Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Something to help make Windows suck less

Here's a program that helps Windows suck less: AutoHotKey, which is basically a scripting language/interpreter for intercepting keystrokes and acting on them.

It allowed me to write the following, which is the "Clipboard Swap" command I thought would be occasionally useful. (Clipboard Swap: It copies highlighted text to the clipboard while replacing it with the current clipboard contents. It's activated by Windows-v).

#v::
tempClip := clipboard
Send, ^c
ClipWait,0.5, 1
tempClip2 := clipboard
clipboard := tempClip
Send, ^v
clipboard := tempClip2
Return


Just copy the script, paste it into, eg, ClipboardSwap.ahk , and then run that file with AutoHotKey (you may want to include it in your Startup folder so it's loaded every time).

Inasmuch as the above code is copyrightable, I hereby relinquish it to the public domain.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Unintentionally Funny Code

So, a couple of weeks ago I was at work, digging through the codebase, trying to root out hard-coded client-specific logic.

Here's what I found (genericized to avoid non-disclosure problems):

public class Class1
{
public virtual bool IsClientOne()
{
return Class2.CanUseOptionA();
}
}


And then...

public class Class2
{
public virtual bool CanUseOptionA()
{
switch(Class3.Id)
{
case (int) Class3IdValue.ClientOne:
return true;
default:
return false;
}
}
}

Thursday, December 04, 2008

When centralization fails...

I was reading an article the other day that said that 1 in 10 jobs in the US are dependent on the big three US automakers (Ford, GM and Chrysler), or their supply chain. And that, therefore, is the reason they must be bailed out of their current financial troubles. (EDIT: and before someone corrects me, I don't care what the actual numbers are; the important points are: 1. that their size is the justification for their immunity to failure and 2. they probably do pose a significant danger to the US economic situation because of their size.)

I'm not a big fan of bailouts. Leaving aside any market-based arguments (though, if you're going to pretend to have a free market economy, you ought to either stick to it or stop being surprised when bad things happen), I think that people and groups should be allowed to fail when they screw up, and they should be held to the consequences of their actions (especially on the 'bailout' scale).

But, it seems to me, that the real problem here (or at least a symptom that's closer to the root problem) isn't the fact that the big three are in financial straits. The problem is that the economy is so dependent on just three companies, especially companies that are similar.

My suggestion, then, if taxpayers must be forced to pay for the mistakes of a greedy, myopic few: instead of bailing out the Big Three, use an equivalent amount to fund a number of different automobile start-ups, preferably some with lots of experienced auto-industry people, some with fewer (but none of the current management, though it's unlikely they would join anyway); some in Detroit and some elsewhere; companies that are willing to take sensible, forward-thinking risks, even though they may fail; and then, as those that are successful grow larger and more powerful, take the repayment and invest in other startups, wherever a cartel is found, posing a danger to the economy.

Or, here's another thought if the big three must get the money: invest an equal amount in the startup idea, and negotiate in the bankruptcy hearings to make assets (factories, equipment, etc) that would otherwise be abandoned (but still remain the property of the three!) available for a reasonable price to the startups.

Anyway, enough of that. Bailouts make me so mad I want to spit.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

YouTube Symphony Orchestra, how cool is this?

I must share this.

YouTube and the London Symphony Orchestra are teaming up to create the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, consisting of, first, a collaborative piece, written by Tan Dun, and played by you and me, on YouTube. That's right, you download a part and record yourself playing it in time with Tan Dun's recorded conducting and then upload the video to youtube! And, second, a live performance of (some of) those who participate at Carnegie Hall.

I almost want to go buy a video camera right now.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oh give me a home, where the GNU/Linuxen roam...

I'm running Linux at home again.

And I'm so very happy. (Seriously)

I am playing with programming again (currently trying to make my way through the Python Challenge; I'm on level 7), for one.

But I really like the relief and freedom I feel. Even alongside the occasional frustration. :-)

Other news (unrelated; likely to be expounded on later): my paternal grandfather is dead, and Steve and I have a new kitten named 'Rory' that we got last Monday.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Eastern Standard Tribe

Cory Doctorow

When I finally found Eastern Standard Tribe (official site, with downloads) in the bookstore (Barnes & Noble; that'll teach me to go to Borders all the time), I was quite excited. I'd recently read Doctorow's I, Rowboat in "The Year's Best Science Fiction: 24th Annual Collection" (originally from OverClocked), and I was looking forward to more Doctorow goodness.

Unfortunately, Eastern Standard Tribe didn't speak to me. It's the story of Art, a user-interface designer who gets thrown in a mental asylum for extreme, violent paranoia, and his world of subterfuge and sabotage in the name of his "Tribe", the titular Eastern Standard Tribe.

I think my disappointment stems largely from my preconceptions about what the book would be like. I had, I think, envisioned a story less about subterfuge and more about a society organized around personal timezones, even if it were distributed around the globe, might function.

Overall, not a bad story (and some of the user-interface stuff is interesting), but not one that really interested me.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Cory Doctorow

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (official website, with downloads) is the second Cory Doctorow novel I've read, but the first that I really enjoyed (see my review of Eastern Standard Tribe). It's the first-person account of Jules, a member of the Bitchun Society.

(The Bitchun Society is a post-scarcity ad-hocracy made possible by free, unlimited energy; free, fast cloning; and free, ubiquitous neural-implant network connectivity (whew!) whose primary currency is Whuffie, or reputation.)

Jules, with the help of his girlfriend, Lil, attempts to help his friend Dan—formerly a missionary for the Bitchun Society to the technophobic remnants of the world—regain his reputation so Dan can go out in a blaze of glory, while defending Disney World's Liberty Square, including the famous Haunted Mansion, from an opposing ad-hoc that wants to turn its attractions into simulated rides. All is going well, until Jules is murdered in the Tiki Room, which ticks him off a little.

I think part of the reason I liked this book so much is that, thanks to Steve, I'm fairly familiar with the setting (or, at least, I'm familiar with Disneyland, which is close enough that I get the picture). But the other part is the cool tech: the cloning, the implanted computer and HUD and connectivity that would put today's Japan to shame.

But, ever since reading Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, I've been wrestling with the concept of personality and identity in a world where everything you are can be backed up and restored in a couple days' time. What does it mean to be Geoff? If I were to make a backup today, "die" tomorrow and be restored, what of that time in-between when I existed and acted but is now irrevocably lost to me? And how do I feel about this? If I were offered, today, the one-time-only opportunity to become a part of the Bitchun society; to have my personality and memories able to be permanently backed up and recorded; granted essential immortality; a clone of myself ready to step in and take my place should anything untoward happen to me; would I take the opportunity? I can honestly say I don't know. There is so much that's amazing about the idea; so much that it would offer, but potentially so much to lose. (Even setting aside questions about security of the system that runs my brain, the sufficiency of the backups created, the issue of impersonation or duplication and, of course, privacy.) And what of the route to get there?

