The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Vote for him! He's not the incumbent!

In fact, before he created the comic strip, Tevis spent weeks asking cash-strapped friends and family for help and walking door-to-door in the district. He raised $1,525.

The comic strip—at www.seantevis.com/3000—was first posted online July 16. Today, when he files his campaign finance forms with the Kansas secretary of state's office, Tevis will report that he has raised $95,162.76 in donations through PayPal, the online service that allows payments and money transfers via the Internet.

Via Sean Tevis, Kansan sticks it to election system

It looks like he made his goal and then some, but I've still yet to see him get mentioned at Instapundit.

Monday, August 04, 2008

If you are going to have a meeting, maybe this isn't such a bad way after all …

“Did you really hate the IM meeting that much?” asked Smirk. “And if you had told me that Bunny was going away for ten days … ”

Ah, the joys of public blogging, especially when your fellow cow-orkers read your blog … (not that I mind—heck, I got into more trouble when writing my humor column than I ever did over my blog).

Actually, a week of daily IM meetings hasn't been that bad. Last Tuesday's meeting was unusual in that it was the first one and a lot of issues had to be discussed. As the week went on though, they became shorter, and, as I mentioned, it's not like I have to get dressed for these things.


No 21′ foot scarf was harmed in the making of this post

For Spring, a tee-shirt she might like (although unfortunately, I doubt the tee-shirt model is available). Oh, and just because, John Barrowman singing “The Doctor and I” (link via yendi).

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

There were nearly no IT-type jobs; then again, there wasn't a large number of jobs to begin with

I was not in the best of moods. I had gotten up way too early, driven about an hour south only to face a large teeming crowd and a convention center that was a designated Pepsi Zone (ptuey!). And I wasn't relishing waiting in the infinite line for the résumé workshop.

Spring had suggested that Wlofie and I attend the Jobing.com Career Expo at the Broward County Convention Center. As we drove into Port Everglades, a person standing outside the gates informed us drivers to get our IDs ready. I asked, rhetorically, what exactly is the purpose of showing ID?

“Security theater,” said Wlofie.

Pretty much what I thought.

Anyway, by the time we got up to the gate, the guard inside just waved us through without bothering to ask us for our IDs.

So much for securing our ports through security theater.

Registration was a simple process, since we had pre-registered online and had our boarding entry pass ready. We exchanged the entry pass for a three page glossy brochure that doubled as our ticket into the expo. It was at this point that I went off in search of caffeine. I approached one of the food stalls outside the main exhibit hall.

“I'd like a Coke please,” I said.

“No Coke! Pepsi!”

“Excuse me?”

“No Coke! Pepsi! End of line with you! Next!”

Well then. The food stall was near the résumé workshop, and the line ran down the front hallway.

“Let's walk around the exhibit hall,” I said. “I can't believe I got out of bed for this.”

I was … underwhelmed … with the exhibit hall. The exhibit booths, a bunch of 10′×10′ areas demarcated by cloth curtains, covered an area perhaps 150′×100′. This isn't necessarily that bad, except the exhibit hall itself was 274′×237′, leaving quite a bit of floor space exposed. It made for a rather sad looking job expo.

We wandered about the place for perhaps an hour. Highlights:

By this time, I was getting hungry so we headed off to the concession stand at the back of the hall.

“May I help you?”

“Yes, I'll take the cheeseburger and chips, with a Coke,” I said. Hey, it couldn't hurt to ask.

“I'm sorry, but we only have Pepsi.”

“Oh. Iced tea then.”

“I'm sorry, but we're out of that.”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

$10 for a cheeseburger (sans tomato and onion mind you), a bag of chips and bottled water.

