November 18, 2023

The International Staff Band of the Salvation Army in 1941. (I wonder about that guy's trombone with the extra handle...not sure if it's a Sacbut or just a trombone with a handle) I think about professionalism in The Salvation Army brass bands. In most all music there's a spectrum from raw to polished. In the 1800s Salvation Army bands were known for their ad hoc, street-preaching, draw-a-crowd-with-whatever-horns-and-players you got. Obviously by 1941 there were some different aspirations at least at higher levels. I see the same thing in Honk!-style bands of course. Some bands are deep dives into esoteric time signatures and can build complex chords and harmonies. My bands tend to be a bit more built for robustness. Similar splits happen in a lot of arts, like, typography say. I was thinking about this thing on AI generated fonts:
LLMs work differently, of course, but since the local conditions of a typeface cannot be anticipated, and these deltas cannot be reliably inferred after the fact, the size and quality of the corpus is irrelevant to this effort. A typeface is less like writing an essay, and more like inventing a new language. The things that make it successful just can't be quantitatively measured.

That said... I think it absolutely certain that an unsupervised AI will create what certain segments of the lay public consider to be a good typeface, and if this doesn't happen in the next six months, I'll be very surprised. This is because non-specialists aren't burdened by the need to look at type critically, in terms of its mechanical requirements, its utility, its cultural relevance, its originality, or its style.
I'm really torn. On the one hand I know how the ultimate stupid guy thing to do is think that the smart guys don't exist. On the other hand, I am kind of suspicious about gourmet connoisseurship - the kind that seems to be operating in a different space than mere amateurs can detect (though there's always the claim that everyone subconsciously recognizes the truly great.)

These ideas get into some really deep issues. I may have lost my erstwhile debate partner Peterman with his frustration in my refusal to accept his vision of expertise and special knowledge.

Like one of the most consistent themes in epistemology for me is the capacity for self-deception - "Never believe a thing simply because you want it to be true" to quote Diax's Rake. And if you're on the outside looking in at audiophiles, say, paying thousands for special cables and whatever, it's really hard to know. (Though I have noticed that the headphones in the store always sound better - but much of that is because you're actually LISTENING for the nuance.)

But also I think the value of something is an emergent property of how it interacts with its audience. So maybe experts understand the subject so well they predict the emergence. And sometimes there are some things of interest but mostly to experts.

I don't know if I'm a real gourmet about anything in my life.
Maybe you need a frog?
AHAHA fuly fledged David-Attenborough-Narrator-Bots!!!!

November 18, 2022

November 18, 1972 - 50 Years Ago Today Betty Scheinfeldt and James Israel got married!

excerpts from "A Carnival of Snackery"

Just finished David Sedaris "A Carnival of Snackery", excerpts from his last 20 years of journaling. (I really do like the journal genre....) Just in time for Melissa and I to see him live on Sunday.
September 25, 2007

To honor the death of Marcel Marceau I observed a minute of silence.
David Sedaris, "A Carnival of Snackery"

We had drinks last night with our neighbor, who said, in reference to a schoolmate who had gone on to amass a great fortune, "When a friend succeeds, a little part of us dies, doesn't it?"
David Sedaris, "A Carnival of Snackery"

March 17, 2010

This afternoon's Radio 4 quiz show included the line "One in three Americans weighs as much as the other two."
David Sedaris, "A Carnival of Snackery"

The key is to fill the space between your skill level and perfection with charm.
David Sedaris, "A Carnival of Snackery"

A little Nicomachean Ethics to brighten up your morning

Reading about Obama's first visit to Kenya (before he went to Harvard) and his discomfort with the remainders of colonialism he saw led me to looking up the Wikipedia page for "Guns, Germs, and Steel"- a book that describes how much of a culture's grown power is much more a matter of happenstance than of intrinsic values of the population. I guess the book talks about The Anna Karenina principle- I've always wondered about
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
but wikipedia interprets it as
In other words: happy families share a common set of attributes which lead to happiness, while any of a variety of attributes can cause an unhappy family. This concept has been generalized to apply to several fields of study.
The article goes on to point out a parallel with Aristotle in "Nicomachean Ethics":
Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult – to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue; For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.
I don't think I agree. A single axis to gauge success and failure is very limited; or even the text is more about a dartboard model: the singular point of success in the center, everything else various degrees of failure.

Yeah. That's nuts. If a dart expert gets a bullseye because of their excellent form after years of practice, that's one thing; but even a duffer will get the odd bullseye. And at least in that case, the results the same, but the implications for future success are very different.