I suppose, in the end, it would be a simple matter of survival: whether I die and am reborn as a clone of myself, or just die, this me will still be dead, but only with the Bitchun Society will some part of me continue on.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Annoyed

I don't buy a lot of games.

Mostly, I don't play very many games, although I've been playing Culdcept and Dead Space lately.

But I really wanted to play Portal, because I've heard it's so amazing.

And now, I'm about twenty minutes in to installing it, and it's nowhere near done, as far as I can tell.

First it installed Steam. I don't want Steam; I've never wanted Steam, it's a waste of time and memory and bandwidth.

Then I had to create a Steam account to even install Portal. This despite my having plunked down my money at a counter to purchase the stupid game. It tells me I can't access the games that I've already paid for without my Steam account. Which I didn't want anyway.

Fuck you, Valve. You're lucky I'm so lazy that I'm willing to put up with this shit this time. I won't be buying any more of your games in the future, though.

EDIT: I think the thing that annoys me most of all is that I wanted to just sit down and play portal for a bit. Instead, I'm still waiting. Console gaming is looking more appealing all the time...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Promotions!

But not raises.

On Saturday, BrightonMusic had their board meeting, and they decided to change my title from "Assistant Music Director" to "Music Director", alongside Kat (actually, Kat suggested it).

So, yay!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Musopen begins Music Theory Textbook Project

Musopen has begun a Music Theory Textbook Project (as announced on the Musopen blog) to create and release to the public domain a music theory textbook suitable for use in college courses. They're looking for volunteers right now, and although I doubt I can contribute much to the actual theory portion of the book, I've volunteered to proof-read. Give it a look!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Inventory as Waste

My coworker Paul was telling me today about some of the presentations he attended at the Agile conference earlier this month, and one of the things he mentioned was the idea that inventory is a kind of waste.

It took me a little while to grasp this concept, but I think of it this way:

Imagine a mechanic's shop. There is a team of mechanics, and they all work together to fix cars (or whatever). They have an inventory of wrenches, and each wrench has a certain cost associated with it, based on the initial cost of the wrench, the cost of storing it, degradation of the wrench over time, etc. The wrench's purpose is to be used to fix cars. When used for its purpose, the wrench is not wasted; it is contributing to the goals of the team. Whenever the wrench is in storage instead of being used for its purpose, it is wasted; it costs the team to store it, track it, put it away, etc. So, ideally, every wrench should be used (appropriately; misuse of a tool is another topic!) as much as possible.

Now, of course, some waste might be necessary. Perhaps certain tasks require the use of multiple wrenches, or when the team is at capacity all the wrenches are in use (but this doesn't happen all the time, nice as that would be). So you have to find the appropriate balance of waste vs efficiency.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Atheism in Pop Culture: "Old Time Religion" (from Greta Christina)

Greta Christina has a bit of a contest going for parody verses for "Old Time Religion."

A couple examples from the post:

Let us worship Aphrodite
In her silky see-through nightie
Though she's mean and somewhat flighty
She's good enough for me.


Let us sacrifice to Isis
She will help us in a crisis
And she hasn't raised her prices
And that's good enough for me.


Here are my entries:

The invisible pink unicorn
May be found in ancient cuneiform
And always shall my socks adorn...
And that's good enough for me.


The Principia Discord-i-a says
The Goddess Eris is our goddess, yes,
And chaos give such good milk, I must confess,
That it's good enough for me.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Orange Butterfly


Orange Butterfly
Originally uploaded by emeraldimp.
We went to the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster today. Here's a taste of pictures to come...

Friday, August 01, 2008

I Hate Creepy Crawlies!

Another Grasshopper I



hate Vicious Spider



Grace Creepy




Crawlies! Crawly




A long-awaited meeting (and flyers,




too) Bald-faced Hornet



So, why do I take so many pictures of them?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Today's Macro Photography Tips

Here's some tips for macro photography:

* Macro photography requires either a tripod or a lot of light (ideally both).
* You will probably have to stand a lot farther away than you expect (depending on your lens, of course).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bellwether

Connie Willis

Connie Willis jumped onto my radar when I first read Doomsday Book (which I highly recommend), but I hadn't picked up a second Willis novel until just recently. Although I don't think it's quite as good as Doomsday Book, it was still an interesting story.

Sandra Foster is a researcher that studies fads, trying to understand where they come from, how they spread, and why. Her studies are alternately helped and hampered by the company she works for - HiTek - and her coworkers.

This novel is short, clocking in at merely 247 pages in my edition, and an easy read. The story flows very well, and each chapter begins with a brief paragraph describing a historical fad from the middle ages to the present.

I enjoyed this book, but I don't really have much to say about it. It's not terribly controversial, and there isn't really any major conflict to speak of. It's interesting, though, to note which fads continue today (the book was published in 1996) and which have petered out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I hate little bitty flies!

Especially when they keep flying in my face. Or ears. Or anywhere near me, really, which they are doing a lot because... Steve isn't here today? A new nest hatched? I dunno.

But I squish 'em when I catch 'em.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Brief, Random Thoughts on Agile

I like Agile.

Business people have trouble with agile. Consider this recently-overheard exchange:

Business: It seems like [the project architect] just wants to do the bare-bones necessary.

IT Guy: That's his job.


A valid point that was brought up was that this sometimes results in delivering functionality later than originally planned. But I'd point out that 1) this happens all the time in software anyway and 2) the functionality is often prioritized below bug fixes (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly).

Something I like about agile is that you only write the functionality that's needed, as it's needed (and ideally you've written previous functionality well enough that it's not very hard to refactor).

Another thing I like is that it recognizes that there's only so much time to spend on anything, and the business has to be frugal about what's needed, or the project will run out of money before finishing basic functionality. This can, however, be difficult for business people.

On the other hand, developers used to the waterfall approach (or other non-agile methodologies) tend to over-develop out of habit. (Sometimes I even find myself doing this.)

Production-ready code at the end of each iteration is good.

Good merge tools are worth it. (Not agile-specific...)

QA and UAT should be integrated ASAP (how else will you have production-ready code at the end of the iteration?).

