syncategorematic: (so what do you want?)
( Dec. 5th, 2011 05:26 pm)
LJ, what the heck have you done with all of my RSS feeds? Give them me. Give them me.
syncategorematic: (erythraean sibyl)
( Nov. 23rd, 2011 08:11 am)
I think Dragonsinger was my first gateway drug to science fiction: I read it from the library of my school for grade four, and went on to her other books, and to anything else I could get my hands on that was about dragons, and to fanfic, and to writing SF in English, or trying to.

I knew that she was 85, so I think I kind of expected that I would hear the news one of these days.

Her books certainly have flaws. But many of them are very re-readable, and have the power to stir the imagination and move people to look for a better world.

I am glad she was with us.
Not an American citizen, but passing it on to those who are, and can do something: 

Originally posted by [ profile] gabrielleabelle at Mississippi Personhood Amendment
Okay, so I don't usually do this, but this is an issue near and dear to me and this is getting very little no attention in the mainstream media.

Mississippi is voting on November 8th on whether to pass Amendment 26, the "Personhood Amendment". This amendment would grant fertilized eggs and fetuses personhood status.

Putting aside the contentious issue of abortion, this would effectively outlaw birth control and criminalize women who have miscarriages. This is not a good thing.

Jackson Women's Health Organization is the only place women can get abortions in the entire state, and they are trying to launch a grassroots movement against this amendment. This doesn't just apply to Mississippi, though, as Personhood USA, the group that introduced this amendment, is trying to introduce identical amendments in all 50 states.

What's more, in Mississippi, this amendment is expected to pass. It even has Mississippi Democrats, including the Attorney General, Jim Hood, backing it.

The reason I'm posting this here is because I made a meager donation to the Jackson Women's Health Organization this morning, and I received a personal email back hours later - on a Sunday - thanking me and noting that I'm one of the first "outside" people to contribute.

So if you sometimes pass on political action because you figure that enough other people will do something to make a difference, make an exception on this one. My RSS reader is near silent on this amendment. I only found out about it through a feminist blog. The mainstream media is not reporting on it.

If there is ever a time to donate or send a letter in protest, this would be it.

What to do?

- Read up on it. Wake Up, Mississippi is the home of the grassroots effort to fight this amendment. Daily Kos also has a thorough story on it.

- If you can afford it, you can donate at the site's link.

- You can contact the Democratic National Committee to see why more of our representatives aren't speaking out against this.

- Like this Facebook page to help spread awareness.

 Across the Digital Divide
"every time a discussion of ebooks turns, seemingly inevitably, to "Print is dead, traditional publishing is dead, all smart authors should be bailing to the brave new electronic frontier," what I hear, however unintentionally, is "Poor people don't deserve to read." "
I first shared that song in 2008. Now it haunts me again, and I'm trying to do it better.

[Error: unknown template video]

A stranger star shines in a stranger sky.
We are torn from home again tonight.
Once again between us cities lie
And strange airports and runway lights.
Here we have fog and rain and more,
Here we have cold dawns and cold sunrises...
Here on paths untrodden, unexplored,
We will meet new plot twists and surprises.

Hope guides us through this earthly stuff
And luck is reward for our daring,
While even one song is enough
If it sings of home and of sharing.

Trust me, from afar, from over here,
Many details vanish from our view.
Thunderclouds part and disappear.
Hurts seem meaningless and seem untrue...
We must only learn to watch and wait,
Must be calm and stubborn on what matters,
So that life will send us, soon or late,
Her rare telegrams of joy a-flutter...

Hope guides us through this earthly stuff
And luck is reward for our daring,
While even one song is enough
If tales of home it is sharing.

And I still remember just as clear
All the things we didn't finish singing...
Weary eyes I know and hold so dear...
Moscow winter snowstorms wildly spinning...
Once again between us cities lie,
As before, life forces us apart.
A stranger star above us in the sky
Shines as hope's memorial in our heart.

Hope guides us through this earthly stuff
And luck is reward for our daring,
While even one song is enough
If it sings of home and of sharing.