And single target? I'd say everything of worth in life is a competition among competing priorities, competing targets, and the struggle is getting the right compromises set among them

I keep getting my Greek philosophers mixed up but it looks like it was Socrates who said "No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly.". I've thought of that as "hardly anyone is the bad guy of their own story at the time their living it". I think I've previously been corrected that that isn't as universal as I thought, that some people are conflicted even as they are drawn or compelled to act in ways they know are ultimately bad.

But still, everything is a compromise. Barbara Tversky puts it as "There are no benefits without costs". We gotta do some robbing Peter to pay some Pauls. Sci-fi fans put it as TANSTAAFL, "There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch". Understanding that isn't the same thing as moral relativism - at some point you gotta pick what lunch you're paying for, and some lunches are better choices than others. (And the religiosity of my youth compels me to think there must be one objectively correct best algorithm for deciding which lunch is best for you - even if that's not the best lunch for everyone or in every circumstance.)
There is more worth loving than we have strength to love.
Brian Jay Stanley

November 18, 2019

Had a dream where I left my tuba on the green line! While I was relieved to wake up and realize it was just a nightmare, I was also sort happy that even in the context of the dream, after having put in some weird claim at a lost and found and full of anger and self-recrimination and anxiety about what state if any I'd get my horn back in, I was able to calm myself and say: look, I can control my emotional reaction to this, take a breath, I have resources to get another tuba if it came to that (even though I have a strong fondness to Scheiny.)

When you get your first

— viralvideos (@BestVideosviral) November 16, 2019

My mom's early holiday gift was a replacement iPhone... at the Apple store they gave me this certificate or ad for classes there, like photo walks and general intros... but can you even read what this says?
Kind of like the Wired 90's aesthetic of hipness over legibility...

melissa's birthday surprise!

Melissa's got a milestone birthday coming up, and I conspired with Anna H. and crew to have Anna's "Pre-Thanksgiving Cocktail Party" convert into a full-on surprise party once Melissa and I came over from seeing Patton Oswalt-- I sweet-talked a subset of JP Honk into lying in wait, and stashed my tuba there that afternoon...

We did "Space Cadet", "Mercy Mercy Mercy", and then a "Little Light of Mine" singalong:

Same close-in:

Here friends made up a photocake:

November 18, 2017

Counterprotesters bring music. They chant "No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!" --@lauracrimaldi

Backing up Refuse Fascism and supporting Black Lives Matter...
While writing a devblog article about a little mp3 I made and named to be first in my song collection (so when a podcast or audiobook ends I hear it, rather than Jackson 5's first rate song (and not just alphabetically) "A.B.C.", I realize I was willing to come around and accept the pedantically incorrect use of "it begs the question".

Everyone draws the prescriptivist/descriptivist line just about where some quirk annoys them personally. "Begs the question" was my line, but justified because I think "make a query while presuming some other question has already been settled" is a useful concept. (Rhetorically it's useful to be able to spot when that has happened.)

But "begs the question" in the sense of "demands that we ask this other question" is a useful concept too, I guess, and full of a kind of drama. It's also kind of a superset of the original meaning.

malaysia 2016: panorama langkawi and the beach


montreal photos 1


A light dinner of Ketchup Potato Chips and Red Wine following a Kinder-Egg Amuse-Bouche. Some of why I love Québec!

November 18, 2014


November 18, 2013

Starscapes over the Jersey Seashore:

Awesome rant, John Stewart vs Chicago "Pizza" (at 3:26)
also here's a summary American Football Teams logos redone as International futbol Team logos... I love design work like that, like there was a real history of being a football club.
Watching the Patriots game. Slightly irritated with myself for getting so emotionally involved, rejoicing at the good stuff, cussing at the bad. I mean it's a natural enough thing to do, but it seems like a good time to practice Buddhist-like detachment... I mean what could matter less? Plus, it's so brutal on the player's bodies. And for everything I get psyched and jonesed about there's some fan for the other side feeling the opposite... a karmic zero sum game.

November 18, 2012


hard day basementing

tweet treat


--Warning, an F-bomb or two. Of course I always liked their Stress video (man, that must be over ten years old now) but this one is decent.
Amazon MP3 Downloader broken with chrome nowadays. Frustrating start to day, but amusingly song was "Mama Said (there'd be days like this)"
Funniest Siri parody I've seen - really captures and builds on the jokes I like to make about talking to "her".



