Archive for 2006

Ideas are Cages

Ideas are like cages, with which we try in vain to pin down the world. Too often we catch ourselves instead.

Work Patterns: Get the continuation

Where the continuation is the next step; find out what it is at the beginning, when hopefully you still have access to whatever is giving you a task to begin with.

The term continuation comes from programming, typically functional programming, where the continuation is a procedure to call when the current function is done. Sometimes multiple continuations are passed, where which one gets executed depends on the calculations done. The really fun ones use ‘current continuation’, which makes a closure on the current stack and local variables and then runs it multiple times.

Why, Oh Why…

Is there (most) of a dead chipmunk on my deck?

It must be said that my tiny little sort-of-deck is on the second floor, with no overhanging trees. I suppose it could have a made a suicidal leap from the roof, but I wouldn’t have quite expected half of it completely disintegrate. Running theory is some bird of prey grabbed it, had a snack, and dumped the remainder.

Either that or someone is trying to hex me. Anybody know a curse involving most of a chipmunk? (Inflicting a high squeaky voice perhaps? ;^) )

Music as Program

Something is bugging me. Playing music isn’t always fun. So like, what gives? I’m learning a new skill. Learning can be fun, and Raph Koster practically equates the two.

I recall when I was learning to program – typing in BASIC programs (usually games) from magazine listings and then tweaking them.

I realized what the difference is. In the programs, I could make some sense of them. It wasn’t too hard to pick out a statement that read a key, and figure out that x = X + 10 moved a character to the right. I could understand the program so i could change it.

I don’t understand music. It is utterly opaque to me. Since I don’t understand it, I have nothing to direct change; I can’t play around with it. I can’t engage in the process of creation, which I’ve picked out in the past as a key factor in my general mental health. (This entry might do me some good.)

I’ve read a few things. There is tonic, dominant, leading tones, etc. But I don’t see them. I’m sure experienced musicians can see things things. But I’m not experienced. Sheet music is as enlightening to me as (get this) binary machine code.

Yep yep yep. Music is a program, and musical notation amounts to reading a program in hex bytes. All well and good for the machine executing it – which is exactly what a musician is doing with a piece of sheet music. Since sheet music is made for people trying to ‘execute’ it, this works out well enough. It’s also clear as mud. The ability of experienced musicians to see the deeper structures in sheet music equates to ability of hardcore programmers to see the structure in a binary executable. Sure, it can be done, but it doesn’t strike me as especially effective.

Now to be fair, I did set out to learn how to play music, not compose it. I was hoping to pick up some understanding along the way, but my focus thus far has been on execution not understanding. Still, wheres my ‘C’? C++? Perhaps some Lisp, haskell, or ML and nice higher order programming? Something like BASIC wouldn’t be all bad to start out with. Even Assembly would be a step up at this point. I suspect that assembly, or putting mnemonic labels on the machine instructions, equates to identifying the roles (tonic, dominant) and intervals. You have a slightly better idea what is going on, but not really why.

There are still two problems. One, this amounts to disassembly – taking the raw machine code and reversing engineering the meaning. In programming this is always a lossy process* – even just going to assembly you lose labels, symbolic constants, comments, etc. Second, where are those higher level languages? We’re still at the register-transfer level here. Has my education, focusing on playing such as it has, merely been negligent, or is there really nothing out there?

*Edit – technically, it is assembly that is lossy. Disassembly loses no more information, and often adds to it by identifying slightly larger structures.

Trial and Triumph (and utter madness)

God help me, I’m an Associate Master.

The strangest things happen when you’re a pushover…

A few months ago, things were marching along at the martial arts school. Lots of big changes in the curriculum afoot, which were taking up a big part of everyone’s attention Myself I was doing fine, though having doubts about the coming test cycle. Black belt testing is only done once a year. Among many other things, one of the conditions for testing is a certain amount of time since the last test. On that condition alone, I was technically eligible for two ranks (one in Hapkido and one in Taekwondo) The normal course of things is to deal with tests one at a time, and which one to deal with this year had been a point of some debate and ambiguity throughout the year.

Here comes the pitch: other people were testing for both of the same ranks (one of which sufficiently high to make this a rare event) Obviously it would be so much easier with the other peole taking up some of the testing board’s attention. I swear, I’ve got to get a will some time.

Shear and utter madness.

I did realize my mistake eventually. Comforting to know, instead of just feeling uneasy, but discomforting to be sure it was a mistake. There is another theory of easy and hard – it’s easy when you are prepared and hard when you aren’t. (Guess where I was, with little more than a month to go.)

I paid dearly for my error. For that last month or so, virtually every other concern fell away as I was either in class, or at home organizing my notes and grappling with advanced material. It pretty much ate my life, and debts remain; some of the people who assisted me had expressed an interest in private lessons, and I now have outstanding vouchers.

The beginning of the post has given away the end of the story; I passed, and did quite well to hear people talk; of course people tend to say nice things at events like this. A certain degree of shortfall is written into the beginning of such an overambitious enterprise. Parts of me actually wanted to brush it off and make a lackluster performance as a kind of silent protest. In the end, however, that would have been rather rude, and other parts of me require a certain level of quality.

Of course, that isn’t the entirety of the insanity.

At our school, black belt rank in multiple arts can be added together, up to a point, to create higher level titles (I’d already been a benefactor of this rule, as ‘Sr. Instructor’) By those rules, I am now titled Assoc. Master. I may have also benefited from some changes in the title system; a much higher ranked student, formally titled Assoc. Master, was upgraded to Professor, even though she didn’t test this year.