After lunch, we spent nearly two hours in line for the résumé workshop, and while I can't say it was worth the wait, I did get some valuable feedback on my résumé. The woman looking it over was a bit overwhelmed with it actually. She said that with my current employment history and skill set, I should drop the dates, work on my “Objectives” paragraph (it currently reads “To obtain an exciting job in the fast-pased Computer Industry utilizing my unique skillsets.” When I wrote that, I had no idea what to write; my intention was to change that at some later point but I never got around to it) and add a section on my core strengths (and that doesn't include C programming and Unix administration, but more like “smart,” “tenacity,” etc).

She also suggested, after looking over the long list of systems I've worked on, that I should brand myself and include a “tag line,” something like “I don't do Windows.”

Interesting idea.

After that, it was time to leave, and thankfully, I was able to utilize the HOV lane on I-95 on the way back to Casa New Jersey, as it was the height of rush hour traffic.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Have flashbulb, will travel

Thanks to my prior employment in the airline industry, I get to fly free to most major cities in the US, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean. Therefore, I would charge nothing for this portion of my travel. You pay only my low per-day fee plus my actual expenses to get from the airport to your location. My prices start at $500 for a one-day shoot at a non-commercial event, plus my actual expenses. This fee includes several days of editing afterwards. (You'll find this is much less than most photographers charge.) What you get in a week or less is a DVD with both the edited photos and the original ones.

Via Glenn Campbell, Photographer for Hire

Apparently, there's a lot you can do if you have no home and almost no possessions and free airfare for the forseeable future.


I think climate change is something we still don't fully understand

IT has been a tough year for the high priests of global warming in the US. First, NASA had to correct its earlier claim that the hottest year on record in the contiguous US had been 1998, which seemed to prove that global warming was on the march. It was actually 1934. Then it turned out the world's oceans have been growing steadily cooler, not hotter, since 2003. Meanwhile, the winter of 2007 was the coldest in the US in decades, after Al Gore warned us that we were about to see the end of winter as we know it.

In a May issue of Nature, evidence about falling global temperatures forced German climatologists to conclude that the transformation of our planet into a permanent sauna is taking a decade-long hiatus, at least. Then this month came former greenhouse gas alarmist David Evans's article in The Australian, stating that since 1999 evidence has been accumulating that man-made carbon emissions can't be the cause of global warming. By now that evidence, Evans said, has become pretty conclusive.

Yet believers in man-made global warming demand more and more money to combat climate change and still more drastic changes in our economic output and lifestyle.

Via Flares into Darkness, Climate hysterics v heretics in an age of unreason

I was afraid I came across too strong in replying to Spring's post about “African Americans, Global Warming, and a Just Climate Policy for the U.S..” But as I was reading that report, my blood pressure just kept going up and up. Meteorologists have a hard enough time predicting the weather two weeks out, and yet to read this report, Global Warming™ is a done deal and we're all screwed, especially African-Americans, who aren't at fault; it's us non-Hispanic whites who need to be strung up.

Oh, sorry.

I do follow this stuff, and from what I understand, there is no consensus about Global Warming™, except from those who follow the secular religion of Environmentalism.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A primitive form of fine-grained revision control

Work continues on “Project: Leaflet” and when I last left off, I mentioned that git is nearly perfect for handling the fine-grained revision control.

I'm here to report—it is.

The ability to make changes to one version of “Project: Leaflet” (say, the MySQL version) and then selectively merge changes into the other version (in this case, the PostgreSQL version) isn't that bad with git.

I currently have three respositories for “Project: Leaflet”—the “master” repository with two branches, one for the MySQL version, and one for the PostgreSQL version; another one that's my working MySQL repository, and the third that's the working PostgreSQL version.