Wow- "Kate T" and her job offer has totally thwarted gmail's spam filter, like eight times over... is it the conversational tone? ah, identity through consumer electronics!

jump baby jump

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Osamu Tezuka's "Jumping"....
According to the Youtube:
by Dr.Osamu Tezuka November 3 1928- February 9 1989 He was a Mangaka, Japanese manga artist and animator. Born in Osaka Prefecture, he is best known as the creator of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. He is often credited as the Father of Anime, and the Walt Disney of Japan.
via AUMGN a new personal blog about game design.

I totally endorse alarm clocks with "gradual wake" that start beeping very softly then slowly crank it up. Emerson Research has good ones.
But, like other modern atheists and agnostics before him, Harris goes on to declare that faith is the root of all evil. A belief might seem innocent enough, but once you have blindly accepted the dogma that Jesus can be eaten in the form of a cracker, you have made a space in your mind for other monstrous fictions: that God desires the destruction of Israel, the ethnic cleansing of Palestineans, or the 9/11 massacres. Everybody must stop believing in anything that cannot be verified by the emperical methods of science.
Karen Armstrong, "The Case for God".
I'm nearing the end of her audiobook; finally she's getting to what I think is the target of her long and deep survey of the religious outlook, and it seems to be a strong endorsement of Postmodern Relativism. I think she's right to say that the New Atheism is a form of Fundamentalism, but I think in saying "look, there are alternatives to assuming that science and religion talk about the same sort of stuff" (namely recognizing the difference between Mythos and Logos, NOMA, Non-Overlapping Magisteria as she cites Stephen Jay Gould putting it) and explaining that split has existed for a long, long time, she is ignoring religion as it is practiced by the vast majority of people today. It's always dangerous to make presumptions about the spiritual journeys of others but it feels to me that a lot of people feel their faith instead of think about it, which is ok-- but I think few of them engage deeply enough to challenge a very literal reading of their scriptures. This does leave them vulnerable to accepting a variety of ideas of varying degrees of truth and dangerousness.
I bought a 24 pack of Whole Foods' Lime Italian Mineral Water for $8 yesterday... it's ok stuff, but "Serve ice cold for a deliciously refreshing thirst quencher and we promise you'll never drink plain water again"??? -- LIARS!


Been thinking about how I just don't have a sense of scale on economic matters. I mentioned this before in the context of what Obama's campaign shelled out for a half hour multiple network infomercial. National Median income is around $40K I've heard. I have a hard time really grasping most companies selling enough of anything to thereby pay for a staff of dozens or more.

Counterpoint: but I don't grasp just how many people 300,000,000 (the population of the USA) represents.

Countercounterpoint: still, consumer interest seems like such an odd duck. There are certain old networked computer games that have a single, centralized server. And in a lot of these, you'll be lucky to find more than 10 prowling around there.... 6 or 7 billion people in the world, and at the moment, it's just you 2 or 3 goons in this little nook of popculture. if you want to get enough for an actual game, you have to preschedule stuff in advance, outside of the channel of the game itself. It seems weird to me that interest drops off to such tiny numbers.

And my sense of scale in economics goes the other way. A less than 3% drop in retail sales is widely considered a disaster, and a bigger decline than we say after 9-11. 3 frickin' percent! How brittle is this system anyway?

I know right now it's worse to think about this stuff, because obviously the system has been chugging along, and continues to chug, for many decades, but it seems to give some credence to the whole "HA HA! IT'S ALL SMOKE AND MIRRORS!" crowd.

Video of the Moment

"where I step a weed dies" - unnamed trantula in an Archy the Cockroach poem. (similar "name shouldn't be lower case" as E.E. Cummings) - how Obama is like Disraeli, Napoleon, Ozdemir-the leader from a different culture. But isn't that Hitler too?
Firefox's popup blocker needs to be smarter and allow stuff I just clicked to make happen.
Tempted to put in coins and select the empty vending machine slot, watch the things spin, turning crass commerce to machine performance art
Too grumpy to ingest a "Wicket in Action" book? "Most web-app frameworks don't provide a stateful programming model"? Eh? Like JSP Sessions?
Also irksome with "Wicket in Action": Servlet/JSPs aren't "regular Java programming"? - I think more people have done that than, say, Swing
Easy to get paranoid at work. If you recognize you're leaping to conclusions, pretend you didn't hear it, unless you need to jobhunt NOW


I made a game yesterday, for's Klik of the Month. It's called

Roshambo is another word for "Rock Paper Scissors", which is what you're playing against the cloud in the sky. The Cloud fires those things at the ground, and you have to defend bu firing back the appropriate defense. If you win, you get a point, if you lose, you lose a point, and if the cloud's attack reaches the ground you lose one of your 10 lives. Plus "Like a Prayer" is playing in the background.