Despite what Dilbert's Pointy-Haired Boss says, it's not "start coding and complaining" (though we do code a lot, of course, and complaining is the developer's past time).

I'm going to try to apply some of the agile/scrum practices to other areas, like DPO (though I'm not going to tell them that's what I'm doing).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Asimov's Science Fiction (August 2008)

I just finished reading the latest Asimov's (well, either I'm a time traveler or their web site is in need of update, because the latest issue on the site is June 2008... ;-) ). I can't really say I was overly impressed with the stories in this issue. They were mostly alright, but nothing stands out to me as has happened with other issues. Sadly, I found the non-fiction to be more interesting. Oh well, on to the reviews (keeping them short & sweet... also, I'm not reviewing ones I didn't read or the poetry):

Reflections: Some Thoughts on the Short Story (essay). Robert Silverberg. Silverberg discusses Edgar Allen Poe's advice that "a short story is a piece of prose fiction in which just one significant thing happens" and H.G. Wells' addendum: "a science-fiction short story is a piece of prose fiction in which just one extraordinary thing happens". Interesting advice with examples and exceptions. Worth the read.

Thought Experiments: The Great Awakening (essay). Rudy Rucker. Rucker lays out possibilities on the future of computing and humanity post-singularity. Some interesting ideas and worthwhile hooks for fiction, though gets a little far-fetched towards the end.

Lagos (short story). Matthew Johnson. Safrat, a poor Nigerian working as a remote intelligence for first-world machinery, discovers that she and those she works with are being used to... Well, you'll have to read it. Interesting ideas, but not terribly compelling for me.

Old Man Waiting (short story). Robert Reed. A trust-funder (or someone with an unending supply of cash, anyway) stalks an old man with Alzheimer's for his amusement. I didn't really care for this story; nothing much happens, the characters aren't interesting or compelling, and I agree with the protagonist's friends: leave the old man alone!

Lucy (short story). J. Chris Rock. The tale of a probe and those who love her. No, wait, that's WALL*E. Elgin and Brad, two scientists, have subcontracted with NASA to send a probe to Titan. Meanwhile, they ponder their lives, their neighbors and their future. Again, not a terribly compelling story, though I do feel for the probe in the end.

Divining Light (novelette). Ted Kosmatka. A suicidal physicist explores the nature of reality and humanity. I like the subject matter and the story was ok, but I think Kosmatka doesn't really understand the double-slit experiment and its results.

What You Are About To See (short story). Jack Skillingstead. An NSA (sorta) spook takes on an alien that can choose its reality - with his help. Nothing to say. Wasn't particularly impressed, wasn't terribly disappointed.

Wilmer or Wesley (short story). Carol Emshwiller. A creature of nearly-human intelligence longs for freedom (more eloquently than most humans could). I liked this story, empathized with Wilmer or Wesley and was saddened at the injustice of his captivity.

Radio Station St. Jack (novelette). Neal Barrett, Jr.. A local DJ/Priest defends his post-war town from marauders (in dresses). I'm a fan of post-apocalypse fiction, and this is close enough to fit the bill for me.

Starship Troopers

Robert A. Heinlein

I'm not quite sure how I feel about Starship Troopers. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the book (as, in fact, I have everything else I've read by Heinlein), even though it could certainly be viewed as Heinlein's novel-length discourse on militarism and society. On the other hand, I strongly disagree with most, if not all, of the arguments/conclusions it puts forth, for example, that militarism is necessary for survival, that rule by former soldiers (or at least those that have served in a military-like organization) would lead to a perfect society, that crime is based on an excess of liberty for juveniles (rather than 1. a lack of responsibility and 2. over-zealous know-it-alls who seek power for power's sake and criminalize more and more to satisfy their ever-growing powerlust. You may think of more examples...), and, of course, that liberty is not fundamental.

The story follows (using flashbacks) cap(sule) trooper Juan Rico ("Johnny") though his decision to join the Federal Service against his father's wishes, Mobile Infantry (MI) boot camp, several missions, and officer training. The emphasis throughout is on duty to the "group", whether that group is the squad, the Service, the Nation or the Species, and the noblesse of sacrifice in such service. (This is the justification for only allowing those who have Served [not even those who are Serving] to vote and hold office: only they can fully understand the need for sacrifice and be willing to put the collective needs of those they govern above the individual sacrifices - again of those they govern, though at least they are counted amongst the governed as near as I can tell - that must be made to fulfill those needs.)

Intermingled throughout is death, considered a necessary and routine part of life for the MI and utterly required for a free society. But there is only one instance of death that stands out to me, and only one case where the punishment would normally warrant death but mercy was shown. First, the death, which was pretty gratuitous: Heinlein seemingly has to portray a hanging for some reason, and so he creates a character - one we've never even heard of before - and has him "rape the dog" (except, of course, that he's given maybe 5 pages in the whole book so he's not really a villain) by raping & killing a 4-year-old. Not sure how exactly this would illustrate Heinlein's point, since I would probably kill the bastard.

Second, during boot camp, a recruit strikes a commanding officer (well, and has an attack of stupid and admits it). Normally, this would be a hanging offense, but the commander of the camp convenes a field court-marshal, so the recruit only gets 15 lashes and a bad-conduct discharge. Very merciful indeed. This was, really, the one area of the book that I was truly uneasy, all though the leadup to the court-marshal (whereupon he is only sentenced to the aforementioned lashes). I think it is meant to enforce the notion that, arbitrary though they might be, the rules are the rules and you'd better subvert yourself to them for the betterment of the squad/service/nation/race.

A few closing remarks in regards to the movie of the same title: night and day. Heinlein's Starship Troopers is a philosophical discourse on society. The movie is, well, a "bug hunt", as it was originally titled, baring scant resemblance to the book apart from names and the bugs.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Pentapede's Lullaby, and a bonus

A Pentapede's Lullaby (to me)(imagine it being whisper-sung as you're about to fall asleep...)

Go to sleep, Mr. Geoff,
So I can lay eggs in your ear.
Go to sleep and don't wake up,
Until all the eggs are hatched!


A Bonus, from the Sporepedia description of a Pentapede:

The Pentapede a Monster is,
Black and white, with scary hiss!
Its mandibles ferocious clack;
It dines on things that venom lack.

Monday, June 30, 2008

WALL*E (2008)

Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
Directed by: Andrew Stanton

The Earth, from space. (Surrounded by a thick layer of satellites.)

Music plays:
Out there
There's a world outside of Yonkers
Way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby
There's a slick town, Barnaby


Long zoom in. The Earth, circa 2800. The oceans are dry, and no vegetation can be seen.

