Last Build Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2012 22:01:53 GMTCopyright: NOINDEX
Thu, 26 Jan 2012 22:01:53 GMTJust a comment for the increasingly small handful of people for whom this is the only means of contact with me:
Mon, 26 Oct 2009 00:14:05 GMTRegular readers of the RSS feed for my journal entries (irregular readers should consider eating more fiber) are hereby informed that the RSS feed has been broken, through fault which is entirely LiveJournal's, for about four days. Actually, in the last month it seems to have been broken more often than not. This is the level of reliability and customer service I have come to expect from LiveJournal, which is but one of many reasons I am no longer on LiveJournal.
Wed, 16 Sep 2009 14:44:16 GMTPeople who have (image) columbina_rss in their regular LJ reading should note that, as far as I can tell, NO RSS-based LJ feeds have been working at all for some three days now.
Mon, 08 Jun 2009 02:33:03 GMThttp://www.eccentricflower.com/
Wed, 13 May 2009 14:43:20 GMTIn case you hadn't deduced from the silence, this journal's going essentially silent until I move off LJ onto a different system. Short answer: there's no good excuse for me to pay for my own site and not use it; it's time to use it again.
Fri, 08 May 2009 16:07:52 GMTI can't believe I'm linking this, first off because it is in the odious Slate and second because it concerns a subset of geeks I dislike a great deal amid a subset of geeks I dislike a fair amount. (Got that? It's like the least favorite flea on the least favorite dog.)However, while I may dislike Star Trek geeks, and the Klingon enthusiasts most of all among those, I love languages, the formation of languages, the study of languages, and I am especially fond of tales of the creation and syntax of fake languages, from Quenya to Esperanto.*So long as you don't actually try to use them.Anyway, so, putting aside what it says of the psychology of people who would actually try to write or speak Klingon for any sort of actual communication in the real world, the language itself is fascinating. Turns out it is complicated and difficult:Most people are familiar with the idea that verb endings can indicate person and number. [...] But Klingon uses prefixes rather than suffixes, and instead of having six or seven of them, like most romance languages, it has 29. There are so many because they indicate not only the person and number of the subject (who is doing) but also of the object (whom it is being done to).[...]As if that weren't complicated enough, Klingon also has a large set of suffixes. [...] Klingon has 36 verb suffixes and 26 noun suffixes that express everything from negation to causality to possession to how willing a speaker is to vouch for the accuracy of what he says.This makes Klingon ("tlhIngan Hol" to you), among other things, an agglutinating language of the first water, right up there with "blue Russian" dialects and some of the more long-winded German constructions.It's great fun to contemplate and analyze. But it's still stupid to try to really learn it, much less actually speak it.*** I realize that by saying that I am pissing off the Esperantians, who tend to only come in one flavor - rabid - but I stand by my statement. I do not draw the mushmouthed political distinctions Wikipedia does between a "constructed" language and a fictional language, much less further hair-splitting such as "planned language" and so on. Either a language evolved from actual use by actual humans or it was constructed by a human artificially. Bloodline counts here. If it hasn't come into being by actual evolution through human history, then it's a fake.("Some speakers of Esperanto and Ido also avoid the term 'artificial language' because they deny that there is anything 'unnatural' about the use of their language in human communication." - HAHAHAHAHAHA - whew, that felt good.)And yes, that does mean I feel trying to get people to communicate in Esperanto is just as foolish an endeavour as trying to get them to communicate in Quenya. The one has no more pedigree than the other. (Actually, Tolkien's languages are probably better-constructed, as one would expect when comparing the work of a professional linguist to that of an opthalmologist who was more interested in an ideology than practicality.) ** When I was younger, and more foolish about how I wasted my time***, I spent a lot of time with ciphers, codes, and synthetic languages. To me they are indistinguishable - no matter which name you use, you are making a system for communicating information which only a few people will be able to understand. I got very good at this. Eventually I realized I was doing a card trick in the dark. Now I no longer make codes or ciphers, because the ones which are sufficiently complex to be interesting to make are too complex for anyone else to enjoy breaking, and I don't make any other form of synthetic communication, because they have no practical purpose whatsoever unless you're CIA (at least ciphers etc can be justified as puzzles, if you can call that a justification).The only difference between my young-adolescent self cackling over the idea that I could write a system no one else could understand, and speak[...]
Thu, 07 May 2009 21:43:14 GMTI'm pretty sure that this Burk Murray who is also this Burk Murray is also the Burk Murray I was reminded of a while ago today and went to dig out of the internet. I'm pretty sure, but I can't tell for certain, because neither Facebook nor Twitter will let me dig any deeper into their social networks without registering for them, and there will be a need to increase the snowplow budget in Hell before that ever happens.
Thu, 07 May 2009 19:56:00 GMTToday is not going so well. Yesterday didn't go too well either.