(Actually, this morning I made remix version that plays about the same, except the bug is fixed in placed but you can aim anywhere on the screen with the mouse. Plus, to justify the dumb pun "whistle command" it plays a bad ringtone loop of "The Whistle Song".)

Article of the Moment
Fascinating article from National Geographic on Extreme Cases of Memory: AJ, who remembers everything, and EP who remembers nothing.
Though we curse these failures of memory on an almost daily basis, Schacter says, that's only because we don't see their benefits. Each sin is really the flip side of a virtue, "a price we pay for processes and functions that serve us well in many respects." There are good evolutionary reasons why our memories fail us in the specific ways they do. If everything we looked at, smelled, heard, or thought about was immediately filed away in the enormous database that is our long-term memory, we'd be drowning in irrelevant information.
I hope that's true. I sometimes try to console myself that my iffy memory is a byproduct of or enabler for the somewhat large amount of tangential thinking and creativity I have to work with.

Interesting that AJ has become a nostalgia fiend; it's not enough for her to remember all the details, she craves visual aids and external memory holders.

the yokes on you

Getting ready for a Ksenia birthday thing, no time for a proper update!

Quick observations: Russians are a lot more likely to use, say, Nescafé for coffee, and I gotta say, I don't see why "Instant" has such a bad reputation in this country. You can make a really rich coffee, and I think it tastes great, it takes much less time, and it sees much more difficult to do badly than making it in a regular coffee machine. Admittedly I'm not good at playing coffee snob, but still.

Quote of the Moment
Q: Doesn't God look down on missionary dating and tells us to not be "yoked with unbelievers"?
A: I looked up yoked, and the dictionary says it's a "A crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen or other draft animals working together." I would never encourage anybody to do this on a date...
From Date To Save, a (hopefully) parody site encouraging young hot Christian teenage girls to convert heathens by dating and dumping them.

public opinion

Quote of the Moment
We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. And out of it we get an aggregation which we consider a boon. Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverance. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God.
Mark Twain

Ad Line of the Moment
I don't know how much this has hit the mainstream media, but News about Sony's DRM "rootkit" has been all over the blogsphere... BoingBoing has a good summary or two. The short of it is some Sony CDs include some pretty hardcore hacker software to try to ensure you can't copy the songs willy-nilly (Digital Rights Management, or DRM). Theoretically they shouldn't affect you if you play the CDs on a standalone player, but if you put them on a PC you are suddenly exposed to a number of attacks, and the program Sony initially offered to remove the software left even more gaping holes.

Which makes the new Tweeter radio spot's opening that much more funny: "Been waiting for the next big thing from Sony?" Heheh, yeah, kind of in the same way I'm waiting for the next big flu pandemic.

Political Snarkery of the Moment
--Worst. President. Ever. Given competition like Nixon, that's really saying something. (2019 UPDATE: ...yeah.)

to do: start to do list

Here's where I'm torn: I love the idea of getting things done, of ticking them off of a "to do" list, of freeing my brain from the clutter of "stuff I gotta get around to doing". But I'm also cursed by this procrastination urge, usually when I'm not quite sure how to do something, or it's not clear if it's going to work out like I hope.

And of course that sense of anxiety-induced procrastination is a bumbling idiot: for these situations where I'm not sure if it's going to work out, putting off finding out rarely helps and often hurts. So much of the time it's better to get a "good enough" (or at least "good try enough") solution out quickly, in time to take a second or third stab at it if need be...hardly ever do I use that "extra time" in a productive way. (Of course not, because if I did use that time well, I would be "taking the time to do things right the first time" rather than just "procrastinating".)

So my entire life seems like a struggle between these two impulses, the light and the dark. I suspect winning this battle is what separates the gifted and talent successes from the gifted and talent nobodies.

Come to think of it I've been aware of this for a while...last year I bought a hypnosis CD "Do It Now". The thing is, I'm thinking I'm not too succeptible to hypnosis, though it might be worth giving it another shot at sometime. I do sometimes hear the womans voice in my head "think about how good it will feel when you just 'do it now'"...

Commercial of the Moment
The music and dancing is not as good as Breakin' Soundwave, but Citroën's Dancing "Transformer" is closer to being photorealistic...

iraq your brains

(1 comment)
Heh...looking at my little stats at the bottom of this page, I've been getting a small spike in traffic, like 175 unique frontpage visitors instead of my usual 100 or so. I wonder if its that reference in the December Popular Science I previously mentioned? It's easy to forget how much bigger mainstream print is than most of the web. I need to be extra-interesting these next few weeks, hopefully some people just dropping by will become regulars.