The zoom continues. Now we can make out towering buildings, teetering slightly.

Zoom in further. The music fades in and out as a tiny speck moves across the screen.

More zoom. They're not buildings, but enormous towers of trash. And the tiny speck is a robot--the last robot on Earth.

For this opening scene alone I would buy the movie when it comes out on DVD.

The robot is, of course, the movie's titular character WALL*E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class), the last survivor of many thousands (millions?) of robots designed and built by the Buy'N Large Company (BNL) to clean up the Earth after it had been spoiled by humanity.

WALL*E spends its days compacting trash and collecting the few rare treasures it finds amongst the waste, until a spaceship visits Earth and leaves behind a probe called EVE, which is there to discover whether the planet has become inhabitable again. (And is, of course, the eventual romantic interest for the solitary WALL*E.)

I loved this movie. I knew I would enjoy it from the moment I heard it was from Pixar - how's that for a reputation? - but the film exceeded my expectations completely. From the opening shot described above, to the dance in space, to the cinematography, to the social and political commentary, it's a rare piece of true science fiction in film that's approachable and entertaining. (I read a review that compared WALL*E to Kubrik's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and let me say, while the comparison may be apt in terms of cinematography, WALL*E is a film I will watch again.)

The main themes of the movie are environmentalism, consumerism, conformity/self-identity and, of course, love. Love is explored through EVE and WALL*E - WALL*E's personality has developed through ages of operation, and EVE's slowly develops through its interaction with WALL*E (though there are some hints at it from its first appearance, and also in the other robots throughout the movie). I find it somewhat unfortunate that EVE and WALL*E are gendered (EVE is the aloof exotic, barely even aware of WALL*E, who is the goofy lonester that eventually wins her heart), even though it is fairly minimal overall. I understand, though, that it is done to help the movie be more approachable to a mainstream audience.

Consumerism and conformity are wrapped up together in the surviving humans and their "benevolent" ruler, the Buy'N Large Corporation. By the time the Earth is evacuated, 700 years prior to the movie's setting, BNL has taken control of the entire planet - no service provided is not touched (or offered outright) by BNL. As the refuse problem spirals out of control, BNL constructs vast space ships to carry Earth's population away; ostensibly on a 5-year cruise while the robots clean the planet. It reminds me greatly of the fiction of Frederik Pohl, particularly The Merchants' War.

Modern humanity, of a much expanded sort, continues to live in these space ships; or at least on one, the Axiom, where all needs are tended to by an army of robots as people are rushed about upon hover chairs, drinking the latest Cupcake-in-a-cup and chatting with their neighbors via the chair's screens. Unfortunately, two of these supposedly mindless creatures are pulled out of their chairs and begin to discover the world around them. The concept would be much more terrifying if they didn't, much more impactful, although it does allow the filmmaker to point out the wonders - simple and grand - that everyone else is missing, so I suppose it's not all bad.

Environmentalism is the most obvious theme, of course. The Earth has been ravaged beyond habitation. No plants grow in this wasteland. And yet, this disregard is continued on the Axiom, where garbage is fed into the bowels of the ship, to be compacted by enormous WALL*As before being jettisoned into space (can you tell the ships were designed by BNL?).

This leads me to my biggest complaint about the movie: believability. There were moments when I was cocking my head to one side and saying, "Does not compute!" The physics is not terrible, and most of it could probably be easily explained away, but some of the physics problems were: were does the gravity on the ship come from? Why does everyone fall to the side when the ship turns, exactly like on a sea-faring ship? Where do they get the energy or raw materials for everything consumed by the humans? How can humans - big, fat humans - that have spent their entire lives in their hover chairs stand up and walk at the end?

But the most important believability failure is something I've only just now realized: we are left with the presumption at the end that everything will be all right now: the humans have learned their lesson and will now become the proper stewards they should've been all along. But how? These humans have spent their entire lives not having to think about stewardship and conservation, not to mention several generations before them as well. They hadn't changed when WALL*E arrived, as evidenced by the tons of waste jettisoned each minute. While I will admit the events of the movie are certainly a life-changing experience, I can't believe they could change so drastically so quickly.

However, despite all of these nit-picks, I still highly recommend WALL*E for everyone. You won't be disappointed.

(PS I almost want to call this WALL*E: An Ambiguous Dystopia, because the contrast between Earth and Axiom remind me of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Dispossesed: An Ambiguous Utopia. But that's probably discourse for another time.)

EDIT:
Please read UniversalCitizen's comment as well; he addresses many other troubling points with the movie.

IMSLP Returns!

So sayeth IMSLP Project Leader Feldmahler:

Open Letter

29 June 2008

Dear Friends of IMSLP, Former Users, Contributors and Supporters:

Some people have doubted that we would keep our word. Some people have questioned our competence. Some people have sworn, despite being sympathetic, that IMSLP was struck down once and forever.

I am here to prove them wrong.

It is with great joy that I bring you news of the resurrection of IMSLP. We continue to believe that the access to our culture and the Arts is a fundamental right of every human being. And holding this belief, we continue in our journey towards the goals of providing public access to the musical public domain, and the facilitation of the study of music, the understanding of music, and the enjoyment of music.

And in this spirit of openness and accessibility, I here officially dedicate the IMSLP to Ottaviano Petrucci, a pioneer whose achievements made music so much more accessible to musicians and music lovers for the past six centuries. IMSLP will henceforth be known as both IMSLP and the Petrucci Music Library. The domain name petruccimusiclibrary.org will soon (in the next few days) redirect to imslp.org.

* * *

Before I go into all the details that are involved in this resurrection, I would like to give proper thanks to several people and organizations that made today possible.

Obviously, this resurrection would be impossible without proper legal support, and I would like to thank the folks at the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) and the Stanford Fair Use Project (FUP) for providing crucial support during times of crisis, and Professors Michael Geist and Lawrence Lessig for recommending the IMSLP case to the two legal clinics. Even though IMSLP currently has other avenues of legal support, the support of the two clinics proved a godsend for both IMSLP and myself personally.

In addition, I would like to thank Project Gutenberg leader Michael Hart, and GNU project leader Richard M. Stallman. Mr.Stallman has continuously helped IMSLP, even during the darkest periods and despite what must be a frighteningly busy schedule, and for which I am extremely grateful. I am also very sorry that no deal was reached between Project Gutenberg and IMSLP, but I believe that the current outcome is the best for both parties. I will, however, be very interested in pursuing a mirroring agreement, where Project Gutenberg will have access to the entirety of the IMSLP site, and which should prove very useful in case of an emergency of any sort.