Wed, 06 May 2009 19:50:51 GMTNow this is the way to teach.
Wed, 06 May 2009 19:29:36 GMTThis is the best thing evar.
Wed, 06 May 2009 19:02:04 GMT
Wed, 06 May 2009 18:27:38 GMTWhen we were up at world-renowned Mack Hill Farm the other weekend, and took home some goose eggs and some duck eggs, we wondered about the turkeys. One does not, it seems, often encounter turkey eggs intended for consumption. This is probably [(image) nonelvis and I theorized] because turkeys are worth more as meat critters, so most turkey eggs are intended to hatch. (I also assume they produce few enough eggs that you don't usually have a surplus for eating.)
Wed, 06 May 2009 15:28:37 GMTThis story (via Scalzi) is about the most tragic thing I have read yet this week.
Wed, 06 May 2009 15:01:54 GMTThe Globe ran an article today about Connie Culp, the woman who got a face transplant, but they only showed the "after" photos. Now, I must confess, seeing the "after" photo I thought, "Wow, people would stare at this woman - and not in a good way - the way she looks NOW; what must the 'before' pictures look like?"
Tue, 05 May 2009 19:22:17 GMTWhen I began my long career as an animation and short-film aficionado, I learned a lesson early on: If you see the logo of the National Film Board of Canada at the beginning of a film, stick around. You have excellent odds of getting to see something good. In particular, their track record of picking wonderful little animated films is a nearly unbroken streak of goodness.
Tue, 05 May 2009 18:01:41 GMTI think in a way the biggest tribute you can give the comic strip "For Better or For Worse," despite the many ways it went so wrong and the number of people it pissed off, is that it pissed a lot of people off BECAUSE the characters were reasonably involving. I mean, if you get upset that Elizabeth is marrying the wrong guy, this implies that you are interested in Elizabeth's fictional life story to some degree, yes?There are plenty of comic strips that piss off people with their story decisions, but I think FBOFW is particularly fertile territory for three reasons:1. The strip's main character is an analogue for the real-life author, always has been, and this has never been a secret;2. The strip, toward the end of its original storyline especially, became a reflection on the author's neuroses and on the way she would have liked her life to be;3. The author is currently in the process of relentlessly retconning her own life via the means of the "restarted" comic strip. Things are happening in ways we KNOW - because some of us read them the first time - they didn't happen before. Reality is being remade, pravda-style.Here are three weblogs which have all devoted a fair bit of time to the idea of retconning the retcon - to retelling, or continuing, the story the way they think it should have happened had reality in the FBOFW universe not gone horribly wrong. To understand any of them, it's probably best to start at each of their beginnings.Foob's Paradise started out by reworking the Liz/Anthony wedding strips and ending up with Liz finally getting some sanity and calling off the wedding. Since then, it has continued intermittently with events that would have happened since then in that alternate reality. It is a thoughtful, talky script which has done what Johnston increasingly forgot to do - make her characters human. In particular, some characters which FBOFW painted as one-dimensional monsters (e.g. Mira, Therese) turn out to be much better people than Johnston's universe-through-Elly's-lens painted them. It's like, as someone once said, the rest of the story.Here's a strip that takes place when Liz, Therese, and Julia meet up and make peace about the man they all learned was a mistake. It's one of my favorites in the lot.Foob's Paradise reserves most of its venom for Anthony, the very self-centered Mike, and Elly - but tempers Elly by making her actually on the verge of mentally ill, and in therapy. Foob of Destiny is a lot harder on Elly, and on Liz. In the Foob of Destiny universe, Liz did marry Anthony, John leaves Elly, and one gets the impression the writer is enjoying leaving Elly stranded in order to make her repent. At one point recently the author thought about letting Elly have a breakthrough, but then said in a subsequent entry: "I'm going to abandon the idea of a rehabilitation of Elly -- I just can't muster up any enthusiasm for this project when every day a glimpse of the new-runs just makes me dislike the character more and more."FOOBAR is the eeriest and nastiest of the lot. This is the horror-movie approach: The rebooted strip is explained by Elly having found a way to actually rewrite reality. She has rolled back time, but it's imperfect; some of the characters remember their prior reality to one degree or another. Liz was getting married; now she's an infant again, and she's aware of the reality change, but can't do much about it because she can't talk - usually. Her age varies widely; one day she can walk, then she can't again. Meanwhile April and anyone else who arrived in the strip after the point in time it rebooted to are in an alternate reality, trying to figure out how to reverse Elly's may[...]