Doesn’t make having master in the title any less scary, though.

Am I becoming too materialistic?

(From the way overdue entries file – I believe I had this in mind at the time I posted the last one)

It goes back to the time when I first realized that my time/money ratio had inverted, at which point toll roads, while still annoying, became a reasonable choice. More recently it was the broadband, brought on in part by a music service. And of course, having a house has permitted the steady accumulation of ‘stuff’, most of which lies idle.

Perhaps I had more to say when I first thought of it. In any case this was my main reservation about getting the broadband – it felt too much like a luxury. On the whole I’ve been making the realization that money, in the small, really isn’t a problem, and I catch myself ‘acting rich’ in equally small ways – not searching for lower prices because that would take time and I have money, tipping generously to avoid figuring out the ‘right’ amount, (at least this makes someone happy) and so on. In a certain sense, the mortgage has been a comfort, reassuring me that I’m not excessively wealthy. What happens a few years when I no longer have that reassurance?

Last.fm

Actually, badly designed websites* were not the only thing encouraging me to get broadband. A few weeks ago I ran across last.fm. It looked as thought it might be the kind of music service I had wanted – streaming (don’t have to buy CDs all the time), no commercials, and capable of making suggestions. I started recording CD playing history immediately, hoping to get some recommendations. So I was seriously considering broadband for the first time – it had always been too expensive for my limited use, and some kinds still are. It was only then that the slow web sites pushed me over the edge ;^)

So, I’ve finally played though all of my CD’s and have started using the radio for regular background music. The last few years I went through a long time of not listening to music very much. I suppose mixed results is what I should have expected. A lot of it is no doubt due to a limited selection – for instance, the global tag radio for anything with ‘harp’ has either one or no playable songs. I’ve had slightly more success with the celtic tag, (despite some decidedly mis-tagged tracks) which is a little better represented in popular music. I suppose it’s called popular for a reason, but it leaves us niche listeners out. I suppose I have my CD’s when I need them.

There have been a few discoveries. I heard one good piece from Hans Zimmer, so may keep an eye on him. I’m definitely going to check out the Mediaeval Baebes. (Boy, that sounds bad. Good music, but I might have liked a different name.) There were a few other interesting things, but I’m mainly treating them as outliers so far.

Meanwhile, I’m learning to lower my standards for using ‘love’ and ‘ban’. I might like a more finely graded scale, but I think that last.fm’s rating is based on quantity, (of plays) not quality.

I may also look into Pandora, which appears much better for exploring related music – but one thing at time. I’m also not too keen on the fact that they want a credit card up front, even though there is a free version.

Anyway, I’m on last.fm. Is anybody else?

*(and yes, I’ve found several kinks in my recent site update that escaped me earlier while I was worrying about the flyout menus. The kinks will be fixed… um… eventually)

Seen on a church sign:

“Pastor Brian told me to change the sign. So I did”

Impatience

  1. I finally got tired of waiting for fat websites and got
    broadband.
  2. This means my e-mail address has changed.
  3. Since my web site was hosted with the ISP, I have to move it.
  4. One detail I missed was the broadband ISP doesn’t have economical
    web hosting. So now I have third-party hosting.
  5. Taken together, I decided to
    get a domain name to minimize
    future disruptions
  6. Since I had to mess with it anyway, I went through and brought
    (most) of the site into the
    CSS age.

It turned into a vastly larger project than I had hoped. I had thought that between a hiatus in martial arts and the memorial day weekend, I would be able to get everything touched up. Unfortunately, with some of the pages going back almost ten years, they needed a lot of work to brought in line with the standards. I still haven’t fully verified everything.

I also spent entirely too much time trying to get a dynamic navigation system working, but browser bugs thwarted me at every turn. Ultimately, I went with the right-sidebar, with they flyouts disabled (they get clipped in most browsers.)

I rewrote the bio and updated the links a little. Otherwise the content is all the same. The are still several things I might like to do, (validation, RSS for the updates) but for the moment I am out of time and need to attend to other things.

The domain is JustinLove.name (The proper web address is http://home.JustinLove.name, which I can redirect a little easier, at least currently.) I had been thinking about using a domain for mail filtering for some time, and a change of address was an opportunity to do that. All the websites I need to register with get a different address, such as lj@J… Sometime soon I need to gather all my friend’s e-mails, and, hoping they haven’t changed, send on a social address.

June 4, 2006

I finally got tired of waiting for fat websites and got broadband.

  1. This means my e-mail address has changed.
  2. Since my web site was hosted with the ISP, I have to move it.
  3. One detail I missed was the broadband ISP doesn’t have economical web hosting. So now I have third-party hosting.
  4. Taken together, I decided to get a domain name to minimize future disruptions
  5. Since I had to mess with it anyway, I went through and brought (most) of the site into the CSS age.

It turned into a vastly larger project than I had hoped. I had thought that between a hiatus in martial arts and the memorial day weekend, I would be able to get everything touched up. Unfortunately, with some of the pages going back almost ten years, they needed a lot of work to brought in line with the standards. I still haven’t fully verified everything.

I also spent entirely too much time trying to get a dynamic navigation system working, but browser bugs thwarted me at every turn. Ultimately, I went with the right-sidebar, with they flyouts disabled (they get clipped in most browsers.)