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2018-11-09 10:22 pm
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

This is (a first cut at) a sticky-post or landing post for mdlbear.dreamwidth.org. I intend for it to be edited rather than replaced, so the link should stay the same.

The Mandelbear

... is what I call the fractal you see in my default icon. The Mandelbear is infinitely fuzzy, being a two-dimensional cross-section of a four-dimensional object. It occasionally manifests as an elderly hacker-songwriter, and sometimes as a Middle-Sized Bear.

Series Tags

These tags mark ongoing series of posts (and are mostly lifted from the post I made last Thursday introducing NaBloPoMo, with a couple of additions and edits.

curmudgeon - The Computer Curmudgeon
This series is a combination of public service announcements, mostly about security- and privacy-related events, and longer informational pieces. These posts are cross-posted onto computer-curmudgeon.com. I'd like to work up to one or two per week.
done - Done Since...
Posted every Sunday (sometimes delayed or advanced depending on conventions and where the end of the month falls), this contains my summary of the week followed by (under a cut tag) the week's worth of to.do file entries. The format of the to.do entries is described in How to.do it, and has been described as sort of an online bullet journal.
river - The River
These are posts about, ... Hmm. What are they about? Love, friendship, grieving, ... I guess the overall theme is emotions.
thanks - Thankful Thursday
My weekly gratitude posts. I'm not entirely consistent about these -- you will occasionally see a "Thankful Friday". There's (almost) always one on (American) Thanksgiving. Of course.
Posts about my finances.

Other Tags

  • meta -- Posts about the blog itself, and other self-referential stuff.
  • poem
  • review
  • song
  • Conventions and other annual events get a pair of tags: the name of the event, and the year.

There are lots more; those are just the more important ones.


NaBloPoMo stats:
   4728 words in 10 posts this month (average 472/post)
    398 words in 1 post today

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

BAD week. Colleen is in the hospital again, with damaged kidneys and multiple severe drug-resistant infections. She slipped getting back into bed Monday morning, after getting weaker all the previous week. It's pretty dire this time. V and I have been there every day.

N came up Thursday afternoon, and the kids and their SOs came up yesterday. It's that serious. See updates. I'm redacting almost all of the medical details in the notes; it'll go into the next Colleen update, with a content warning. Look for that tonight or tomorrow.

She's been delirious and mostly non-verbal from the infections and her wacked-out blood chemistry; the last coherent thing she said yesterday was "I want my Bear." All I could do was hold her hand, but that seemed to be enough.

N and I have decided to make this year's Rainbow Con a celebration for Colleen. She will almost certainly still be in rehab at that point, in which case we'll record and/or stream it. Come, if you can.

Notes & links, as usual )

I should post this.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Today's song is one I wrote as a Valentine's Day present for my wife, Colleen. I don't seem to have audio up on the web; I considered singing it to her earlier today, but one look at the lyrics told me I wouldn't be able to. It's hard to sing when you're crying.

Here's Eyes Like the Morning. Audio at the link, or [ogg] [mp3]

lyrics, if you don't want to click through )

mdlbear: (river)

Colleen took a turn for the worse yesterday between breakfast, which she nibbled at, and lunch, by which time she was very "out of it" and apparently in pain (although I think some of that may have been pure frustration when she couldn't find words.

Apparently a severe infection can have that effect, and can strike quickly -- this is apparently a lot like toxic shock. She has at least three highly-resistant superbugs -- they identified the third this morning.

The kids are coming to visit Saturday -- the soonest they could get here.

Colleen is a stubborn old cat, though. Wish her luck.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Yesterday (Monday) she fell trying to go from her walker to the bed -- got herself into an awkward position and seemed confused when I tried to tell her how to get out of it. Rather than simply having the EMTs put her back in bed we decided to use the opportunity to get her to the ER and have her looked at. Which turned out to have been the right thing to do.

She's not doing all that well; but doesn't seem to be in immediate danger. Medical info under the cut. )

She'll almost certainly end up back in rehab again after she's discharged. I'm very worried about the mental confusion and the weakness, although getting more oxygen into her seems to have helped.

I'm not getting a damned thing done on $GIG the last few days; that's probably not surprising but is a matter for concern.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Worried about Colleen. She seems to be getting worse, not better. I'm don't know what I should do. No idea what I can do. She's declining, and I'm scared. No idea what the fuck is going to happen when I go off to my 50th reunion in June.

I had a great time Monday doing a back-yard archaeology dig with N and (her younger kid) j. We actually found a few things, which made it a lot more exciting.

I finally managed to get the little yellow GL-iNet router configured as a wifi-to-ethernet bridge for the printer. That turns out to be tricky if you want both ends to be part of the same network. It's even pretty tricky if you don't. I am, however, finding my way around OpenWrt, the more versatile (and more up-to-date) of the two aftermarket Linux distributions for routers. I'm now working on the somewhat more ambitious project of setting up a bridge to the Box Room, using the Linksys WNDR4300 I ordered from eBay on Monday. That seems to be going a little more smoothly.

I ran the numbers on next year's taxes. Turns out I can reduce my withholding by over $1K/month. That will help a lot.

Pretty much done incorporating the editor's suggestions into $GIG; now I have to get the rest of it -- about the last third -- finished.

I really just want to crawl into a hole and hide until things get better. But I know that if I do that, they never will.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Today I am thankful for...

  • having filed my tax return;
  • some simple what-if tax calculations that tell me I can cut my withholding in half this year;
  • Colleen's health improving (at least in terms of her kidney numbers; still very worried about the rest);
  • our cats, especially Desti, who loves being a villain's lap cat;
  • maybe OpenWrt and dd-wrt (the two major embedded Linux distributions for routers -- the former seems more hackable, the latter seems easier to configure for what I'm doing with them -- but neither of them is doing what I want it to).

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Another deeply mixed week -- Colleen's health continues to be a concern, and at this point I can't really tell whether she's improving or declining. She was better Friday than Thursday, but that's not saying much: Thursday left me a total wreck between some very dicey transfers for her doctor's visit, and her fall getting into her chair when we got back. And I wasted quite a lot of time -- more than a day -- playing with my little travel router.