I would also like to thank all the IMSLP contributors whose work was indispensable for the resurrection of the IMSLP, which included a thorough copyright review of all 16,000+ files. I greatly look forward to working with you in the future, towards our common goal.

Last, but very certainly not least, I would like to thank everyone who supported IMSLP in some form or another. You have let your voices heard, and we have answered. IMSLP will continue.


To publishers:

I am very appreciative of the amount of support given to the IMSLP by the users and contributors of the IMSLP, which could be seen directly in the volume of e-mails I received after the shutdown of the IMSLP. But a misconception of our stance seems to have arisen. IMSLP is, by no means, an antithesis of the music publishing industry. Rather, I see some of the goals of both music publishers and the IMSLP to be in many ways the same: both are interested in the promotion and dissemination of music.

Due to this shared interest, IMSLP is very much willing to collaborate with music publishers in the promotion of new music, under a Creative Commons or similar license. I know full well how little of the overall profits come from selling actual scores (and I have no evidence that IMSLP affects those profits to any great extent, if at all), and how much comes from royalties from performances. Would it not make much more sense to use IMSLP to promote new composers, instead of attempting to sue IMSLP for composers who will be entering the public domain all over the world very soon, if not already? Considering the fact that IMSLP contributors and users are made up mainly of musicians and music lovers, isn't IMSLP precisely the audience that music publishers should be working with?

I am heartened by the fact that, indeed, many music publishers have seen IMSLP as a friend, and have indeed used IMSLP in the promotion of their contemporary composers. Perhaps ironically, IMSLP's resurrection is due in no small part to the help of several of these publishers.

However, permit me to make one point clear here in no uncertain terms. IMSLP will continue to oppose organizations who attempt to limit and restrict the already much-shrunken public domain. A primary goal of IMSLP is to facilitate public access to the musical public domain, and thus IMSLP will resist strongly any attempts to shrink the public domain, and will raise the alarm among the general public should there be such an assault upon the world's cultural heritage. The reorganized IMSLP will not be so easily silenced.

But let us not end on such a distasteful note. One member of the publishing industry with whom I have recently corresponded expressed the opinion that the classical music world is too small to fight amongst ourselves. I wholeheartedly agree.


To IMSLP users and supporters:

As you probably have noticed after a quick walk through the site, many things have changed. I have tried to make everything as intuitive as possible, but I do welcome all discussions and questions about new or preexisting features. Official documentation for some of IMSLP's new features is still in progress, but do feel free to seek help on the forums for questions, or simply to leave comments and suggestions for improving the usability of the IMSLP.

And some of you may have noticed the opening of the International Music Database Project (IMDBP). IMDBP is an offspring of IMSLP that is still very much a work in progress (just started I might add), and you can find more information about the goals and time line of the project on the IMDBP main page. There is no major change in the submission process for IMSLP due to the creation of the IMDBP, besides having to click on one extra link, so former IMSLP contributors should find the new system fairly intuitive. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you think the submission system can be improved in some way; this is one of the high priorities on my list.

There are also discussions of major collaborations between other organizations and IMSLP underway. More news on the specifics of a discussion will be posted as soon as the plan is solidified, and both the other organization and IMSLP are ready to make the discussion public.

I have started a backup system for anyone wanting to keep a portion of IMSLP usable offline. A significant amount of files will be available via this system, and anyone interested should take a look at the corresponding page. Due to a variety of concerns including privacy, we are not able to offer public backups of the text on the wiki at this time, but, as I mentioned near the beginning of this letter, we would be very willing to have a mirroring/backup plan with Project Gutenberg, which would include the text.

I have also noticed people asking how they could donate to IMSLP. I have set up a page explaining the ways to donate to IMSLP; some even without actually donating money, though money donations are obviously welcome.

The forum is still where it was before the shutdown, and a blog is well in planning. If someone is feeling generous and is willing to donate a chunk of a server for a Moveable Type blog (Perl based), I would be very grateful.
* * *

Welcome back everyone, and by all means, enjoy your stay!

Yours,
Edward W. Guo (a.k.a. Feldmahler)
Project leader
Contact: feldmahler {at} imslp.org, or leave a message on my talk page.

P.S. This open letter, like the first open letter, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Please do feel free to translate this letter, and post the translation on this wiki or the forums, so that an IMSLP admin can integrate the translation into this page.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Code Criticism

If you're a professional programmer, expect your code to be criticized.

Expect it on your worst code (because everyone writes crappy code sometimes).

Expect it on your best code (because there's almost always room for improvement).

Expect it to be helpful (because everyone brings a different perspective, talent and experience to the team).

Expect it to be worthless (because some people will want to bring you down or will just plain be wrong).

You should be worried if your code isn't criticized, because it means that either no one cares or no one is brave enough. Neither situation is good for the project.

What are little Pentapedes made of?

Carapace and mud,
And fangs covered in blood.
That's what Pentapedes are made of.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cory Doctorow's AV Club Interview

The Onion's A.V.Club has an interview with Cory Doctorow up, and it's really, really interesting. You should read it. :-)

Some excerpts:

I was going through a season of summer blockbusters, and as a science-fiction prose writer, I go see a lot of science-fiction movies so I can feel bad about the fact that those movies make much more money than I do. So I would go see these techno-thrillers, and the technology was totally wrong. You wouldn't make a movie about ancient Rome in which people were driving hot rods, unless you're Mel Brooks or something. It just doesn't make any sense, right? If the movie is a historical film about Victorian England, you wouldn't egregiously stick a bunch of televisions in the background. But there are all of these movies that are putatively about the technology we all use. In all those Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movies and so on, there's technology that we all use. And presumably, from the last word of the screenplay being written to the last cut of the edit being made, hundreds and hundreds of people look at this film who use computers every day. And none of them seem to know that computers actually don't emit a soft chime every time you type.