The workflow isn't that bad. I make changes on one of the work repositories, say, the MySQL version:

mysql-work> vi somefile.c # make changes, test, etc
mysql-work> git commit -a # have working version, commit changes

Then, when done there, I go to the master repository:

master> git checkout mysql
Switched to branch "mysql"
master> git pull server-path-to-mysql-work
 [ bunch of output ]
master> git log >/tmp/changes
master> git checkout postgresql
Switched to branch "postgresql"

I then view the changes made, and pick which commits I want to merge:

master> git cherry-pick f290b3e50e4cea1c3ee5e5265faa996943ef8542
 # that large value is the ID of the commit
 # I pick the ones that apply 
 [ bunch of output ]
master> git cherry-pick 574756ffaa10cdc8452b33bf3d0ab8b786395080
 [ bunch of output ]

Then go to the other work repository, and pull the now-merged changes:

postgresql-work> git pull server-path-to-master
 [ bunch of output ]
postgresql-work> vi somefile.c # make any non-portable changes,
postgresql-work> git commit -a # tests, etc, 

And then back to the master to pull back the PostgreSQL changes and any non-specific merges that may have come up. I could probably make it smoother, as git is also a revision control toolkit, but as of yet, it's not yet annoying enough to warrant the work.


Still obsessing over stupid benchmarks …

The problem. The PHP implementation is a lot slower. Embarrassingly slower. Without any caching the Java version is able to do ~6000 queries per second. The PHP counterpart can push through ~850 queries. The implementations are the same. The stats provided by the author of the library are 8000 vs 1200. So about the same as my measurements.

Via reddit.com, Case study: Is PHP embarrasingly slower than Java?

In my ever continuing obsession with stupid benchmarks and optimization, I decided to tackle this particular little problem like I did with Jumble—map everything into memory and avoid disk I/O altogether (well, explicit disk I/O—the system will page in the data implicitly as it's used). This time, the data maps down to an object file about 8½ megabytes in size (all constant data, so pages can be discarded, not paged out), and with that, I was able to get ~100,000 queries per second.

On a 120MHz machine!

It didn't even take all that long to write …

Friday, August 08, 2008

A small observation about “The Dark Knight”

I just saw “The Dark Knight” again, this time with a bunch of friends including Joe, whom I hadn't seen in two years—he was in town for the weekend). Even though I've seen the movie before, Joe hadn't (which is why we all went) and hey, it was worth seeing again.

Afterwards as we all sat at Moonlight Diner (formerly the Starlite Diner) talking about the film, an interesting point was raised—both the Joker and the Batman are hypocrites. In the film, the Batman is for law and order, yet runs around in reaction to everything, improvising as he goes along with no real plan, breaking the law and order that he so cherishes. The Joker, on the other hand, preaches that random chance rules the day and he goes through his various capers with no plan, yet everything he does is planned in meticulous detail and leaves almost nothing to chance (except for one scene with Harvey Dent). It was an interesting point I hadn't noticed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

“We never thought of telling people … ”

Many motorcyclists rejoiced when the $4.99 SunPass Mini windshield stickers debuted on July 1.

Finally, a no-fuss alternative to the box-shaped transponders that are tough to keep from falling off or being stolen, not to mention impossible to shield from the rain.

There's just one problem: The sticker tags don't work on motorcycles.

That's what Gregory Pius of Wellington discovered after he already paid for the tag, filled it with prepaid tolls and stuck it on the windscreen of his BMW motorcycle.

Now he says he can't remove it without damaging the screen's protective coating.

SunPass' new Mini stickers won't work on motorcycles

About two weeks ago my friend Gregory was dismayed to find out that the new SunPass was never designed to work on motocycles, and started to raise quite a fuss about it.

Looks like a few people heard …


Oil, schmoil Part deux

Bear with us. Whaling, after all, was one of the world's first great multinational businesses, a global enterprise of audacious reach and import. From the 1700s through the mid-1800s, oil extracted from the blubber of whales and boiled in giant pots gave light to America and much of the Western world. The United States whaling fleet peaked in 1846 with 735 ships out of 900 in the world. Whaling was the fifth-largest industry in the United States; in 1853 alone, 8,000 whales were slaughtered for whale oil shipped to light lamps around the world, plus sundry other parts used in hoop skirts, perfume, lubricants and candles.