- Sung by Anna German
Originally posted by [ profile] deathpixie at Signal Boost: Speak Out With Your Geek Out
So, the various nerdish Twitter feeds I follow have been afire this week about an article written by Alyssa Bereznak on the online Gizmondo magazine regarding her experience of the OK Cupid dating site and her meeting with Jon Finkel, world Magic:The Gathering champ of ten years ago. Normally I'd link, but as the author of the article gets paid per click, I'd rather not contribute to her pay packet for what was at best a badly written filler piece and at worst, a mean-spirited attack and link bait. For those who are wondering what she said, however, here's a direct cut and paste quote of the article, under the cut.

My Brief OkCupid Affair With a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player )

The Australian version of the same article was actually worse, but includes a disclaimer from Gizmodo:

My OkCupid Affair With A World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player )

Okay, context established. Jon Finkel himself took to Twitter to post his version of the dates, which is collected in one easy to read version:

Jon's response )

Mountains out of moleholes, basically, with Alyssa apparently being stuck for subject matter and seemingly deciding to go after Gawker/Gizmodo's demographic in an effort to ratchet up her page views. There's a lot of very good articles in rebuttal, take your pick:

“My Brief OkCupid Affair With a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player” UGH UGH UGH by kiala

How A Girl Named Alyssa Stepped on The Internet’s Last Nerve by Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts

The Science of Gawker's Nerd Baiting by Paul Tassi

Don't Be A Jerk by The Nerdy Bird/Jill Pantozzi

An Open Letter To Gizmodo Regarding Alyssa Bereznak And Her "OKCupid" Article. by Geek Girl Diva

Alyssa Bereznak Just Reminded Us That Women Can Be Predators Online Too by Elly Hart (Gizmodo Australia)

Re: My Brief OkCupid Affair With a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player by Pop Culture Monster

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Date Alyssa Bereznak by Geek Mom/Ruth Suehle

and finally, the Dork Tower response by John Kovalic

So, back to the original title of this post. In this article, Monica Valentinelli suggests a "let your nerd hang out" celebration as a more constructive response instead of the rather ugly trolling that's going on in the comments of the original article (and remember, trollers, each click earns Alyssa money, so well done there, d'uh). In Monica's words:


Sometime during the week of Monday, September 12th to Friday, September 16th post about what geeky hobby you love. Then, tell us why we should try it, too. Leave your fears (and edition wars) at the door. Forget about your latest rant. Tap into that well of positive energy and share in the excitement of all things geek.

Let us invite those who would stereotype us to sit at our table and share our interests.

Sounds like a great idea to me. Who's in?

(There's also a Facebook page, for those who book the face.)

I find this more funny than anything, so via Cpolk, I'm in.
Okay, I am seriously fed up with Livejournal’s DDOS attackers playing havoc with my work. I went and tried to back up my LJ to DW (changing the password once that happens); we’ll see how that goes. ETA: it came through beautifully, and surprisingly fast. Password now changed.

I actually sneakily used Excel at work to work out the colour scheme I want my personalized blog to have, and note down the RGB colour values.

Went home, installed Thunderbird to back up my mighty Gmail account at last. As I write this, we’re getting into 2008. All those emails I forgot, some from people I used to care about, some from people I wanted to forget, but do not wish to destroy the work I had put into crafting replies. It may all contribute to my autobiography someday.

That was my life; I will not let dreams that had to die take the joys of reality down with them.

Went to the Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up a couple of thing I will need at ESSLLI.

On the way there, walking along Highway 9, I saw a bird lying on the road, hit by a car.

And realized that the bird, a young starling possibly, was still alive, breathing hard, desperately, through its open beak.

“You shouldn’t die on the road, at least.”

It was warm and soft, its feathers glossy, as I carefully set it down in the grass by the road.

I considered waiting with it. I considered carrying it to the nearest vet, or something. In Ottawa, I may have even phoned the Wild Bird Care Centre, if that is still around.