I was reading some golden-age science fiction, and a recurring theme in golden-age science fiction is lifeboat rules. It's nice to be democratic and all, but eventually, you find yourself in a lifeboat, and you're floating in the middle of the ocean, and someone has to be captain. And the person who goes crazy and decides that the lifeboat would be better off if he stabbed it with his penknife, that person needs to be thrown overboard. And you can't give that person a trial—the captain just needs to do it. ... The problem with this is, you end up in the land of 24, where you contrive these scenarios in which something morally unthinkable is required, and once you admit that there are situations in which morally unthinkable deeds are not only permissible but necessary, then it becomes really easy to just start shoveling inconvenient situations into the "desperate" category. ... And it seems okay on its face—obviously, if there's someone chasing a guy who's planning on blowing up the city with a dirty nuke, we wouldn't want a cop to have to go to a judge to get a warrant to find the information. But when we actually give people those powers, they end up using them for totally trivial things. In the UK, here, we have RIPA ... that's supposed to be exactly that, for catching terrorists. And it turns out that the number-one use of RIPA powers is local councils who use it to acquire the video-camera feed from private video cameras, to catch people who let their dogs crap on the sidewalk.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friday, May 09, 2008

Reproduce like a Dandelion

Inspired by Cory Doctorow's latest Locus column, Think Like a Dandelion.

Reproduce like a dandelion!
Spread your seed to the internet wind!
Let it take hold where it may;
Let ev'ry shy patch of mind peeking through
Each crack and crevice
Offer it the briefest solace
That it may take root
And bloom
Throwing your seed further and further afield
Upon the wind until,
Like the dandelion,
Your offspring has taken root
In every corner of the globe!

Trying to Compile from a Buggy Codebase

In tribute to Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Trying to Compile from a Buggy Codebase

Whose errored code this is, I know:
We fired him three years ago.
But still his bug-filled code is here,
And makes the server run so slow.

My chest starts to constrict with fear,
And my eyes begin to tear—
And my knees will even shake!—
With each bug report I hear.

Why do I permit this ache,
This long-gone other man's mistake,
To cause me now to moan and weep?
'Cause ev'ry night the thing will break!

Each change I make breaks something deep.
But I have unit tests to keep
Me sane these days before I sleep,
Yes, sane these days before I sleep.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Demonstrating Monty Hall in Python

There was a recent article on the Monty Hall problem in the New York Times blog TiernyLab.

The problem is this: You're on a game show, and there are three doors you may choose from. One door contains a car (or something else that's desirable) and the other two doors contain goats (or something else that's undesirable). After you pick your first door (this is the important part), the host must open another door and show you a goat. You then may choose whether to stick with your original choice or switch doors.

Should you switch doors?

Most people's response is "it doesn't matter, because the car could be behind either door, so it's the same as if I'd just been given the choice of the two doors, so it's 50-50". But that's not true, and here's why:

Monty's Constraint, as I call it, changes the odds. When you first selected a door, you had a 1/3 chance of choosing the car, and you had a 2/3 chance of choosing a goat. If you were to switch at this point, before Monty (the host) opens another door, then your odds would still be the same.

But, because Monty has to choose a door with a goat behind it to show you, there are two possible scenarios. First, if you picked the car (a 1/3 probability), then Monty can show you either of the two remaining doors as he pleases. But, if you picked a goat (2/3 probability), then the door he doesn't pick must contain the car.

Therefore, your odds of winning if you switch are 2/3 (because those are the odds that you originally picked a goat) and your odds of winning if you stay are 1/3 (the original odds that you picked the car).

Don't believe me? Steve didn't, at first. So I wrote a little program to prove it. It's in Python, so you shouldn't have any trouble understanding it, even if you're not a programmer.

Link: Python interpretor.

The Code:

import random

switchWins = 0
stayWins = 0

CAR = 1
GOAT = 0

for i in range(0,10000):

# set up doors. the set of doors is an array of two 0s and one 1.
# The 1 represents the car.
# start off with an empty set
doors = [GOAT, GOAT, GOAT]

# choose a door to have a car
carDoor = random.randint(0,2)

doors[carDoor] = CAR


# choose door (player)
playerDoor = 1

# choose door (monty). We use this to ensure monty
# randomly chooses a goat door.
montyDoor = random.randint(0,2)

# if the door monty picks has a car, or if the door he picks is
# the player's door, we have to pick again.
while doors[montyDoor] == CAR or montyDoor == playerDoor:

montyDoor = random.randint(0,2)

# There are only two doors left. If the player's door doesn't have
# a car, then the player would win by switching, so count it

if doors[playerDoor] != CAR:
switchWins += 1

# Conversely, if the player's door does have a car, the player
# would win by staying, so count that
if doors[playerDoor] == CAR:
stayWins += 1

print switchWins, stayWins

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A sandbox for real life (a ramble)

Every so often I read something that proposes some change that will have some sort of desirable effect. (Being an anarchist, I believe this to be true about anarchy.) But, we live in a situation where it is not only impractical to experiment on every idea that comes our way, it would arguably be immoral. Communism, for example, at least as practiced in Soviet Russia, in which the suffering of the poor was worsened by tyranny.

Now, we can run simulations and create models, but these all suffer from simplification because we have to choose what to leave out of the model or simulation in order to make it generate results in a reasonable amount of time.

So, I wish we had what programmers call a 'sandbox' for real life; a place where we could test theories out in conditions as close to the real world as possible, preferably identical. A place where we could get the results of a hundred years in a few days (or less!).

Of course, that does make me wonder: is the suffering of the sandbox any less than real suffering? Does the fact that it all gets washed away when you're done cleanse the wrongs?

Anyway, enough ramble for now.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Flight of the Bumblekey

[INT. CAR. GEOFF is DRIVING.]

[ALGERNON the pentapede JUMPS onto GEOFF'S LEG and begins ATTACKING GEOFF'S KEYS]

GEOFF: Algernon, what are you doing?

ALGERNON: I'm practicing to join BrightonMusic.

GEOFF: What?

ALGERNON: You need someone to play the keys.

[ALGERNON ATTACKS the KEYS some more]

GEOFF: Why in the world would we need a key player?

ALGERNON: There are lots of songs that need keys.

GEOFF: Like what?

ALGERNON: "The Flight of the Bumblekey!"

Folk Music from Around the World (BrightonMusic)

April 13, 2008 45:30pmFolk Music from Around the World– at Brighton First Presbyterian Chruch, 510 S 27th Ave, Brighton, CO 80601
The BrightonMusic Choir and Orchestra will present "Folk Music from Around the World". Admission is free.

This hCalendar event brought to you by the hCalendar Creator.




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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Whither the firsts goeth...

I found this recently on a piece of (viola) sheet music...

I disagree with this bowing, but whither the firsts goeth, so must I.


It about sums it up.

Easter Story on One Step from Sunday

Ok, I've decided to start promoting the scribblings I make on One Step from Sunday here. The latest is Easter Story, which is about the true origin of Easter.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Something to add to your bag of tricks

When dealing with import buffer tables that you're planning on normalizing,
create the import buffer tables with both sets of fields (incoming field and
normalized field) so that you can avoid using a ton of alter table
statements, which are quite expensive.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Horton Hears an Evangelical (Linkage)

Ok, this I have to let you know about.

