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.

Blog Rating

Yay!

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating



Wanna know why?

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
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.