I would have done it, when I was younger and more idealistic. I have seen too many creatures die, warm soft creatures under my hand, creatures that wanted desperately to live. This bird was not going to live, despite all your love and longing, despite all you wishing and wanting. This bird was a wild creature; having a human stand over it will give it no comfort.

I walked to the Shoppers Drug Mart.

On the way back, I saw a bluebottle fly resting on the bird’s eye.

It didn’t die on the road, at least.

I made sure to wash my hands.

There are over ten thousand emails that I will not reread.

I wish you joy.
got home at 5 am. woke at 11 am.
and read that amy winehouse had died.
she’s joined jimi, janis, jim and kurt (sadly apropos…it’s the 20th anniversary of “nevermind”) in the 27 club.

- Amanda Palmer,

That made me think of Vysotsky’s song “Of Fateful Dates and Numbers”.

You’re a true poet if your life was tragically done,
And best if you’d a sense of proper timing.
At 26,
one stuck his head beneath a duel gun,
One into a hotel room noose went climbing.

And 33 was Christ; he was a poet, and he told:
“Kill not; for if you do, I’ll always find you.”
They nailed down his hands, so he won’t try anything bold,
Not write so much, and just do much less minding.

The number 37 always sends a chilling breath
To clear my brain with clarifying fear.
At that age was when Pushkin picked the duel of his death
And Mayakovsky sunk lead by his ear.

We’ll pause at 37; seemed at that treacherous age
God’s coin flip judged if you can defy it.
Here Byron and Rimbaud both also wrote their final page...
But poets today apparently pass by it.

The duel didn’t happen, or was cancelled or postponed.
At 33, got crucified, but mildly.
At 37, even gray, speak not of blood and bone,
Does not besplatter temples quite so wildly.

“No, pansy poets today won’t shoot,” the psychopaths go talk,
“They haven’t soul in their little toe.”
Hold your blood lust! On tiptoe on a knife edge poets walk,
And slash their bare souls bloody as they go.

“Pretentiously” has 13 letters, that unlucky word,
So cut the poet down a size, it’s clear.
The lucky cuss gets stuck on the tip of the stabbing sword,
An upstart that the higher-ups would fear.

I pity you, believers in all fateful codes and dates!
Like harem concubines, go pine in style.
Our lifespans have increased now, and so perhaps the fates
Of poets...have moved back a little while.

- 1971, Vladimir Vysotsky (1938-1980)

The irony is that Vysotsky himself went a lot like Cobain, Winehouse and Joplin: disorders brought on by alcoholism and drug abuse. But he died at age 42. Wikipedia claims that Yesenin died at 30, not 26 no matter how you twist calendar reforms, but the original mentions the Hotel Angleterre, which makes it unequivocally a reference to Yesenin.

There is a lot of wordplay in the original that I had to completely re-derive from first principles. The original plays on the fact that the Russian word 'long-necked', длинношеее, does have three e's at the end in the neuter gender nominative case (all are pronounced and syllabic) and has the connotation of something like 'pretentious' or 'presumptuous.' The pun on soles and souls does not happen in the original, but was way too good to pass up.
On Friday, the usual games and geekery crowd had a celebration of Melanie's birthday by playing games, and we ended up playing Wizardology.

Which was my choice, since I've never played it before, but I conclude that I don't like it. Way too much depends on chance and luck of the draw, nor do your odds of succeeding increase as you progress through the game; I cannot imagine how playing the game multiple times would increase your odds of winning, the way they would for Settlers of Catan.

Best comment of the night, by Carmen on the Twilight love triangle: "Would you rather have an oral fixation, or doggy style for the rest of your life?"

Saturday i picked up the first season of Babylon 5, as a boxed set of DVDs, at the pharmacy. Thankfully, Abi Sutherland's rewatch on Making Light had told me what episodes I may safely skip, so I watched 1, 6, 7 and 8 before going to bed. I am enjoying it so far, therefore (possibly because I skipped the bad episodes.) The aliens in this one may actually be intelligent, although the first incluing by basically accusing Londo, on behalf of his entire species, of misleading humans a hundred years before, threw me off. Even if he is an ambassador, no individual can speak for his entire species' decisions of possibly before he was born, nor have to.