(On the other hand, the router was fun. Its flakiness turned out to have been the power supply; meanwhile I'd re-flashed it with OpenWrt, which I hadn't played with before. On the gripping hand I still haven't able to reconfigure it to bridge my laser printer, which had been the original idea. It's almost certainly possible, but I shouldn't be spending the time right now.)

On the plus side, I seem to be making pretty good progress on $GIG ($CLIENT seemed impressed with the introduction; we'll see how that goes), and I'm getting an unexpected, and unexpectedly large, tax refund thanks mainly to the greatly increased standard deduction. I think this may be my first time ever taking the standard deduction.

Between being able to reduce my withholding and our housemates' financial contributions, it looks like I won't be needing a full-time job after all, and can take on part-time work only if it's fun. ($GIG falls into that category.) And we won't need to try to turn our expansion space into a vacation rental, at least not this year.

Speaking of categories, have a look at the HTTP Status Cats and GIT PURR! Git Commands Explained with Cats!.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Today I am thankful for

  1. my family, and especially my sister N,
  2. the fact that everyone in my family is still alive, though some are still at risk;
  3. an unexpected, and unexpectedly large, tax refund (with a nod to VNC, because it's faster to screen-share than to keep switching the monitor inputs);
  4. ethanol.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

It's impossible not to use surperlatives describing the paper published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It's nothing less than the smoking gun that links the Chicxulub asteroid impact with the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous.

The article describes a set of deposits that were laid down in the Hell Creek formation in North Dakota, apparently during the first hour after the impact.

The fallout from the impact deposited a thin layer of sediments called the Cretaceous–Paleogene (formerly Tertiary) boundary, rich in micro-tektites (blobs of melted rock) and iridium (scarce on Earth, abundant in meteorites). The tektites would have started coming down in North Dakota, about 5,000 miles from the Yucatán Peninsula, ten to fifteen minutes after the impact. The metallic dust from the vaporized asteroid would have settled out somewhat later. The seismic shock waves would have reached North Dakota at about the same time.

When an earthquake hits a body of water, such as a lake or river, it makes the water slosh back and forth, a phenomenon called a seiche. (Seiches emptied swimming pools all over Southern California during the 1994 Northridge earthquake.) When it hit North Dakota, water and mud sloshed out of a river bed (along with whatever fish were in it, mostly sturgeon and paddlefish), knocked down whatever trees and dinosaurs were in its way, and left a wave-by-wave record of the event.

According to the article in The New Yorker that came out Friday, the debris included sturgeons that died with their mouths gaping and full of tektites, a dinosaur feather, the hip-bone of a ceratopsid, and much, much, more. Some time shortly thereafter, a small mammal burrowed into the mud, dug right through the boundary, and died there.

There's a reason why Robert dePalma, who discovered the site, named it Tanis. He told the New Yorker that "It’s like finding the Holy Grail clutched in the bony fingers of Jimmy Hoffa, sitting on top of the Lost Ark." It's really too improbable for fiction.


  @ A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota and 
    BOUNDARY, NORTH DAKOTA  - the actual paper at PNAS, via National Geographic:
  @ Fossils may capture the day the dinosaurs died. Here's what you should know.
  @ Hell Creek Formation - Wikipedia footnotes point to the New Yorker article, plus
  @ Fossil Site Reveals Day That Meteor Hit Earth and, Maybe, Wiped Out Dinosaurs|NYT
  @ 66 million-year-old deathbed linked to dinosaur-killing meteor | Berkeley
  @ The Day the Dinosaurs Died | The New Yorker

... and a tip of the fedora to Minoanmiss for pointing me at the New Yorker article.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

This month's "rabbit rabbit rabbit" brought to you by April foolishness and our back yard's seasonal wetland.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

On the whole not too bad -- 9 days with no posts means around 2.5/week? So... not great either, when you consider that that includes "Done Since" and "Thankful Thursday" posts. But I've made a "Thankful Thursday" post every week, so that's something. Three "informative" posts, which is short of my preferred one/week, but more than half.

Posting stats:
   2399 2019/03/01--markup-markdown-tex-and-text.html
   1424 2019/03/03--done-since-0224.html
    273 2019/03/04--flashback.html
     81 2019/03/07--thankful-thursday.html
    156 2019/03/09--colleen-update.html
   1497 2019/03/10--done-since-0303.html
   2158 2019/03/11--git-for-poets.html
    154 2019/03/13--72.html
     83 2019/03/14--thankful-thursday.html
   1445 2019/03/15--climate-tragedy.html
    343 2019/03/16--s4s-colleens-birthday.html
   1270 2019/03/17--done-since-0310.html
    115 2019/03/19--word-of-the-day.html
     53 2019/03/21--thankful-thursday.html
   1282 2019/03/24--done-since-0317.html
     68 2019/03/28--thankful-thursday.html
   1346 2019/03/31--done-since-0324.html
     67 2019/03/31--no-foolin.html
    183 2019/03/31--stats-for-march.html
  14397 words in 19 posts this month (average 757/post)
   1596 words in 3 posts today
      9 days with no posts

mdlbear: (river)

Just wanted to mention that I'm not planning to make a prank post tomorrow. I rarely do. I might attempt something funny, but that's different -- I'm not the kind of person who normally considers deceiving people to be funny.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

A fairly eventful week: Colleen came home from rehab on Monday, which was also the YD's birthday. Tuesday was the Skype conference call that officially kicked off $GIG (which fortunately I had already made quite a bit of progress on). Additional progress on $GIG (now about half done) and taxes (forms tracked down and sorted out).

Picking up Colleen involved a trip down to Rest Stop on Sunday so as to be at Prestige by 11am, the estimated discharge time. As it turned out, she finally got out somewhere around 1:40. We'd been planning to go to Saffron for lunch, but I'd forgotten to put the scooter in the car; after we got home and retrieved it we found that Charmer's was closed on Mondays, so we ended up at China City. Decent Chinese.