Tue, 05 May 2009 02:53:30 GMT
Mon, 04 May 2009 20:37:16 GMTI bought a teeny tiny camera today. If reviews are correct, of which this is the most detailed of the lot, it seems to do everything I want in a camera. Oddly, raw picture quality is not that high up the list, not for what I use photos for (picture quality when they are only going to be displayed on a screen at 72 DPI is a bit of a red herring).I got it in black from Amazon and I threw in a memory card and a spare battery. Grand total: $225.[16:12] nonelvis: jesus, 10 megapixels for less than $250[16:12] columbina: we live in amazing times[16:12] nonelvis: why, when I was a lass, we had to beg for our megapixels[16:12] columbina: right there with you-----Meanwhile, in other news, the Globe management got really nasty in the game of chicken it has been playing with the unions. The unions blinked. Well, all but one of the unions blinked. The one that didn't blink is the one that has the editors and writers in it. They refuse to surrender the "lifetime employment guarantee" that 190 of their people got some years ago, and they believe the paper is just trying to intimidate them.[In other news, apparently the Globe still has at least 190 people in its combined editorial and advertising staff. Who knew? Some mornings these days the paper reads like it was edited by a child with a blunt crayon.]I am feeling some serious hate for this union right now. When they are all out of a job because the paper went bust, the fact that they and their obstreperous obstructionism was the thing that hastened the collapse will not be of any consolation to the rest of us, who will be deprived of our newspaper that much sooner due to their idiocy.Lifetime employment guarantees? There are people who can't find jobs to save their soul. There are people who are worried sick about losing theirs. What sort of hubris do you have to have, to assume you are entitled to a guarantee of lifetime employment in this day and age? I, too, wish we were back in the day when my grandfather could work happily for Exxon for forty years ... but I'm realistic enough to admit it's gone. Unlike the people who write for the Globe. This is the problem, right here.The critics are right: Too much of the newspaper industry refuses to wake up and realize it is not 1960.-----Speaking of the economy, especially if you live in Massachusetts, just remember: Could be worse. You could be in Rhode Island.-----The Economist's Lexington columnist has a piece this week you really should read in its entirety - it's about the fragmenting of the right and Arlen Specter.Mr Specter's decision is yet more proof that the once mighty Republican Party is in a perilous state—abandoning the middle ground of politics to the Democrats and retreating into an ideological and regional cocoon. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed that the proportion of Republicans had shrunk from 25% in late March to just 21% today, the party’s lowest figure for more than a quarter of a century. That compares with 35% for Democrats and 38% for independents. A recent Democracy Corps poll also shows that Mr Obama enjoys a 16-point advantage over the Republicans on the economy, a 24-point advantage on heath care and a 27-point advantage on energy policy.Even these dramatic numbers may understate how bad the situation is for the Republicans. The party is rapidly disappearing in whole swathes of America. The proportion of Republicans among 20-somethings has reached its lowest ebb since records began to be kept after the second world war. Just two and a bit years ago Pennsylvania had two Republican senators. Today it has none, and there are precious few[...]
Mon, 04 May 2009 15:16:41 GMTOne of the things that The Comics Curmudgeon has done for me (or to me, depending on whether I consider it a positive) is show me the hidden joys of some of these antique "soap opera" comic strips. (Some of these joys are EXCEEDINGLY hidden.) I've learned that the reason to love "Apartment 3-G" is because of the astonishingly self-centered Margo McGee, whose worldview is encapsulated in the final panel in this entry. One day I am going to take the Lichtensteined version of that panel and make it into wallpaper.
Thu, 30 Apr 2009 18:48:49 GMTOnce upon a time some brilliant soul came up with Twister bedsheets, but they are largely a mythological item. One photo that's widely circulated (of the Twister pattern printed on an actual fitted sheet) turns out to have been part of a Viagra ad. A UK company did apparently make Twister duvet covers for a time, but their site is MIA. My personal theory is that a nameless game company (let's call them Shilton Spradley) which was later bought by an even more nameless game company (let's call them Shmasbro) has absolutely no sense of humor and excessively tight anal sphincters, and sicced the proverbial Horde of Lawyers on them. But I can't prove that.