I happen to feel very strongly on that point, of confusing individuals with groups, possibly because of hearing "Oh, those Russians did..." way too many times. When you equate the self-identity of a population of umpteen million with the actions of a few hundred people in the government, especially if you know that this government is not fairly and democratically elected, that is assigning responsibility without power. And just plain feels like being accused of something you didn't do.

Probably a common feeling for many members of monoliths, be they Arabs, mining industry workers, members of the media, or Microsoft employees. The cure for it, however, is pausing to think a little and distinguish the monolith into a few more subsets, separating the human beings from the system.

I guess both these frustrations, the one with Wizardology and the one with Sinclair's discussion with Londo, come from the same source: I want effort to be correlated with reward, and I do not like punishment not related with your own effort. Indeed, I react to frustration, to feeling powerless in the system, strongly enough that there are many good books set in oppressive regimes that I have quit reading (e.g. Cory Doctorow's For The Win), even though I know that the hero will triumph in the end; I do not want to emotionally empathize with that world for even the short time before the heroes will start winning, by pretending that I was in their place and in their place, there was nothing I could do.
syncategorematic: (guitar)
( Jul. 17th, 2011 10:49 pm)
I had to go out in the evening to hang a towel on the chair of my balcony, and just stopped, looking and listening and smelling the dark summer stillness, watching the trees quiver against the velvety sky, a rabbit dart by on its way to the lawn, random late-night headlights adding yellow eyes to the orange sodium glow of the streetlights.

Moved by the idea that I've taken too little advantage of my balcony in the two and a half years I will lose it, I went and grabbed my guitar and fingerpicked for a while, softly, moving through chords, they sounding clearer with no voice to mask them. Minor, major, seventh, suspended second, add 9th...

Among the things I find...enchanting, magical, sexy, call it what you will, playing music softly on a summer's night will be in the top ten. It makes me long to live in a place where every night is a summer night like this, where all year round you can sit on your balcony and strum chords quietly to yourself, to someone else, to the streetlights and the cats, with not even the late-night dogwalker below noticing you. Make music. To the sky and the air. Maybe it is sexiness. Maybe it is worship.

But I've got to get up early in the morning.
So yesterday I at last remedied a huge lacuna in my knowledge and watched the movie “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears.”

The irony is that (a) I have actually performed the song from the movie, without having watched the original movie; (b) it is a classic that Elizaveta and her family, along with millions of other Russians, have watched millions of times; ( c ) it’s available on Youtube, last I checked, as my brother had watched it for his Russian class and said he understood Russians a lot better having watched it; (d) I had it on my USB key on my keychain. I’ve been carrying both parts on my keychain for months, and I didn’t deign to watch it.

This has finally been fixed.

This movie has been cited as a guide to the Russian soul in general, and to the Russian woman in particular. Unfortunately, I am no longer a Russian woman, as, although it is an excellent movie, I found it frustrating.

A spoiler-rich movie review and discussion of gender politics )
 Since I seem to continue to be on a kick of journalling in verse...

In an abandoned bandstand
By a freshwater inland sea,
Three teenage boys and two guitars
Sang a song in a minor key.
They were backlit by the sundown,
And no one else came near,
But they sang in open harmony,
And I had to stop to hear.

Backlit by the sundown,
A bass root and a chord.
Backlit by the sundown,
No matter that no one heard.
Backlit by the sundown,
The shadows hid their face,
But their voices lit the sunset
In that time and in that place.

A quarter of a world away
And seven years before,
Three other boys and another guitar
By another inland sea shore,
It was already past sundown,
And stars had lit above,
But they sang in open harmony,
In a song in a key I love.

Backlit by the darkness,
They had sung as I passed there,
And I never saw their faces,
But they brought me out of despair,
And so whenever chords will ring
By the shores of any sea,
I'll stop and I will listen,
And add a harmony.