Determined that the battery in S's old laptop is completely dead. The one in L's scooter isn't totally dead, but it's not usable.

Another massive data breach was reported; upwards of 800 million records, including "verified emails, phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram account details, credit scoring and even mortgage data such as amount owing and interest rates being charged." Not enough for identity fraud, but everything one could want for a spearfishing expedition. Yeah; I'm in it too. Obligatory link to HaveIBeenPwned.com.

Apart from that, ... not much.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Today I'm thankful for...

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Colleen is greatly improved -- we expect her to be discharged tomorrow. I've done very little this week besides visiting her and writing for $GIG.

I stayed down at Rest Stop Thursday night, and intend to do so tonight as well. Left a suitcase with the extra facehugger and enough underwear and meds for three days.

Sleep somewhat irregular. Entirely due to wake-up time -- I have little difficulty going to bed within my target window. Should maybe stay up until I'm sleepy and use an alarm to wake up.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

So, ... today I'm grateful for

  • good timing
  • Colleen's continuing improvement -- she's a lot stronger now
  • a urologist who understands the problem and was able to convince Colleen to try a possible solution
  • a Useful Word
  • family.

mdlbear: (river)

This is a word (from an SF/fantasy serial novel in progress) that is obviously needed:

You are missing an incredibly important word for an emotion I know you have,...
That feeling you have when you leave something undone that you know you shouldn’t, and the longer you put it off, the harder it becomes to face, and the worse the feeling of guilt and shame becomes, until it feeds on itself? We call that Hauneth.
-- M.C.A. Hogarth in Kherishdar's Exception | Episode 38

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

So. Productive week? I made two major posts (on Git for Poets and climate change), plus two birthday posts (for me and Colleen, the latter doubling as a s4s post). And some progress on $GIG (about 2k words, out of a projected maybe 10K).

I've been down to visit Colleen roughly every other day, alternating with (caregiver) V. Rather glad I haven't been trying for a job that would require commuting, though I guess I've proved that it would be possible. I'm also not sure I could handle full-time work of any kind at this point. Housework and family work have been uncomfortably close to full time the last couple of weeks.

The cats have been very supportive. We have excellent cats.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Today was Colleen's birthday, so I arranged for N to meet me in her room at Prestige and do a little singing. So this was yet another unrecorded LgF concert, albeit a short one.

The set consisted of

  • The Fox. This is our favorite way to start a non-themed concert. It's an actual traditional folksong; the idea being to surprise the audience with something completely off-the-wall for the next song. I have no idea where we learned it; it was long before we were a group.
  • The October Country. This is the perfect follower for The Fox. It's one that the two of us co-wrote: N wrote the words, I wrote an initial melody (of which the first two verses and bridge survive almost intact), and then we woodshedded the heck out of it. It's always been one of Colleen's favorites.
  • Lock-Keeper. This is a gorgeous song by Stan Rogers that was written to be sung by the lock-keeper. N's idea to make it a duet, with her as the sailor, worked brilliantly. (As with the other songs we don't have rights to, you'll have to click through to the official lyrics.)
  • Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts. Colleen's favorite Bob Dylan song. Unlike some of his other long songs (Desolation Row, for example), this one actually has a plot. It's not currently in Lookingglass Folk's repertoire, but Steve has been singing it ever since hearing it on Joan Baez's album From Every Stage.
  • The Mary Ellen Carter This song, by the late Stan Rogers, is a frequent set closer and the household's all-around "defiantly optimistic" spirit-raiser. We just wish we didn't need it quite so often.

The descriptions are here partly as a way of jump-starting the body text of the song-pages; some of those are still broken because of bugs. Those, however, aren't likely to get fixed tonight.

mdlbear: "Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" - Terry Pratchett (flamethrower)
A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances.
-- definition of tragedy by The Free Dictionary (emphasis mine)

I'm really not sure where to put the cut tag on this post. Today I'm talking about Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy [PDF], by Professor Jem Bendell. The author has a link to resources on emotional support in the sidebar of his home page. As I said back on Sunday, it's a pulling-no-punches prediction of the likely consequences of global warming.

Links and some commentary have been seen elsewhere on my DW reading list (fayanora, siliconshaman, ysabetwordsmith). [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith points out that Very little of this is actually new; what's new is that some people are actually listening this time.

It's pretty clear that the paper is an attempt to shock enough people into listening to make a difference. Um... is this the right place to mention that this is The Climate Change Paper So Depressing It's Sending People to Therapy? Probably.

Okay, I think that's enough of a warning. Please consider your headspace before proceeding, and maybe find a cat or a stuffie to hold, because it's that bad. We are very screwed. )

There's some support from this study, Deadly heatwaves could affect 74 percent of the world’s population (The paper is under a paywall, but the abstract is free.) The maps are frightening. That 74% figure is for 2100 if emissions continue to rise at their current rate. With "aggressive" reduction (and I don't know whether that means to zero emissions -- I doubt it) it's 48%. And see above about feedback. And don't forget Bitcoin!

The same group points out that Greenhouse gas [is] triggering more changes than we can handle because it's more than just heat waves -- there are other changes going on that are usually studied separately rather than together.

Scared yet? I don't know -- nobody knows, really -- whether Bendell's most extreme predictions are true, nor what the timescale will really turn out to be. The bottom line, though, is things are worse than most people think, and getting worse faster than anticipated in the studies that led to the 2-degree rise by 2100 target.

I don't profess to understand much of the "Deep Adaptation" section of the paper. It gets into politics, sociology, and psychology, none of which are my strong points. But the main point is that we need to make drastic changes at a societal level, based on the certainty that things will get worse, and the high probability that they will get much worse. We might be able to save civilization, if we can stop making things worse and adapt quickly enough to the changes we can't stop.

If we can't, well, at least the tardigrades will probably make it through. I'm not so sure about the cockroaches.