From No More Hornets: Horton Hears an Evangelical, featuring such lines as:

In a place known as Whoville the folks got distraught
When Horton the elephant said what he thought.
“The oddest of oddities isn’t as odd
As people believing that there is a god.”


and

We’ll drive you from Whoville; we’ll send you away.
Or else we will force you to worship and pray.
A person’s a person, no matter how small
But an atheist isn’t a person at all!”

Friday, February 29, 2008

I want my... I want my... I want my KDE!

So, my coworker Brett just got a new laptop, and it has Vista on it, and one thing that's true about Vista is it's shiny.

Now I want my shiny. I've decided that when I install Linux on my new desktop, I'm going to go with KDE instead of Gnome, at least to see all the shiny that KDE 4 is supposed to have.

Unfortunately, I decided to wait until my distro of choice, Gentoo, releases 2008.0, which is supposedly on March 17 (if all goes well). So I must be patient. :-/

Also, happy leap day!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dying in the Sun

(Melody from, and with apologies to, Terry Jack's Seasons in the Sun)

Goodbye, my love, it's so bizarre,
To know that science had advanced so far.
But now the end has fin'ly come,
There's no need to be so glum,
It's just time that we succumb*.

Goodbye, my love, it's time to die,
With little monsters flying in the sky.
They have stingers on their legs,
And use your ears to lay their eggs;
Can't be blown up with powder kegs.

We have fled, had to run,
But now we're dying in the sun.
Pentapedes have come to stay,
And humans are in the way.


* I've got a rhyming dictionary.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

In Pony We Trust...

Last night, a pentapede said this to Steve:

There is no government, only HORSE!


Poor things. They have no lips, you see.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Social constructs of friendship in the context of sexuality

(Don't attack Steve, please. This was idle talk at lunch)

Steve brought up an interesting idea today: that homosexuals were less inclined to make and maintain long-term friendships than heterosexuals because of the differences in how men and women view the world. He posited that heterosexual couples find it harder to interact with one another because of these differences, and so having outside friends is necessary for each, in order to have someone (or ones) to interact with that has a similar mindset. Homosexual couples, on the other hand, are more likely to have a similar mindset, and therefore find outside interaction less necessary (additionally, he pointed out the difficulty in maintaining a friendship with someone who is either a potential mate or competition - or both), and this may be part of the difficulty in maintaining a queer community.

He points out, of course, that these differences are not necessarily due to genetic or inborn differences, but rather differences in how men and women are raised. As a counter-example, he offered my parents, who tend to have few outside friends.

I'm not sure how accurate this is. Certainly, it's fairly accurate for me and for him, but we're both introverted anyway; I have few friends that I maintain regular contact with, and only a couple are women. And I don't have, in general, any real desire to change this.

I want to discuss this, but I'm not sure where to begin. Thoughts, anyone?

Linkage

Game Criticism, Why We Need It, and Why Reviews Aren't It.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Audiveris Redux

Ok, I noted, last time I tried to use Audiveris, that I couldn't get it to work properly. Well... I was only partially right.

Although I had installed the correct version of Java, I forgot to tell Gentoo to use it.

For future reference, Gentoo users: you have to update your java selection with java-config.

So, I downloaded the latest version (3.1) tonight, and gave it a whirl on a scan I had (page two of the viola part for Grainger's Molly on the Shore). It actually runs, and it actually was able to recognize some of the score. But, there were a lot of errors, and some were difficult - or impossible - to fix, such as when two symbols were interpreted to be a single symbol. And for some reason, it prefers clefs over notes with flags, though I'm not sure why.

Anyway, there are certainly some very good things that it does, but it's got quite a ways to go yet.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How much?

Inspired by seeing someone looking at the figurines in the window at Games Workshop today.

How much is that goblin in the window?
The one with the whip and the flail?
How much is that goblin in the window?
I sure hope that it's still for sale!

I must take a trip to Greyhawk,
And leave my poor DM alone.
If he has a goblin, he won't be lonesome,
And the goblin will have a good home!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Homespun

Well, the Homespun concert's come and gone. Overall, it went quite well. There were a few mishaps, but the audience was forgiving.

We played 12 pieces (roughly... I forget exactly what all there was), including some flute choir, brass choir, clarinet choir, and string orchestra pieces in addition to several full orchestra pieces. No yell band for this concert, so it was all us. We did play one of my pieces - Poet and Penguin - although I'm beginning to realize how inexperienced I was when I wrote it.

The crafts presentation was nice, if a little small. Mom brought some of Amy's dresses that she'd made, and Bobbette brought some needlepoint and some of her poetry and photography. Liana brought some nice soaps that she'd made, and some other folks brought other things as well.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sandkings

George R. R. Martin

Sandkings is a science fiction novella (or novelette if you're wikipedia) in which the protagonist, Simon Kress, obtains a quartet of "sandkings", insect-like creatures controlled by a "maw", which is the psychic 'queen' that births the "mobiles". The sandkings are so called because they build elaborate sand castles bearing the image of their owner—and because they fight intricate battles with one another. (Steve and I think this would make an awesome strategy game. They remind us of pentapedes in some ways.) Into their castles, they build the face of their owner, as though in worship.

Simon is, to put it mildly, a jerk. Eager for his sandkings to battle, Simon starves them, creating resource battles, and even inviting his friends over to watch and wager on the outcome. But things quickly get out of control, as you might expect.

I really enjoyed the story. The pacing and length were good, and the imagery was quite vivid (though it may have helped that Steve read it aloud to me). At times I was sympathetic toward the Sandkings, and at others I was terrified of them. The descriptions of their castles made me wish for a set of my own sandkings... nearly.

Sandkings has also been made into an Outer Limits episode ("The Sandkings"), although the episode is only loosely based on the novella. In it, Simon Kress is a government researcher investigating creatures found in Martian sand samples instead of a playboy. He's still a jerk, though he's less of one. When his project is canceled due to security breaches, he steals some sand in order to continue the project at home. This, predictably, has disastrous results, with the predictable "oh noes!" shocking twist at the end that is The Outer Limits' trademark.

I didn't enjoy the episode as much as the novella. It was too long and slow, and I dislike when a story is made more 'mainstream', although I understand why it is done for television (cost and appeal to casual science fiction fans, as opposed to hardcore fans). But, I did enjoy the opportunity to see (a realization of) the sandkings and their castles, even if it wasn't exactly how I imagined it.