And once upon some sundown,
By some other sea or star,
I may be the one who sits there
With a song or a guitar,
Unable to see the faces
Of listeners who came,
Just knowing the ones who'd sung for me,
And hoping I'll do the same.

Backlit by the sundown
Reflected in waves below,
Backlit by the sundown,
However the words may go,
Backlit by the sundown, 
Whatever chords are right,
Backlit by the sundown,
Singing against the night.

(Incidentally, these ones played a cover of something whose lines now escapes me; then when I made my presence known, they played "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green (but got lost at the bridge) and switched to Bob Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee", which is the first time I heard it. Wikipedia now says that the melody has a middle-Eastern flavour, which did not come across in that cover with guitar and unplugged bass. It's too late in the evening for me to listen to the original.

The lads by the Black Sea in Odessa, whom I've told about before, had sung "Autumn" by DDT, and I had joined in. Lake Michigan-Huron is an inland sea for all practical purposes.)

I will bury the seed of a grape in the warm sunlit ground,
And I'll gather the grapes from the vine and bow down before,
And with love in my heart, I will gather my friends all around -
Or else why do I live on this beautiful earth evermore?

Come, my friends, to my feast, let us join in receiving and giving.
Tell me true to my face what you're hearing of me in your lore.
For the sins I have done, may the Lord up above be forgiving -
Or else why do I live on this beautiful earth evermore?

In a dark scarlet gown my Tali will come and sing to me.
In a black-and-white cloak I will kneel to her on the floor,
And I'll weep, and I'll die from the love and the sorrow all through me -
Or else why do I live on this beautiful earth evermore?

And when sunset comes down, casting shadows of gold all about,
May again, like a dream, I see three signs passing before:
The blue eagle, the white buffalo, and the sun-golden trout...
Or else why do I live on this beautiful earth evermore?

- Bulat Okudjava

Apparently my current Internet connection won't load Youtube videos. I will edit the entry to include a YouTube link later. Astra loved that song; I first heard it in her rendition on guitar.

I translated it last week, for something to do on the bus. If the guild does manage to schedule a cabaret, I want this to be one of my songs.
syncategorematic: (Default)
( Jun. 4th, 2011 05:57 pm)
Post a comment, and I will reply with a reason why I think you're great. In return, you have to post this same meme on your blog and comment for other people.

This is unlocked, but if you are not a friend of mine and comment, I promise I will totally make something up. You may discover talents in playing jazz representations of physics equations on the marimba that you never knew you had.
I know some of you like crafting, knitting, crochet, etc. I have just re-discovered this YouTube channel.To be honest, I should have posted it long ago: Mikey's partner Dan was actually my accompanist at a recital last year, and Mikey came to watch Dan play and crocheted a really cool hat-thing on a spool to pass the time while we went through the tedium of setup etc. I asked Mikey afterwards what he did, and he told me about his and Dan's crafting and cooking shows, and gave me his business card, but I lost it. Today I re-found the website, though, through the almighty Google.

In other news, it has just thundered and hailed like whoa over this town. Like, heavens opening, and the rapture did happen and nobody noticed and now LBGod is smiting the left behind. Hailstones, the size of peas.*

*I once came across an Imponderables question: "What was used to measure hailstones before golf balls were invented?" and realized that I had once read a description that compared the size of hailstones to walnuts, answering that question. So I make a point of always comparing the size of natural organic hailstones to natural organic objects.

I was born a useless bugger, like the Ginger Man I’d run,
And however daddy struggled, with me nothing could be done –
Out comes what’s bred in bone, try to change it, try in vain,
And in me it keeps on growing, crawling out against the grain.
All the family kept trying, but no peace with me they know:
Out on the laundry line like a tightrope I would go.
With the stagelights I was drumming in my dreaming every night,
And I knew the time was coming when my name will be in lights.

And such music out of me comes ringing high,
And the merry gears whirl and hum,
And like crazy swallows skyward winging fly,
In the air the hats and bonnets come.
And the laughter chimes above the streets of town,
And when I hear for me the encores go,
To the street like to the stage I’m coming down:
I’m an artist, I can’t live without this show!
I’m an artist, I can’t live without this show!