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Good grief! Thursday again. Those things just keep coming. Today I'm grateful for

  • Colleen's improving health (there are worries, too, but this is a gratitude post -- I'll take what I can get),
  • (daughter) E
  • Signal desktop (so I can text without trying to spell things on a phone),
  • Ticia and Desti,
  • (travel guitar) Plink (which I need to practice with more often, because the fretboard is different)


2019-03-13 01:50 pm
mdlbear: (river)

I'm 72 years old today. 72 is a multiple of twelve, so it is, once again, the Year of the Pig. (However, it's a year of the Earth Pig; I was born in a year of the Fire Pig, for what that's worth.) It's also the year of my 50th college reunion, for what that's worth.

72 is also 23×32, the atomic number of hafnium, and the traditional value for room temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

I feel as though I ought to have something profound to say, but viewing the world as I am through filters of depression and anxiety, that's a bit difficult. But there was a robin on the grass outside my window a moment ago -- that counts for something, I suppose.

mdlbear: (technonerdmonster)

In my previous curmudgeon post, Writing Without Distractions, I gave version control only a brief mention, and promised a follow-up post. That would be this one. This post is intended for people who are not in the software industry, including not only poets but other writers, students, people who program as a hobby, and programmers who have been in suspended animation for the last decade or three and are just now waking up.

The Wikipedia article on version control gives a pretty good overview, but it suffers from being way too general, and at the same time too focused on software development. This post is aimed at poets and other writers, and will be using the most popular version control system, git. (That Wikipedia article shares many of the same flaws as the one on version control.) My earlier post, Git: The other blockchain, was aimed at software developers and blockchain enthusiasts.

What is version control and why should I use it?

A version control system, also called a software configuration management (SCM) system, is a system for keeping track of changes in a collection of files. (The two terms have slightly different connotations and are used in different contexts, but it's like "writer" and "author" -- a distinction without much of a difference. For what it's worth, git's official website is git-scm.com/, but the first line of text on the site says that "Git is a free and open source distributed version control system". Then in the next paragraph they use the initialism SCM when they want to shorten it. Maybe it's easier to type? Go figure.)

So what does the ability to "track changes" really get you?

Quite a lot, actually! )

...and Finally

The part you've been waiting for -- the end. This post is already long, so I'll just refer you to the resources for now. Expect another installment, though, and please feel free to suggest future topics.



Digging Deeper

Another fine post from The Computer Curmudgeon (also at computer-curmudgeon.com).
Donation buttons in profile.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Top news: Colleen is out of the hospital and into a SNF -- both for rehab (she's been in bed way too long) and because she's still on IV antibiotics. The central line hurts; the fact that I can't help is intensely stressful. It's a nearly-two-hour commute each way; I'm glad I don't have a job in Seattle any more.

I'm not getting much done in the time that's left over. I have writing and taxes to do; I probably ought to prioritize the taxes for now.

Since j's Bar Mitzvah last Saturday, all of my assorted nibling are officially adults (by at least one standard).

A couple of links around scientific papers. First the fun stuff: From Linux Journal, By Jupyter--Is This the Future of Open Science? The cool thing about Jupyter notebooks is that they can combine programs (in multiple languages), data, and text. You can also do that in Emacs with org-mode; there's a packaged version of Emacs for Science.

The other set, much more serious, can be found via Wednesday's links. The paper in question is a puliing-no-punches prediction of environmental collapse and its probable consequences. I do not normally put a content warning on my notes, but I think it's warranted in this case. We're talking here about a scientific paper the author of which has a link to "Resources for Emotional Support" in the sidebar of his blog. I'll make a separate post later this week, also with a cut tag.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

It occurs to me that I haven't given an update on Colleen, and one is due about now. Today (early afternoon) she finally got releast from the hospital, and is now in rehab. She still has almost two weeks worth of IV antibiotics; they installed a central line yesterday morning.

She can stand up (she transfered in and out of the wheelchair with the help of a walker), but can't walk yet -- that's most of what the PT team will be working on.

Her current location is Prestige Post-Acute and Rehab Center, 21008 76th Ave. W, Edmonds, WA 98026; room 313. In case anyone reading this wants to visit. The place is lovely -- has the ambiance of a luxury hotel (or maybe a spa -- I wouldn't know).

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Today I'm grateful for...

  • the fact that everyone in my family is still alive,
  • the latest snow having melted in less than a day,
  • (Colleen's caregiver) V,
  • an actual writing gig (thanks for the ability to complete it will have to wait until I do that; I have very little confidence in that direction),
  • a car short enough (under 14') to get cheap ferry rides.

mdlbear: (river)

So... A week ago I had something that might have been a flashback. I think it depends on which definition you use. It was definitely an adrenaline spike triggered by remembering a stressful incident; N said at the time that the exact definition doesn't matter. One of the definitions given by thefreedictionary.com's medical dictionary is "2. In posttraumatic stress disorder (q.v.), the sensations resulting from strong emotional sequences acting as triggers."

I don't think the association with PTSD is particularly accurate -- I wouldn't describe the incident in question as traumatic, just very stressfull and potentially dangerous. And I don't think I process such things the way other people do. Like previous spikes, it was basically just a collection of symptoms that I've come to recognize. If there was an actual emotion going on there, I didn't notice it. I rarely do.

Also, like previous spikes, the symptoms showed up well after the trigger was over and done with. No idea whether that's "normal", but in most past incidents it made it difficult for me to identify the trigger, and in some cases I never did. Last week's was a bit unusual in that I'm pretty confident that I identified the trigger, while the spike was happening. I may be getting better at that.

I don't know whether any of this is interesting to anyone else; I think it was probably useful to me, so I'll keep on writing this kind of thing from time to time.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Not a good week, on the whole. Some high points, to be sure, but a week that covers an unexpected flashback and my wife going into the hospital (again) (and finding out about new problems) has to be pretty low on the goodness scale.

Well, let's have the good parts first. I published two posts: Writing Without Distractions (a curmudgeon post) and my second Understanding Ursine post; both appear to have collected some comments. (Not very many, but I'll take what I can get.) And I went to j's Bar Mitzvah yesterday, which went very well and included some good conversations with relatives I don't get to see very often.