News Funny of the Moment
For months, soldiers at Camp Doha, Kuwait, have been wearing T-shirts that say, "Operation Iraqi Freedom: Mission Accomplished." But recently a new T-shirt has appeared suggesting that the mission may be more open-ended.

It reads, "Operation Iraqi Freedom: Established 2003."
Excerpted from article by Michael R. Gordon in the NY Times, Nov. 7, 2003, via rec.humor.funny

Articles of the Moment
Speaking of all things Popular Sciencey, MSNBC has Seven flights of fancy that fizzled...where are the flying cars, indeed. In a similar, albeit very retro, vein of technology not living up to its promise, Wired reports on a failed idea for a dual cannon that would launch two cannonballs, connected by a chain, to take down big swaths of soldiers at once. Cute idea, the technology wasn't up to the accuracy needed to launch both balls exactly at once, however...

Sneaking of the Moment
Took an extended lunchbreak today to catch a matinee of The Matrix: Revolutions. First off, if your company has a reasonable pseudo-flextime policy, I highly reccomend doing this. It's an extremely satisfying way to catch a movie you're jonesing to see, about the cost of a video rental. And you know? I thought it was a pretty good movie over all. I know the reviews all said it sucked, and a few of my friends advised me not to bother, but I was satisfied by its apocalyptic tone and way of wrapping up the trilogy. Admittedly, maybe it would've been better if the first movie was just all there was, but I had a good time.

There's a laugh-out-loud funny site, The Matrix: Resolutions (WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS), that makes fun of a lot of the directions some of the scifi geeks speculated or wished that it would end. Well worth the read.

For an opposing view, from the same site, and still with MASSIVE SPOILERS, check out 50 Reasons to Reject The Matrix. A bit toungue-in-cheek (sort of like The Onion's Jackie Harvey's The Outside Scoop meets the Simpsons' Comic Book Guy) but still some good points. One quote:
The cybernetic army that took over the Earth, says the film, was solar powered. The human resistance responded by blotting out the sky.

A desperate measure, but surely the only choice they had. It was that, or, I don't know, postpone their counterattack until evening.

monday mourning

Huh, without my Palm I might not have realized today was the 30th anniversary of my folk's wedding. My dad passed away in 1988--sometimes it frustrates me that that was when I was still a boring and graceless adolescent.

Shifting the Sun
When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses. May you inherit
his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the English,
you join the club you vowed you woudn't.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shines forever.
And you walk in his light.
Diana Der-Hovanessian

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
An interesting article from one of the writers for Dr. Strangelove...includes description of the semi-legendary cut piefight scene. Too bad the actors let themselves slip out of character for it, and also that it took so long for the studios to recognize what a great movie it was. But mostly I just wanted an excuse to showoff this old pixeltime work I made.

Footage of the Moment
On March 31, 1984 (my tenth birthday...) a guy swooped through the 'legs' of the Eiffel Tower. I think the resulting footage and photo would seem even cooler if 9/11 wasn't tainting it with a slight air of menace.

Cartoons of the Moment
Ah, the power of Insomnia...and a Red Meatish take on a similar situation.

gamecube ahoy

(Conclusion of the guestbook mystery?) must be T... since "T" is a lot more likely than "M" to know that I was hedging my bet (since she was the second Jen) and "M" is actually a "W" anyway... (also, Mad Mike's original quote was that "Diet Dr Pepper is god's perfect softdrink", not that it's Heaven on Earth...)

Oh, and yesterday I was talking about those PS2 ads...I meant to talk about the odd "The Third Place" tagline. I suppose it's some weird stuff about being the third place between imagination and reality or some such marketing crap, but it seems a poor choice considering there are three major systems competing now...

Speaking of which...I get my hands on a Game Cube today.

Also, I got up at 4:45am to go look at the Leonid Meteors. I didn't go very far from home, but despite Boston's ever present purple glow I still saw quite a few. Not quite a storm, maybe more of a sprinkle.

Funny of the Moment
Proto star? Like that hard as nails Jupiter that you said was a fluffy gas ball??? Too funny. Jupiter is SOLID, just view the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet impacts ON THE SURFACE!!! Astronomers just don't keep up.

Link of the Moment
The Straight Dope answers that age old question Is it true turtles breathe through their butts?
(Deevaa, that font was selected just for you.)

"If people think nature is their friend, then they sure don't need an enemy"
          --Kurt Vonnegut
"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different."
          --Kurt Vonnegut
Few minutes before The Meeting.  Everyone's nervous as hell. "It's the end of the world as we know it."
"Wheeeeeeeeeeee.  RIS rah rah!"