So, I would highly recommend the novella, if you can find a copy. If you think the Outer Limits episode sounds interesting, you might give it a try, but otherwise, I'd pass.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Upcoming Concerts

Denver Pops Orchestra
“Great Scenes in Music”
Night on Bald Mountain, In the Steppes of Central Asia, On the Beautiful Blue Danube, and more!
Saturday, February 2, 4pm
Admission is free!
Emmaus Lutheran Church
3120 Irving St, Denver, CO 80211

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BrightonMusic Orchestra
“Homespun” concert featuring compositions by local composers
Sunday, February 10, 4pm
There will be local arts & crafts on display beginning at 2pm
Admission is free!
Brighton First Presbyterian Church
510 S 27th Ave, Brighton, CO 80601

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Leaving Haloscan? Use this handy scraper

I recently decided to use entirely to blogger comments for my blog, but I wanted to retain my old comments for posterity (and/or to occasionally enrage me). So, I went a-googling , and eventually came across a Haloscan comment scraper which performed the task very admirably. You just need to have python installed and be ready to enter your Haloscan username and password.

Note that it may not work forever, but it works as of today.

My next task is figuring out how to automatically put all the comments into blogger. Hoo boy.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cloverfield (2008)

Bad Robot, Paramount Pictures
Directed By: Matt Reeves

(This review may contain spoilers!)

I wasn't interested in this movie when I first saw the trailer for it (and I had been blissfully unaware of the viral marketing campaign that was apparently used to promote it); I'm not a big fan of monster/disaster movies, and the first-person-limited camcorder-style reminded me of the Blair Witch Project, which I found terrible and boring. So, I wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing it last night with Steve and most of the DLP brothers.

However, my (admittedly low) expectations were exceeded. Cloverfield makes much better use of the camcorder POV than Blair Witch. I didn't even experience any motion sickness (which is quite a feat for me), although some of the others I was with did.

The premise of the movie is that it's the recovered footage from a personal video camera found in New York's Central park following a monster attack. It begins with some footage from the "Best Day Ever", a day on the town by Rob (one of the protagonists) and his best friend/lover, Beth. However, the tape (ok, it's actually an SD card, but for the purposes of this review I'm calling it a tape) is then reused, and partially overwritten, to record the going away party for Rob, who's leaving for Japan. Because of this, the movie is interspersed with short scenes from this earlier day, which add a poignancy to the unfolding events of the monster attack.

This on-the-ground perspective gave a fresh twist to the "monster movie" theme for me (though I've read elsewhere that it's been done fairly frequently). The usual plot for a monster movie takes place from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, and although we have a narrator for the movie (Hud, who's operating the camera), he's annoying, unintelligent, and as clueless as we are. All these people are trying to do is to save themselves and those they care about, futile though that may be, and we're kept in suspense because we're thinking about what we would do in the same situation (and how we might not fare as well).

My favorite part of the movie is at the end, when Rob is addressing the camera to let anyone who might find it know who he is. It's somewhat subtle, but Rob mentions that it's 6:42am, which is exactly the time when he began recording the Best Day Ever, nearly a month before.

So, I enjoyed this movie. I was never frightened, but it was certainly tense. That being said, there are a few nitpicks I have to make.

1) There's no reason to see this in the movie theater. None at all. Unless, of course, you want to sit in the front and get motion sick. The special effects are relatively limited, and nothing that couldn't be enjoyed on a television.

2) The party scenes are WAY too long. The film is only a scant 84 minutes, and the party takes up 10-20 of those minutes without providing...

3) ...character development. There isn't any, to speak of. I couldn't care less when Marlena, Jason and Hud die. I was more excited to see the little space parasites (or whatever they are) than anything else.

4) Inaccuracies and unlikely behavior. Others have mentioned this, but apparently Liberty Island would NOT be visible from the Brooklyn Bridge. Beth's building stands at an unlikely angle. Everyone I went with found it hard to believe that Rob would continually risk himself to rescue her, even though it was likely she was already dead and he had already lost his brother, and that the others would be willing to tag along. (As Steve put it, "Honey, I love you, but if something like that ever happens to you, you're on your own!") Also, Hud sure held on to the camera for a long time (as long as he could, in fact); we'd have dropped it much sooner.

But these don't really take away from the film overall (with the exception of the party), so I still recommend seeing it - when it comes out on DVD.

I, Robot (2004)

Canlaws Productions, 20th Century Fox
Directed By: Alex Proyas

I had avoided seeing I, Robot when it first came out for various reasons. I had heard it was a large departure from the book (which is a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov that explore the consequences of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics), and that it was full of crass commercialism. Additionally, although I enjoyed Will Smith in Men In Black, my opinion of him as an actor was not high at the time.

So, it was interesting to watch I, Robot for the first time on Friday, and not because I had particularly wanted to, but because Steve had to for the SciFi class he's taking. Some of the faults that had kept me away from it were true, such as the obvious and annoying product placement and a not-terribly-good performance by Will Smith, but others weren't. For example, although the plot didn't follow any story contained in the book, there are similarities to another Asimov short story - Robot Dreams, although the similarity is brief (and Susan Calvin is decidedly more badass in the short story than in the movie). The movie also explores the potential consequences of the Three Laws, keeping it in line with Asimov's stories.

I really enjoyed the special effects, though, especially the look of the robots (I prefer the NS-4-style robots to the NS-5s). There was some very nice cinematography, and everything had a nice, not-too-distant future look and feel to it.

Overall, I probably wouldn't watch this movie again on my own, but I wouldn't object to seeing it again.

More Pentapede Poems //o\\\

You know, pretty soon people will start thinking I've lost my mind and given it to the pentapedes.

They'd be right.

A pentapede I recently captured made this offering to be released:

There once was a pentapede stuck,
And ended up all out of luck.
It tried to rhyme,
But ran out of time,
When it was suddenly hit by a truck!


They also offer these alternative lines to the previous poem:

The Pentapede a Monster is,
Giant with a Scary Hiss!
This fright'ning hiss will chill your Heart
As it tears your limbs apart!


On another note, they adored the movie Cloverfield.

Shared Feeds in the Sidebar

I've added a neat feature to the sidebar: my shared feeds from Google Reader. You can see the articles' titles on the sidebar, or you can go to the page (click 'read more...') where you can see the full article (or part of the article, depending on how the original site has it set up) and even subscribe to a feed of my shared items for the convenient ability to read it in your own feed reader!

(Consequently, article mentions will become rarer in the blog itself...)

Saturday, January 12, 2008