But, as indicated, C is in the hospital again (Swedish Hospital in Edmonds in case you want to visit). She had a urology appointment on Wednesday; the doctor suggested going down to UW (where she's scheduled for a surgery consultation on March 19th, rescheduled from one of the days we were snowed in) as a way of maybe moving thing along faster. That didn't work, in part because they were out of beds. But it's a good thing we went, and a good thing she hadn't taken her BP meds that morning. She'd seemed weaker than usual over the last month (?), and we were getting worried. Turns out there were Reasons. Cut for medical TMI )

I think I'll cover the flashback in a separate post, if at all. The really interesting part was that I recognized what was going on while it was happening. (Whether an adrenaline spike triggered by a memory counts as a "real" flashback may depend on which definition you look up.)

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: (technonerdmonster)

A few years ago I read an article about how to set up a Mac for distraction-free writing. I can't seem to find it anymore (okay, some rather large value of "a few"), but "there's an app for that" now. Many writers on my reading list are talking about distraction-free writing tools like iA Writer (seems to be the one people are most impressed by at the moment) and FocusWriter (free and cross-platform). There's even an Emacs mode.

These all work roughly the same way: run a text editor in full-screen mode, and write plain text with simplified markup in a fixed-width font. Worry about formatting later, if at all. Grey out everything but the sentence or paragraph you're working on. The article I can't find -- written before specialized writing programs and even before the web -- suggested getting the same effect by taking all of the icons off your screen and setting your default font to Courier.

If you're happily using one of these tools, you may want to skip ahead to the section on formatting, and maybe fill in the gaps later. If you're still using a word processor, or typing into a text field in a browser (even in "rich text" mode), you should probably stick with me.

What You See is All You Can Get

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word processors are arguably the worst thing to have happened to writing in the last half-century. They have three huge problems:

The first is that they make a promise they can't deliver on. In fact, they should be called WYSIAYCG -- What You See Is All You Can Get. If your word processor doesn't support kerning, multiple fonts, paragraphs with hanging indents large initial capitals, mathematical notation, or internal cross-linking, you can't use them. If they make it difficult to use these features, you still won't use them unless you absolutely have to, and then you find yourself wasting time doing clumsy work-arounds. Think about how you'd go about formatting song lyrics with chords over them. Shudder. How about making the space between sentences equal to one-and-a-half times the space between words?

The second is related to the first: word processors target a specific page layout. If you want to make a printed book, a web page, and an eBook, you're going to have to do extra work to accommodate the differences, or settle for something that has about the same level of mediocrity in all of those environments.

At a lower level, word processors use proportional-spaced fonts. That means you have to peer over the tops of your glasses to see whether that character at the end of the sentence is a period or a comma, and if your hands are shaking from too much coffee you'll have trouble selecting it. Or putting the cursor in front of it without selecting it, if you want to add a few words.

The third is that they distract you from actually writing, tempting you to fiddle with fonts, reformat your footers, worry about word-wrapping and hyphenation, and place your page breaks to avoid widows and orphans, at a time when you should be concentrating on content.

There's a fourth, mostly unrelated, problem which is so pervasive these days that most people accept it as The Way Things Are: if you accidentally select something and then type, whatever you selected goes away. In almost all cases, even if your word processing has an "undo" feature, this can't be undone. So let's talk a little more about...


Anyone who's been hanging around me long enough is expecting me to mention GNU Emacs at some point, and I will. But there are plenty of other text editors, and most of them are perfectly usable. They're often called "programmers' editors".

I'm not going to tell you how to use a text editor here; I'm just going to tell you more about why, and point you at some resources. Michael Hartl's Learn Enough Text Editor to Be Dangerous is a pretty good introduction to most of them, though you may want to skip the chapter on Vim. It gives short shrift to Emacs, but fortunately the first thing on your screen after starting Emacs is the tutorial. Start there.

So, why would you, a writer, want to use a programmer's editor?

One reason is that programmers have been writing on computers for a quite a bit longer than writers have, so text editors have a considerable head start. More to the point, programmers use their own programs. This gives them a strong incentive to make their programs fast, efficient, and powerful. Not every programmer who has a problem with their text editor is going to fix it, but enough do to make them improve rapidly.

Word processors, on the other hand, are written by programmers, but they are usually written for ordinary users, not experts, and they're written to be products, not programming tools. As products, they have to appeal to their customers, which means that they have to be easy to learn and easy to use. They don't have to work well for people who spend their entire work day writing -- those are a tiny fraction of the customer base.

Another reason is that text editors use fixed-width fonts and encourage you to use comparatively short lines (typically 72 or 80 characters, for reasons that date back to the late 1880s). Paragraphs are separated by blank lines. Since line breaks inside of paragraphs are ignored by formatters, some authors like to start every sentence on a new line, which makes them particularly easy to move around, and makes it easier to spot differences between versions.

A text editor also makes you more efficient by giving you a wide range of keyboard commands -- you can write an entire book without ever taking your fingers off the keyboard. (This is, in part, due to their long history -- text editors predate graphical user interfaces by several decades.) And most modern text editors are extensible, so that if you want new commands or want them to behave differently for different kinds of markup, they're easy to add. (I have a set that I use for my band's lead sheets, for example, and another for my to-do files.)


Up until somewhere around 1990, everyone who did any serious writing knew how to edit a manuscript using proofreaders' marks. Manuscripts were typed double-spaced to leave room for insertions, corrections, and cryptic little marks between the lines and in the margins. This was, logically enough, called "marking up" the manuscript. You've probably heard of Markdown. You've certainly heard of HTML, which stands for "HyperText Markup Language". HTML, in turn, is a variant on SGML, "Standard General Markup Language". You may have heard of LaTeX, which is the standard for academic -- especially scientific -- writing.