But, in fact, whaling was already just about done, said Eric Jay Dolin, who wrote some of the text for the exhibit and is the author of “Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America.” Whales near North America were becoming scarce, and the birth of the American petroleum industry in 1859 in Titusville, Pa., allowed kerosene to supplant whale oil before the electric light replaced both of them and oil found other uses.

By 1861, whaling was in such decline that the federal government bought 38 old whaling ships, loaded them with stones and sunk them in Charleston Harbor in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to blockade the Confederate port.

They Used to Say Whale Oil Was Indispensable, Too

Yeah, I think I've mentioned this before


A symphony of music for your listening enjoyment

Now that Bunny is back in town, I can finally post a bunch of musical links for her (and your) enjoyment.

First off, a Muppet duet—the Swedish Chef and Beaker. Carmen perhaps? It's familiar to me at any rate.

Next, a sextet, comprising of Beaker, Beaker, Beaker, Beaker, Beaker and Beaker, performing Ode to Joy.

Third up, everybody's favorite 17th century one-hit wonder Pachelbel. Another solo sextet, but not Beaker this time. Give this one a bit of time, it starts off a bit slow, but gets better.

Fourth up, Theremin music! Super Mario Brothers video game theme music (link via nevesis). In fact, the guy that did that plays a lot of Theremin music.

While listening to those, there's a theoretical paper on the semantic shifts of the Beatles' chords. That is, if you are into music theory.

And just because, a dancing chicken.


Stupid server stats

So I took the IP address mapping program (it can lookup 10,000,000 entries per second on a dual-core 2.6GHz Pentium—5,000,000 per second per CPU) and decided to check some of the server logs—to see where I'm getting most of my network activity, excluding web requests.

Basically, I'm checking sources for spam and ssh attempts.

First up, sources for email (which includes legitimate emails as well as spam attempts) for the past 28 days:

Email attempts per country
Count Country
Count Country
5057 UNITED STATES
2413 RUSSIAN FEDERATION
2413 CHINA
2005 BRAZIL
1380 ARGENTINA
1336 COLOMBIA
1173 TURKEY
1035 REPUBLIC OF KOREA
1033 SPAIN
897 INDIA
843 CHILE
738 POLAND
721 UNITED KINGDOM
721 GERMANY
614 ITALY
604 UKRAINE
573 ROMANIA
554 PERU
466 ISRAEL
459 FRANCE
399 MEXICO
395 THAILAND
385 (no associated country)
309 TAIWAN
231 VIET
190 CANADA
188 HUNGARY
146 PORTUGAL
142 VENEZUELA
140 CZECH REPUBLIC
136 JAPAN
130 NETHERLANDS
127 LATVIA
124 KAZAKHSTAN
123 SAUDI
120 BULGARIA
116 INDONESIA
111 DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
107 PHILIPPINES
104 GREECE
102 SINGAPORE

Here, I excluded results less than 100. There really aren't any surprises here, except for the “no associated country” bit—I'm guessing here the mapping data I have is somewhat incomplete. It's also amusing to see 38 emails from Iran (marketing to the Great Satan? Unexpected, to say the least) and 1 from the Lao People's Democratic Republic (they have the Internet there?).

Next up, ssh attempts for the past 28 days (all results, since it's a smaller data set):

ssh attempts per country
Count Country
Count Country
43541 SPAIN
30397 (no associated country)
21643 CHINA
17741 UNITED STATES
5483 REPUBLIC OF KOREA
4941 INDIA
4745 LITHUANIA
4636 SINGAPORE
3085 RUSSIAN FEDERATION
2361 TAIWAN
1688 SWEDEN
1412 MEXICO
1087 ARGENTINA
848 PHILIPPINES
707 ITALY
693 SWITZERLAND
461 UKRAINE
452 JAPAN
434 KAZAKHSTAN
342 BRAZIL
178 NETHERLANDS
176 UNITED KINGDOM
122 FRANCE
96 COLOMBIA
26 BULGARIA
14 SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
11 AUSTRALIA
10 INDONESIA
10 GREECE
6 PARAGUAY
1 THAILAND
1 MALAYSIA

The “no associated country” bit here is an overly generous regular expression accepting domain names in place of an IP address, and the real surprise here is the number of attempts from Spain of all places. China and Russia, I would expect (and I would have expected Russia to be higher than it is). Singapore was also a bit of a surprise here, seeing how it's Disneyland with the Death Penalty.

