfast. I had cereal and spent a while talking with Joseph LeBlanc, a freelance Joomla! developer, as well as some others. Then I walked over to Yahoo! and went to my first session of the day: the Yahoo! User Interface Library.

The Yahoo! User Interface Library presentation, presented by Eric Miraglia, gave a brief overview of, amazingly, the YUI. It is designed, they claim, to protect developers from the "vast source of incompatibility, pain and misery" that is the web browser. While there isn't much to say about the presentation itself (it was mostly an overview and justification for using the YUI instead of rolling your own), there were a few notes that I made: firstly, using the YUI menus in conjunction with PumaCMS to keep the cleanliness of the headerbar but allow users to navigate the site more directly; secondly, the concept of using animation to help users understand the interface (for example, OS X's use of animated minimizing windows). Definitely something to look into, especially as YUI is licensed under a BSD-new license.

The next session I attended was for Yahoo! Pipes, which, again, was more of a demo than anything else. Y! Pipes is based on the same concept as Unix pipes: a bunch of small, single-purpose utilities can pass data around between them, and the user can string the utilities together in whatever manner is needed, so that complex and very useful tools can be created from a small set of simple tools. But, instead of passing around data from the command line, Yahoo! Pipes pass around feeds, particularly RSS/Atom feeds. Of course, that's pretty cool itself, but the interface is very cool, too.

The next session I attended was Drupal's FormAPI, and while I thought this was going to be a presentation about some general FormAPI tool, I was willing to sit through it even after I found out it was about Drupal, thinking that there might still be something to take away that could be incorporated into PumaCMS. Unfortunately, the presentation was sidetracked (for forty minutes!) by several hard-core FormAPI developers. Sigh.

Next was lunch, which was pizza.

Next, I attended "Writing Joomla! Extensions" by the aforementioned Joseph LeBlanc. I had said at breakfast that I'd attend, so I did (it helped a lot that the only other non-Drupal talk for that session was on jQuery). Since I'm not a Joomla! developer, I don't have a lot to say about it. I think that Joomla's ability to accept archived (that is, zipped) extension packages is really awesome, and that I'll try to work that into PumaCMS if it can be done securely. Otherwise, the presentation was fairly interesting; it went through the process of creating a plugin for Joomla!.

The next session was on "Elastic Content Managment Systems Deployment", and was (primarily) about using virtual machines to run a hosting service, and also touched briefly on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). And while these are really awesome ideas, I don't have a use for them currently.

The last session of the conference was on the Flickr API, which was an overview of the Flickr API (whoa, imagine!). Nothing special to say about it, except that later, when I mentioned it to Scott, he said that Traces could use it for photographs and such, which is a great idea.

After the conference, I walked back to the hotel and took another shower (it was quite warm!), then played on the internet until Scott called and he, Chris and I went to dinner at an Italian place in Sunnyvale. It was fun, and there were a bunch of other Googlers there as well, including Scotty and Todd. A tad intimidating for Chris and me, but still fun. Afterwards, Scott and Chris took me back to the hotel, and were kind enough to also take me to the airport in the morning.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Open Source CMS Summit 2007, Day 1, Part 2

At lunch I met a couple of folks, and ate a pretty tasty, though slightly-more-spicy-than-I-was-in-the-mood-for, turkey wrap. Then, it was back inside!

The next presentation was "Designer Eye for the Geek Guy/Gal", presented by Steve Wittens. Steve went over just about every element of visual design you could ask for, starting with typography and moving through style, structure, color, light & shadow, use of images and CSS (cascading style sheets), and he did a very good job. He also pointed out some of the things I'm constantly complaining about in design (just listen to me mumble sometime). Although my notes are rather long from this presentation, there isn't much more I have to say about it. I hope to find a video online soon.