Markup languages let you separate content writing from formatting. Semantic markup lets you add additional information about what the things you are marking up mean; it's up to a stylesheet to determine what they look like . In HTML, you don't have to <i>italicize</i> something, you can <em>emphasize</em> a talking point, or <cite>cite</cite> a book title. They usually look the same, so most people don't bother, until they decide to turn all the book titles in their two thousand blog posts into links.

You can see how using semantic markup can free you from having to think about formatting while you're writing. There's another, less obvious advantage: you aren't stuck with just one format. By applying different styles to your document you can make it a web page, a printed book, an eBook, a slide show, or an email.

Another advantage of markup languages is that all of the markup is visible. This week's xkcd: "Invisible Formatting", shows how you can accidentally make a boldface space in the middle of normal text, where it can distract you by making an insertion unexpecedly boldface. It may also make subtle changes in line and word spacing that are hard to track down down.

There are two main kinds of markup languages: ones like Markdown and Textile, that use simple conventions like **double asterisks** for strong emphasis, and the ones that use tags, like <cite>HTML</cite>. LaTeX and Restructured Text are somewhere in the middle, using both methods. You can be a lot more specific with HTML, but Markdown is far easier to type. Markdown and Textile let you mix in HTML for semantic tagging; Markdown, Textile, and Resturectured Text all use LaTeX for mathematical notation. Some formatters let you embed code with colored syntax highlighting.

These days, it looks as though Markdown is the most popular, in part thanks to GitHub; you can find it in static site generators like Hugo and Jekyll, and it's accepted by many blogging platforms (including Dreamwidth). Unfortunately they all accept different dialects of Markdown; there is an enormous number of Markdown-to-whatever converters. But the nice thing about markup languages is that you aren't stuck with just one. That brings us to...


Once you have a file that says exactly what you want to say, the next thing you'll want to do is format it. Formatting programs (a category that includes LaTeX, web browsers, website generators like Jekyll and Hugo) all use some kind of style sheet that describes what each kind of markup is supposed to look like. You probably know about CSS, the "Cascading Style Sheets" that are used on the web. LaTeX has a different set, written in the typesetting language TeX.

If you wrote your file in HTML and you want to publish it on the web, you're done. You may want to make your own stylesheet or customize one of the thousands that are already out there, but you don't have to. Modern browsers do a perfectly reasonable job of formatting. CSS lets you specify a separate style for print, so when a reader wants a printed copy it actually looks like something you'd want to read on paper.

If you wrote your file in LaTeX and you want to publish it on paper, you're done -- it's safe to assume that LaTeX knows more about formatting and typesetting than you do, so you can just tell LaTeX what size your pages, pick one of the hundreds of available stylesheets (or write your own), and let it make you a PDF. You can change the page size or layout with just a few keystrokes.

If you wrote your file in Markdown or some other markup language, there are dozens of formatting programs that produces HTML, LaTeX, PDF, or some combination of those. (My favorite is Pandoc -- see below.) Markdown is also used by static website generators like Hugo or Jekyll, and accepted by everything from blogging sites to GitHub. If you're publishing on the web or in some other medium your formatter supports, you're done.

The advantage of separating content from format is that you're not stuck with one format. Web? Print? eBook? You don't have to pick one, you have all of them at your fingertips. There are hundreds of conversion programs around: html2latex, latex2html, kramdown (which GitHub uses),... For most purposes I recommend Pandoc. The subtitle of Pandoc's home page calls it "a universal document converter", and it is. It can convert between any of the the markup languages I've mentioned here, and more, in either direction. In addition it can output eBook, word processor, wiki, and documentation formats, not to mention PDF. As an example of what it can do, I write these posts in either HTML or Markdown as the mood takes me, and use Pandoc to convert them to HTML for Dreamwidth and plain text, stripping out the tags, so that I can get accurate word counts.

Version Control, etc.

Text files with short lines are ideal for other tools in the Linux (and Unix -- did you know that Unix was originally used by technical writers?) environment. When you compare two files, a line-by-line comparison (which is what diff gives you) is more useful than a paragraph-by-paragraph comparison (which is what diff gives you if you don't hard-wrap your text). Text editors can run formatters, spelling checkers, search tools, and others, and put the cursor on the exact line you're looking for. Want to search nearly 6500 blog posts for your favorite quote from G. K. Chesterton? Took me one line and a little over 4 seconds.

        time find . -type f -exec grep -nHi -e 'rules of architecture' {} +

Many formatting tools simply ignore single line breaks and use a blank line to separate paragraphs, examples include LaTeX and most (though not all) Markdown translators. HTML ignores line breaks altogether and relies on tags. I take advantage of that to make HTML more readable by indenting the text by four spaces, and using 80- or 90-character lines. If you want an example and you're reading this page in a browser, just hit Ctrl-U to look at the page source. Compare that to web pages made without hard-wrapped lines -- you may find yourself scrolling dozens, if not hundreds, of characters to the right because browsers don't do any wrapping when displaying source. Nor would you want them to.

The biggest advantage (in my not-so-humble opinion) is version control. (Those of you who've been around me were just waiting for me to mention git, weren't you?) Being able to find all the changes you made this week -- and why you made them -- can be incredibly useful. Being able to retrieve a file from three years ago that you accidentally deleted is priceless.

This post is already pretty long, so the next post in this series is going to be about version control (and the other things you can do with git and GitHub; it's not just version control) for writers. Stay tuned.


Another fine post from The Computer Curmudgeon (also at computer-curmudgeon.com).

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Hmm. Thursday again. Okay... today I'm grateful for

  • whatever shreds of motivation I can scrape together,
  • Colleen's new health care team,
  • the occasional clear night when the stars are glorious and the sky is so clear you could fall into it,
  • Linux weekly news,
  • the little progress I was able to make on FAWM. Maybe next year.

mdlbear: a rather old-looking spectacled bear (spectacled-bear)


Today's word, "nevermind", is unusual in that it's part of the bear's self-talk (out loud -- the bear frequently talks to themself, and greatly appreciates the fact that bluetooth headsets make talking out loud to oneself socially acceptable). "Nevermind" is not expected to be heard by someone else, although it is spoken in the presence of someone else.