Thu, 30 Apr 2009 15:44:22 GMTI will say this about the impending death of traditional news reporting: There are some things I won't miss. One of those is this apparent need to trump up hysteria, from the very people who have control of the megaphone and should therefore be telling people to keep calm and stay sane.Clearly if we are to find sanity we will have to check the new reporting, AKA, any halfwit with a weblog. Clearly the situation is bad when the halfwits, on the whole, have it more together than the MSM.Three from BoingBoing:Swine Flu Q & A from Maggie Koerth-Baker.(Please note: Koerth-Baker is not a halfwit. She is one of the best things to happen to BoingBoing ever and I hope they make her permanent. If you are looking for a good day utterly lost to fascinating reading, search for all posts by her.)Swine Influenza Update from a Nurse: Virus, Panic, Precautions, and End of the World Websites.Swine Flu Fun Facts from Maggie Koerth-BakerYou'll note I deliberately did NOT post Bruce Sterling's rant because - possibly for the only time in his lifetime - Sterling is wrong and dismissive and out of line.From Making Light:Swine Flu and Information Hygiene (AKA Rumor Control)Flu Redux (already linked in this journal, but I can't link Jim Macdonald enough)Here is the thing to remember: So far Mexico City is anomalous. Obviously, this could change, but right now the only place where otherwise healthy people are dropping dead has been there (and there haven't even been that many of those, not if you're thinking in pandemic numbers - of about 150 cases, last I heard, there were seven deaths). As of this morning there were 109 confirmed cases in the United States the CDC knew about (check for updates here), and only one of those resulted in death (and that was in Texas and may well have been a severe case that had already incubated over the border - I can't confirm). Everyone else in the US is responding to treatment and recovering well.Also, this appears to be a single-vector, known-source outbreak: We know where it came from, which means we know what to quarantine. (If you said you didn't want to travel to Mexico right now, that would be totally reasonable. I would not consider that overboard.)Yes, there is no effective vaccine for this. So what? In general the reason I do not get flu shots is that they always immunize against last year's flu strains. Flu strains evolve faster than we can develop vaccines for them; this is not news. Nor, to my mind, is it cause for panic.Yes, the WHO has raised their influenza pandemic alert level to phase 5 but that just means, "We consider this could be a real problem if we don't take steps to try to prevent it travelling around the globe," which I think is a true statement, and is also not cause for panic.Take precautions. Wash your damned hands. But don't panic.I think people WANT to panic about something right now. The economy is in the toilet, everyone's either out of work or worried about it, so let's find some other reason to run in circles and scream and shout. Well, just remember: Every time you go into a tailspin, Dick Cheney kills a puppy.P.S. For god's sake, do people really have to be told that there is absolutely no connection between swine flu transmission and eating pork? Apparently they do. I despair.[...]
Wed, 29 Apr 2009 21:26:19 GMTSteve Benen on conservative writer Byron York's saying something really, really appalling.
Wed, 29 Apr 2009 17:14:41 GMTA rant about calendars, stupidity and Google, after the cut. Some folks will find it interesting, others not so much, and I'll try to keep it in easily parsed English so as not to exclude anyone.However, even if you skip the saga, if you like and use Google's tools (including GMail et al.), you may want to read the part after the break (- - - - -), which has some meta-comments you may find eye-opening.We have, as I have said before, a database-driven event calendar, which I maintain. In fact, I wrote it; when I took this job, the underlying data structure was reasonably sound but the code was not, so I essentially replaced it from scratch.The calendar has issues (lots of them), but most of them have to do with matters of uncertain spec and feature drift - i.e. each group of people has a set of things they want the calendar to do, sometimes mutually exclusive things, but none of the groups is able to articulate or define their needs very well, so the calendar becomes a sort of Thneed which does all things, but none of them well. This is a long-standing problem with software and is a rant for Another Day. Anyway, it works.This is our starting point: A calendar driven by an underlying database of events, accessed entirely through dynamic web pages. That last part is important: You have to go to our web site to view, edit, or create events. It's a decent system, but some people don't want to go to our web site - they want to know about events, but they want information about those events hand-fed to them in the preferred format of their choice. Some would say this means they are lazy, or stubborn about their habits. Not me, no, I wouldn't say that, because I wouldn't want to insult my users.Nor does it matter: If no one is seeing the events (even if it's just because they won't go look), the calendar is not doing its job. So I have a mandate to accommodate people's preferred formats, within reason.We already hand out calendar information to certain other applications, by translating it into XML-style markup and putting that data in a file with a known name where those programs can grab it at periodic intervals. This is probably known to you by the generic label "RSS." RSS is kind of a non-technology and I don't like the buzzword. I think of it as a periodic XML export. If you prefer to call that a "feed," that's okay too.In fact - read closely here now, because this is important - because I like adaptability, I have written a generic exporter/feeder. It is essentially a search engine for the calendar which outputs information into one of any number of formats of your choice. You can say to it things like "Show me all events of the "Lecture" type occurring this week which are open to the public, and, oh, let's have that as XML" and, poof, it will generate a file of those events in XML format. Since the formats for output are templates, if we decide we want to output new format Q, then we just make a template that shows how to write format Q and we're ready.That's the history. Now to the issue which arose a few days ago.In a meeting, it developed that what the largest group of our users were using - despite our going to some trouble to send calendar information into a portal for that specific group - was Google Calendar. Some of this is because we make them use GMail now (and that's another long story), and they just naturally wandered into other Google tools while they were there. Some of it is because they a[...]
Tue, 28 Apr 2009 19:54:41 GMTArlen Specter jumps ship.