Go figure.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Going coconuts at the postal office

A week or two ago, Spring cut down perhaps two dozen coconuts from a tree in the front yard as part of a general “get this XXXX yard cleaned up” project. But what do you do with two dozen green coconuts?

Well, we ate a few, although getting into the coconut was an interesting project and frankly, not really worth the effort. Since they're green, that means they still have this thick fibrous husk that needs removing before you get to the actual nut (and a coconut isn't technically a nut, but a drupe), which needs to be cracked open to reveal the white coconutty goodness inside.

Fresh coconut—good. Spending an hour getting to said fresh coconut—why are we doing this again?

A bunch we gave away.

And apparently, Spring decided to mail a few to some far-off friends. She just slapped a mailing label and stamps directly to the coconut and dropped them into the mail box (or rather, “shoved” would be the more operative word here). There's no reason to actually pack the things since they're so XXXXXX difficult to open.

They arrived to their destinations just fine, although with little notes attached from the postal service saying “One of these days, we'll find a way to break these things … ”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mass media, digital art, and talent

Since Bunny had never seen either “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” nor “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” I told her she should get both so we could watch both and compare the two. That was last night.

We watched them in release order, “Willy Wonka &c” followed immediately by “Charlie &c.” It was during “Charlie &c” that we ended up having an extended discussion about artistic media and whether talent plays a role anymore. It came about because I found myself very annoyed with the CGI effects in “Charlie &c”—I personally found them way noticable and that detracted from my enjoyment (especially during the opening credits).

I was distracted because it fell deep in the Uncanny Valley, which is odd, because there were no humans actually rendered (at least, during the opening credits—everything rendered was certainly well within the computer's bailiwick rendering-wise) but it just seemed that Burton & Co. didn't bother spending the time or the money for these shots. And it's not like it can't be done (“Jurassic Park” for instance—the dinosaurs were incredibly well done; so was the CGI in “The Phantom Menace,” although the story and dialog left a lot to be desired). Perhaps I would have accepted it better had open credits been more cartoony.

Bunny felt that modern technology (read: the digital computer) has cheapened artistic endevours to the point where talent is no longer really needed. Heck, music producers can pitch-correct singers, so even a talent for singing is no longer needed. And obviously, computers have advanced to the point where amateur film makers can do special effects on par with the pros, so there's nothing special there.

But I countered that talent still does matter. Even though Britney Spears is pitch-corrected, lipsyncs during her concerts and is more a product than a person, talent still matters. In her case, a music producer saw she was comfortable in front of a camera on the Mickey Mouse Club, and could hit cues and follow choreographed dance moves, and maybe even had a passible voice (which really didn't matter that much—pitch correction and all that).

“But don't people get upset that the music is identical to the album?” asked Bunny.

“I've met people who get upset if the music doesn't match the album version,” I replied. Yes, such people exist (and to an extent, I'm one of them, but I rarely, if ever, attend concerts). But you go to a Britney Spears concert not exclusively for the music, but for a show.

And it's not like bands haven't been “created” before. N'Sync. Backstreet Boys. New Kids on the Block. Menudo. The Monkeys.

Years ago, I was hanging out with a friend who had set aside a portion of his basement as a small recording studio, albeit with consumer-grade equipment. One of the devices he had was a small box with a few controls on it that allowed you to pick not only the tempo, but the style of drum beats and riffs it would play. And yes, the music that came out of the device sounded much like your run-of-the-mill techno type music. But you could change the tempo and style as it played, and it would slowly shift to the new settings over perhaps half a minute or so.