Like a merry-go-round, childhood rolled by untold,
Some big business some have founded, others simply growing bald.
Like some starlings in migration, our fates parted from that yard.
They say I gotta have foundation, growing up and growing hard.
But when muses come enthralling, you cannot grow old and gray:
At my birth the stage was calling, and on stage I’ll die someday.
I don’t need another route, all I’ve wanted has come true:
Up the curtain, I come out and begin my show anew!

And such music out of me comes ringing high,
And the merry gears whirl and hum,
And like crazy swallows skyward winging fly,
In the air the hats and bonnets come.
And the laughter chimes above the streets of town,
And when I hear for me the encores go,
To the street like to the stage I’m coming down:
I’m an artist, I can’t live without this show!
I’m an artist, I can’t live without this show!
- Mikhail Kochetkov

I thought of this song last night, and as I translated it today (a fairly free translation), it made me cry.

There seem to be no videos on YouTube of Kochetkov singing this particular song (he is a bard and a film actor as well). An arrangement performed, I understand, by the actor Efim Shifrin is here, including the refrains and the second verse:

[Error: unknown template video]
syncategorematic: (Default)
( Apr. 21st, 2011 05:36 am)
I've been thinking about those "Repost if you appreciate the way you were raised in the good old days" memes going about on Facebook
(Ms_danson has an excellent response to them that I agree wholeheartedly with) and in the night, trying to get to sleep, I decided to make up my own:

I will never have polio or diphtheria. Seatbelts and laws against drunk driving have saved my life. I can aspire to be a physicist, soldier, or CEO, and marry whomever I love, even if I'm a woman. I can learn what a scientist 5000 miles away said two seconds ago. Repost this if you appreciate living here and now rather than in some 'good old days.'

Haven't posted it yet, but feel free to propagate it without credit and with free alteration if you wish.
According to John Scalzi, Twitter and Wikipedia, Diana Wynne Jones has passed away.

Back last June, there was a notice on that Diana Wynne Jones had trouble with her health, encouraging people who had always wanted to tell Ms. Jones how much they loved her books to do so now. I sent an email to the address they mentioned, awkwardly worded, but sincere. Then it seemed that things got better. But I am now glad that I did so then, along with probably many, many others, and I hope she had the time and energy to read them and know how much she meant to so many people.
Suppose that you have a piece of software that generates a large database table daily with that day's data. It doesn't matter what the data is; the serial numbers of all the widgets made that day and the month-to-date and year-to-date total widgets or something.

Suppose that after a couple of years of using that software, your database is getting pretty big, and you would love to archive some of the tables. You still need to keep the last three months' worth of data (maybe the widgets have that short a best-before date) and the last day of each month, so the month-to-date widgets total is as correct as it can be. But you want...need to push the tables intra-month away where they aren't crowding your active database space, but you can't drop them, for legal reasons.

You discover that there is a new version of the software that has the ability to archive the tables, and the ability to restore them. Directly! The smiling vendor promises that the new version's amazing capabilities will help you.

Actually, the new version has two shiny capabilities:

ARCHIVE: Given a date, it will archive all the tables from on or before that date.

RESTORE: Given a date, it will restore from archive all the tables from on or after that date.

You wish to archive away all but the last days of each month for all the months before three months ago. What combination of iterations of Archive and Restore will give you the results you want, in the fewest moves?

My thoughts on this problem are below the cut.
Read more... )
How come when you go to play the piano/harp/marimba, the low notes are on your left-hand side, but when you go to conduct an orchestra, the low strings, winds and brass are on your right? Since most conductors know how to play at least the piano tolerably, wouldn't they have found it easier to always think "Low notes on the left"?

This is what I wake up in the night thinking. Probably some historical reason for it. Choirs and chamber groups I've seen usually have the low voices/instruments in the middle, with the first high voice facing the second high voice across the conductor, and the highest voice usually, again, on the audience's left.


syncategorematic: (Default)


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