The approximate meaning is "I just asked or told you something. You obviously didn't hear it, but it wasn't important enough to be worth getting your attention and repeating. Never mind." It is generally spoken somewhat more quietly than whatever it was that induced the bear to say it. If heard by the other party, it is intended to assure them that they didn't miss anything important.

Understanding Ursine, the language of bears. Or at least of mandelbears. Or maybe just this mandelbear.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

I don't think I did very much of interest this week, except for posting a third FAWM song (also posted as an S4S, here that I've been working on for over a week, and finishing a curmudgeon post (Git: The other blockchain) that's been sitting around in draft form since early December.

Colleen's health has been pretty bad all week. She now has a prescription for a wheelchair, so we're going to look at some the next time we're in Everett for an appointment. Which will be Wednesday. What would be awesome is a combination walker (rollator, actually) and wheelchair, but those don't seem to exist. I spent most of Monday and Tuesday researching.) There are several rollator/transport chair combinations, and one of those might well be worthwhile. It doesn't help that several appointments that might have helped got snowed out.

My collection of websites is a shambles (or possibly "is shambling" -- there are definitely some zombies in there). It doesn't help that anything that reminds me of one or the other of the houses we used to own is likely to throw me into a tailspin. May be worth a river post soon.

This week's top link is Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Chronic Illness. A certain subset of those may also be interested in Girls With Guts (see Friday for a descriptive quote).

Top video link is this episode of "What in the World?", a TV series that I remember with some fondness from my early days. It will appeal to fans of archaeology and/or Vincent Price. There's a (regrettably short) YouTube playlist here -- the show was on before home videotaping was a thing; most of the episodes have probably been lost.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Today's FAWM song -- only the third this month, so obviously there's no way I'll "win", but that's okay -- is We'll Go No More A-Roving. This is the Martian rover song I've been trying to write for the past two weeks. It finally started coming together a few day ago when it connected with "the Jolly Beggar" (lyrics and video at the link).

It ended up surprisingly upbeat -- or maybe not surprising considering the tune, which is both upbeat and catchy, and has been my earworm for most of the last week. I'll probably put up the audio tomorrow; you can get a good idea of the tune by hitting the link above for lyrics and video of "The Jolly Beggar".

lyrics, if you don't want to click through or prefer indented choruses )

February Album Writing Month: FAWM.ORG/fawmers/mdlbear/.

mdlbear: (technonerdmonster)

Part 1: Blockchain

Blockchain is the technology behind Bitcoin and other cybercurrencies. That's about all anyone outside the software industry knows about it; that and the fact that lots of people are claiming that it's going to transform everything. (The financial industry, the Web, manufacturing supply chains, identity, the music industry, ... the list goes on.) If you happen to be in the software industry and have a moderately good idea of what blockchain is, how it works, and what it can and can't do, you may want to skip to Part 2.

Still with me? Here's the fifty-cent summary of blockchain. Blockchain is a distributed, immutable ledger. Buzzword is a buzzword buzzword buzzword? Blockchain is a chain of blocks? That's closer.

The purpose of a blockchain is to keep track of financial transactions (that's the "ledger" part) and other data by making them public (that's half of the "distributed" part), keeping them in blocks of data (that's the "block" part) that can't be changed (that's the "immutable" part, and it's a really good property for a ledger to have), are linked together by hashes (that's the "chain" part, and we'll get to what hashes are in a moment), with the integrity of that chain guaranteed by a large group of people (that's the other half of the "distributed" part) called "miners" (WTF?).

Let's start in the middle: how can we link blocks of data together so that they can't be changed? Let's start by making it so that any change to a block, or to the order of those blocks, can be detected. Then, the fact that everything is public makes the data impossible to change without that change being glaringly obvious. We do that with hashes.

A hash function is something that takes a large block of data and turns it into a very long sequence of bits (which we will sometimes refer to as a "number", because any whole number can be represented by a sequence of binary digits, and sometimes as a "hash", because the data has been chopped up and mashed together like the corned beef hash you had for breakfast). A good hash function has two important properties:

  1. It's irreversible. Starting with a hash, it is effectively impossible to construct a block of data that will produce that hash. (It is significantly easier to construct two blocks with the same hash, which is why the security-conscious world moves to larger hashes from time to time.)
  2. It's unpredictable. If two blocks of data differ anywhere, even by a single bit, their hashes will be completely different.

Those two together mean that if two blocks have the same hash, they contain the same data. If somebody sends you a block and a hash, you can compare the hash of the block and if it matches, you can be certain that the block hasn't been damaged or tampered with before it got to you. And if they also cryptographically sign that hash, you can be certain that they used the key that created that signature.

Now let's guarantee the integrity of the sequence of blocks by chaining them together. Every block in the chain contains the hash of the previous block. If block B follows block A in the chain, B's hash depends in part on the hash of block A. If a villain tries to insert a forged transaction into block A, its hash won't match the one in block B.

Now we get to the part that makes blockchain interesting: getting everyone to agree on which transactions go into the next block. This is done by publishing transactions where all of the miners can see them. The miners then get to work with shovels and pickaxes big fast computers, validating the transaction, putting it into a block, and then running a contest to see which of them gets to add their block to the chain and collect the associated reward. Winning the contest requires doing a lot of computation. It's been estimated that miners' computers collectively consume roughly the same amount of electricity as Ireland.

There's more to it, but that's blockchain in a nutshell. I am not going to say anything about what blockchain might be good for besides keeping track of virtual money -- that's a whole other rabbit hole that I'll save for another time. For now, the important thing is that blockchain is a system for keeping track of financial transactions by using a chain of blocks connected by hashes.

The need for miners to do work is what makes the virtual money they're mining valuable, and makes it possible for everyone to agree on who owns how much of it without anyone having to trust anyone else. It's all that work that makes it possible to detect cheating. It also makes it expensive and slow. The Ethereum blockchain can handle about ten transactions per second. Visa handles about 10,000.