My friend, as I explained to Bunny, had no music background (that I knew of), and yet here he was, creating a type of music he enjoyed, and yet she found the whole idea distasteful. A “dumbing down” as she called it. “Where does talent fit in?” she asked. “Who needs talent any more?”

But I replied that talent still exists, but that those with the talent might not be known to the greater mass population. I bet not many people have heard of Buddy Rich, but those who have know the man has talent. And those who know are in the industry (music industry, in this case). “Have you ever worked on a spreadsheet?” I asked Bunny.

“Yes,” she said.

“Then you've programmed a computer.”

“But it's nothing compared to what you can do.”

“That doesn't matter. You programmed a computer.” And it's true, despite what computer programmers might think—she was able to instruct the computer through a series of calculations to derive a result. Program. QED.

Spreadsheets have allowed people who would otherwise consider themselves “not a programmer” to program a computer. A simple language like PHP can enable someone to jazz up a website.

“But don't you hate PHP?” asked Bunny.

“Yes, I can't stand the language,” I said. “And the thought that I might have to maintain a program written by Joe Sixpack scares me to death, but still, PHP allows Joe Sixpack to program. However badly.” And it's not like those who are talented are lost. Certainly, Richard Stallman, Donald Knuth, Guido van Rossum, Michael Abrash and John Carmack aren't household names (and Bunny had never heard of them), but within the Computer Industry, they're extremely well known, and known to have a lot of programming talent (now, whether you agree with or respect them, is another matter).

Get into any field, and soon enough, you'll learn who has real talent, and who doesn't. I pulled out a random Uncle Scrooge comic book, opened to a random page and handed it to Bunny. I then spent a few minutes searching through the pile of comics for another Uncle Scrooge comic and handed that one to her, opened to a random page. “Now, of those two, which is better—don't read the words, just go by the art work.”

She looked at the two comics for a minute or two. “I'm drawn,” she said, pun unintended, “to the first one.”

“Exactly,” I said. “That one was drawn by Carl Barks, the Uncle Scrooge artist at Disney. That one,” I said, pointing to the second comic, “was drawn by some two-bit hack.” And the reason it took me several minutes to find that one, the bad example, is that even as a 9-year-old kid reading comics, I came to “know” that some Uncle Scrooge comics were just inherently better than others and at the time, I couldn't say why. Now, I can say why—Carl Barks. But that doesn't fully explain why though. It's not as if Carl Barks' backgrounds were more realistic. Heck, I can't even say his Uncle Scrooge was more realistic, since no comic version of a duck looks remotely like a real duck.

It's hard to pin down why, but Bunny agreed—Carl Barks' art was just “better” than the other artist (and I have no idea who the other artist was, for Disney never allowed their artists to sign their work, so I find it even more amazing that my 9-year-old self could recognize the work of a single unnamed artist). And even my crack of the other artist being a “two-bit hack” is a bit disingenuous—his artwork at least passed the editors at Disney to be published, so he obviously had some “talent.”

Pitch changers, computer graphics, digital photographs, MIDI, samples, all new media. That's it. It's nothing to be afraid of, and it certainly isn't “dumbing down” talent in my opinion. Bunny slowly came to a similar conclusion—that all this new media is allowing more people to express themselves, however badly it might be done. “And while PHP might be a bad language, it at least lets them express themselves in code. And could it lead to better languages?” she asked.

“Yes, if the person takes the time to really learn, or finds herself hitting limitations in PHP, she can certainly find other, more expressive languages to use. At the very least, she will eventually learn to recognize real talent in whatever media, music, paint, programming, film, she might use.”

“So,” said Bunny, pointing to Johnny Depp's deeply creepy Willy Wonka on the TV, “I should approach this film on its own merits and appreciate it for what it is.”

“Oh no,” I said, pointing to the TV, “that movie's crap.”