Yahoo! Campus

The final session of the day ("Designer Eye" was a two-session session) was "Building Community Online" (Google video of the presentation), a discussion facilitated by Laura Scott, President of pingVision and apparently a Denver local. We discussed, unsurprisingly, many considerations in building and maintaining an active community online. However, we didn't seem to come to any conclusions, and while I think the discussion was interesting, I'm not sure I left with any better idea of how to create or foster community, whether online or in the physical world. One thing of note, however: the idea of community 'curation', or the community taking care of the previous content that's been created in it, for instance, writing up summaries of relevant posts in a forum community, or pointing others to where such interesting materials can be found.

Open Source CMS Summit 2007, Day 1, Part 1


Got up early this morning, and Scott took me over to Yahoo!'s Sunnyvale campus for the conference (Yahoo! was generous enough to sponsor the entire event). They (meaning, Initsoft and Bryght) had some nice rolls and danishes and drinks for us while we were arriving and signing in, and then we had the keynote presentation: Performance and Security by Rasmus Lerdorf, the original developer of PHP. His talk was especially interesting and eye-opening for me; I wasn't aware of the existence of cross-site scripting and cross-site request forgery, let alone how easy it is to do! Puma should try to include more protection against these, and we should especially use tokens! He also told us of PHP 5.2's default filter, which can protect against many of these types of attacks, and that we should avoid recreating its functionality (because 1. it's a duplication of work; 2. the PHP folks have spent a lot of time working on it to make it really really good already; and 3. it takes care of cases one might otherwise miss). Some interesting notes include: Not even PHP's 'HOST' variable is safe to use, since it can be spoofed; IE6 executes javascript in img tags!; javascript treats entities (eg, ') as the raw characters; Apache sends data to the first vhost if it can't find the requested vhost!; PDF plugins can easily be used to do nasty things to the client's computer, so if you must serve PDFs, serve them as application/octet-stream... yes, even local PDFs can be trouble!

Rasmus also gave a brief demo of how to improve performance of scripts using profilers, specifically valgrind, xdebug and kcachegrind (a visualization tool). I haven't yet found a video of this talk, but hopefully there will be one soon.



Next, I attended "OpenID: In Drupal Core and your CMS too" (Google video of the presentation), presented by James "walkah" Walker of Bryght. The first part of the presentation centered around identity: what it is in the physical world, how it has changed, and what it is in the digital world. In the physical world, some authority issues what James called "modern identity," that is, identity that's not dependent on actual social interaction for validity. For example, the government of a nation or state may issue some kind of identity marker, such as a driver's license or a passport, that tells people who you are. They don't have to (necessarily) trust that you're who your ID says you are, just the issuing authority (leaving aside issues of forgery for the moment). The goal of OpenID is to allow a similar situation in the digital world, effectively "identity 2.0": someone issues you an identity marker, which you then use as you go from site to site, so that you don't have to re-establish your identity (such as your name, email address, etc) at each one. This is, in many ways, very similar to Microsoft's Passport. However, as OpenID notes on its site, it aims to be an "open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity", meaning that no one person or group controls OpenID. If you want to be your own identity authority, for example, then you can. Or you can use an already established provider, or more than one if you like (donning different identities for different genres of sites). Already many sites are using OpenID, including LiveJournal. Go ahead and take a look at the OpenID site; it's a very interesting and exciting project, and I think that, while PumaCMS isn't in need of OpenID very much, Traces could benefit greatly.

The next session I attended was the least interesting one of the day: "Taming the Beast: CMS Integration on the Desktop with CIFS, Office, Dreamweaver and anything else," presented by Paul Holmes-Higgin of Alfresco. Alfresco is a GPL'd "enterprise content management system", which means that, whereas Drupal, Joomla! and PumaCMS are focused almost entirely on HTML documents, Alfresco is focused on the internal document flow of corporations, aiming specifically at providing a desktop-based user experience. While the ideas involved in such a venture are interesting and important, the talk felt more like an extended advertisement for Alfresco. From the title, I was expecting a more in-depth discussion, but perhaps there just wasn't enough time.

Anyway, after that, it was lunch time, which means part 1 of this post is over!