“Oh thank God!” said Bunny. In the end, we both didn't care for Tim Burton's take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka was more effeminately creepy than Gene Wilder's ascerbic eccentric, even if Burton's version was closer to the book than the 1971 version.

“Personally, I wouldn't touch PHP with a 10 foot pole,” I said. “But just because I don't like it doesn't mean it's bad per se. It's just another means of expression. But remember Sturgeon's Law: ‘90% of everything is crap.’”

“It's just how you use it.”

“Yup.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

“Tropical Storm Fay, you're no Hurricane Andrew”

It's really nothing more than a really bad storm, and it's going to miss us entirely. All we'll get is a bit of rain and wind.

Okay, maybe quite a bit of rain and wind, but it's really nothing at all compared to sixteen years ago.


Just because I found it amusing

At Costco today: the price of a gallon of milk equaled the price of a gallon of gasoline.

Hmm … perhaps this is the type of post better suited for twitter


“I knows me some ugly!”

I think I may need to dictate entries, then transcribe them, because I missed perhaps a third of what I wanted to cover in my talent post. One aspect was a bit more depth into the “dumbing down” argument Bunny stated.

To me, it seems as if each addition of media has always been about either producing the end result faster, cheaper, or to reach a wider audience, and one example I used in a later discussion about this with Bunny was books.

Prior to Johann Gutenberg building the first printing press, books were hand written (or copied) in a long and laborious process quite prone to mistakes. That, and the fact that the majority of people were illiterate, made for a very expensive product, and an extensive library might contain perhaps two dozen books, all chained to the shelves because of their expense.

But Mr. Gutenberg comes along and makes duplication faster and cheaper than before. More books at a cheaper price lead to increasing levels of literacy (not to mention breaking the monopoly The Church had on religious interpretation and scientific inquiry) to the point where the US and UK published more than 375,000 books in 2005 (and in the 90s publishers in the US published each year over twice the number of books published between 1881–91.

Indeed, today, thanks to increasing literacy, decreasing publishing costs and a thriving publication industry those that have the passion to write The Great American Novel can now do so.

With, sadly, predictable results.

But it's just not restricted to books. Take any media. Television and film, for instance. Both started out with a theater tradition (with television more closely related to vaudeville and film classical theater) and again, both took years to shed the trappings of theater to find their own voices, as it were. And actually, while both have a shared vocabulary (for lack of a better term), there are subtle distinctions between the two and what works for television doesn't necessarily work for film. They are two distinct, yet closely related, media.

And now, thanks to decreasing costs and rising demands, anyone can make their own television show or even film. In fact, digital video might become distinct from analog video because of advances in digital video manipulation (and that link is both indescribably cool and scary at the same time).

And how about photography? In the early 1800s, due to a rising merchant class (or middle class if you will) with a penchant for portraits, a lot of painters were looking for ways to meet the demand and thus was born photography. It's after significant advances in photography that painters (who didn't go on to become photographers) started drifting away from realism and into impressionism, pointilism, cubism and abstractism. And it took a good number of years for photography to transcend its own starting point in portraiture to become its own distinct artistic medium.

Oh, and speaking of photography, thanks to digital technology it's now cheaper and easier to take pictures than it ever was before. Also, it's cheaper and easier to manipulate photos today than it ever was before:

REMOVING her ex-husband from more than a decade of memories may take a lifetime for Laura Horn, a police emergency dispatcher in Rochester. But removing him from a dozen years of vacation photographs took only hours, with some deft mouse work from a willing friend who was proficient in Photoshop, the popular digital-image editing program.

Like a Stalin-era technician in the Kremlin removing all traces of an out-of-favor official from state photos, the friend erased the husband from numerous cherished pictures taken on cruises and at Caribbean cottages, where he had been standing alongside Ms. Horn, now 50, and other traveling companions.

“In my own reality, I know that these things did happen,” Ms. Horn said. But “without him in them, I can display them. I can look at those pictures and think of the laughter we were sharing, the places we went to.”

“This new reality,” she added, “is a lot more pleasant.”

After her father died several years ago, Theresa Newman Rolley, an accountant in Williamsport, Pa., hired Wayne Palmer, a photographic retoucher, to create a composite portrait of the two of them because she had no actual one of them together.

That photograph—of a moment that never happened—now hangs in her living room. It still brings tears to her eyes, she said.

“It's the only picture of my dad and me together,” Ms. Rolley said, adding, “If the only reason I can get one is cropping it in, it still means the same to me.”

I Was There. Just Ask Photoshop

Orwellian implications aside, this is just another medium to be artistically explored (and exploited) and may take years before it comes to have an artistic vocabulary of its own.

And sadly for me, Ze Frank said it so much better than I did (video transcription).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Oh, I keep forgetting about those …

Ulp! Only 4½ hours to go …


“Nothing to see, move along … ”

Just an update—things are fine, if a bit wet.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I love the smell of caucus in the morning!

It's about time.

I've been waiting to do this for over a year and a half now, and now that both Barack Obama and John McCain have both announced their running mates, I can now apply the Algorithm for Determining the Winners of U.S. Presidential Elections, which was created prior to the 2004 Presidential elections and managed to predict correctly the winner in 2004.

Enough with the introductions, on with the data. The formula, from the paper in question:

Presidential Electability = 5×(years as President) + years as U.S. Representative + 11×(years as Governor),

Vice Presidential Electability = 4×(years as Vice President) + years as U.S. Representative + years as Governor,

Total Electability = Presidential Electability + Vice Presidential Electability.

And the results (candidates) …

Presidential electability of the candidates for President in 2008
Party Names P/VP Rep. Gov. Other Total
Party Names P/VP Rep. Gov. Other Total
Democratic Barack Obama / Joe Biden 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 0 †First adherent (-110) / — (0) 0 (†-110)
Republican John McCain / ‡Sarah Palin 0 / 0 4 / 0 0 / 2 Divorced (-110) / — (0) -104
Constitution Chuck Baldwin / Darrell Castle 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 0 — (0) / — (0) 0
Libertarian Bob Barr / Wayne Root 0 / 0 8 / 0 0 / 0 Special Prosecutor (-110) / — (0) -102
Green Cynthia McKinney / ‡Rosa Clemente 0 / 0 13 / 0 0 / 0 †First Adherent (-110) / — (0) 13 (†-97)
Peace and Freedom Ralph Nader / Matt Gonzalez 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 0 Lobby organization (-110) †First adherent (-110) / — (0) -110 (†-220)

†Score using a loose interpretation of “the candidate was the first adherent of a particular religion to be a major-party candidate for President or Vice President.” See below for more details.

‡Even under the relaxed interpretation of the “first adherent” rule, this doesn't apply since Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to run for Vice-President back in 1984.

Interesting results, and it really comes down to an unstated assumption in the paper, and what the authors really meant by “the candidate was the first adherent of a particular religion to be a major-party candidate for Vice President.” If I go by a strict interpretation of “first adherent,” then this predicts that Cynthia McKinney wins and becomes the 44th President of the United States.

Heh.

Seriously, if we take into account the unstated assumption that no one in a minor political party will ever win and with a strict interpretation of “first adherent,” then Barack Obama wins.

But really, what is the purpose of the “first adherent” rule? Well, up until this election, all presidential nominees have been white males (with the exception of Geraldine Ferraro as a Vice-Presidential candidate, but she was a white woman). It may be that the authors found the only major difference between the parade of rich white males was their stated religion, and therefore, this can be interpreted in a wider context as “first major difference in a candidate from those that came before.”

So with this “looser” interpretation, we now have the First Black (or First Mulatto if you want to be pedantic) for a basis of differentiation, and in that case, McCain/Palin win over Obama/Biden -104 to -110.

Okay, so this endless election is still up in the air.

Sigh.

I can't wait until November 4th.

Obligatory Picture

[Don't hate me for my sock monkey headphones.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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