Part 2: The other blockchain

Meanwhile, in another part of cyberspace, software developers are using another system based on hash chains to keep track of their software -- a distributed version control system called git. It's almost completely different, except for the way it uses hashes. How different? Well, for starters it's both free and fast, and you can use it at home. And it has nothing to do with money -- it's a version control system.

If you've been with me for a while, you've probably figured out that I'm extremely fond of git. This post is not an introduction to git for non-programmers -- I'm working on that. However, if you managed to get this far it does contain enough information to stand on its own,

Git doesn't use transactions and blocks; instead it uses "objects", but just like blocks each object is identified by its hash. Instead of keeping track of virtual money, it keeps track of files and their histories. And just as blockchain keeps a complete history of everyone's coins, git records the complete history of everyone's data.

Git uses several types of object, but the most fundamental one is called a "blob", and consists of a file, its size, and the word "blob". For example, here's how git idenifies one of my Songs for Saturday posts:

git hash-object 2019/01/05--s4s-welcome-to-acousticville.html

Everything you do with git starts with the git command. In this case we're using git hash-object and giving it the pathname of the file we want to hash. Hardly anyone needs to use the hash-object subcommand; it's used mainly for testing and the occasional demonstration.

Git handles a directory (you may know directories as "folders" if you aren't a programmer) by combining the names, metadata, and hashes of all of its contents into a type of object called a "tree", and taking the hash of the whole thing.

Here, by the way, is another place where git really differs from blockchain. In a blockchain, all the effort of mining goes into making sure that every block points to its one guaranteed-unique correct predecessor. In other words, the blocks form a chain. Files and directories form a tree, with the ordinary files as the leaves, and directories as branches. The directory at the top is called the root. Top? Top. For some reason software trees grow from the root down. After a while you get used to it.

Actually, that's not quite accurate, because git stores each object in exactly one place, and it's perfectly possible for the same file to be in two different directories. This can be very useful -- if you make a hundred copies of a file, git only has to store one of them. It's also inaccurate because trees, called Merkle Trees are used inside of blocks in a blockchain. But I digress.

Technically the hash links in both blockchains and git form a directed acyclic graph -- that means that the links all point in one direction, and there aren't any loops. In order to make a loop you'd have to predict the hash of some later block, and you just can't do that. I have another post about why this is a good thing.

And that brings us to the things that make git, git: commits. ("Commit" is used in the same sense, more or less, as it is in the phrase "commit something to memory", or "commit to a plan of action". It has very little to do with crime. Hashes are even more unique than fingerprints, and we all know what criminals think about fingerprints. In cryptography, the hash of a key is called its fingerprint.)

Anyway, when you're done making changes in a project, you type the command

git commit

... and git will make a new commit object which contains, among other things, the time and date, your name and email address, maybe your cryptographic signature, a brief description of what you did (git puts you into your favorite text editor so you can enter this if you didn't put it on the command line), the hash of the current root, and the hash of the previous commit. Just like a blockchain.

Unlike earlier version control systems, git never has to compare files; all it has to do is compare their hashes. This is fast -- git's hashes are only 20 bytes long, no matter how big the files are or how many are in a directory tree. And if the hashes of two trees are the same, git doesn't have to look at any of the blobs in those trees to know that they are all the same.

@ Blockchain 101 — only if you ‘know nothing’! – Hacker Noon @ When do you need blockchain? Decision models. – Sebastien Meunier @ Git - Git Objects @ git ready » how git stores your data @ Git/Internal structure - Wikibooks, open books for an open world @ Why Singly-Linked Lists Win* | Stephen Savitzky

Another fine post from The Computer Curmudgeon (also at computer-curmudgeon.com).

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Hmm. Thursday. Today I am grateful for

  • improvements in the weather, after two weeks being mostly snowed in;
  • someone else to share cooking responsibilities with;
  • improving health for some members of the household (though not all, and that's worrisome);
  • cat therapy;
  • git and my expertise therewith;
  • encouraging email from $editor (mixed feelings -- I may actually have to do some writing).

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

There is sadness this week, as NASA's Opportunity Rover Mission on Mars Comes to End. Oppy's last transmission amounted to “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”. Several songs have already been written; I'll almost certainly try to write one of my own. Probably from Oppy's POV; I seem to enjoy anthropomorphizing AIs and other inanimate objects.

Not a whole lot has been getting done this week. I did manage to run some errands Thursday and Friday, with the car on the street. Pulled back into the driveway Friday after things were done, anticipating that the predicted good weather would make it possible to get up again the next time I need to. Fingers crossed.

I started working on the potential writing (tutorials) gig -- we'll see whether $editor likes my proposal. Not many notes Friday and Saturday as a result. Not sure I'm working fast enough. That remains to be seen; it's going slower than I'd like but that may just be because I'm working on the outline.

If you're into music at all, you'll get a kick out of (Gimme Some of That) Ol' Atonal Music - YouTube and Twelve Tones - YouTube (via ysabetwordsmith).

And I was highly amused to find someone seriously advocating the use of RFC 1149, some 18 years after I wrote a song about it.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Today I am grateful for

  • My family.
  • Our cats, with extra thanks to Desti for letting me type with her on my lap.
  • Fifteen years of Opportunity, and a lot of good memorials.
  • Warmer weather and mostly-clear roads.
  • Finding something that looks very much like a profitable writing gig.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

So, it's been a (mostly snowbound) week. It started snowing last Sunday morning; by Monday we had five inches and the streets were impassable. Tuesday I drove down the driveway because C had a Wednesday appointment and I needed to get the car charged; Wednesday we had to cancel because I couldn't get up the driveway. Good thing, because if I had Colleen and I would probably have gotten stuck at the bottom of some hill.

I was able to get out Thursday and shop for staples (and L's drugs). I had very sensibly parked on the street again. Apparently it takes two or three days for the crews to plow and sand the streets to the point where a two-wheel drive car can use them. C cancelled her Friday appointment just a few minutes before they would have called her. We have seven or eight inches total right now, with more on the way tonight, Monday, and Tuesday.

I've been less productive than I'd like for FAWM, but not entirely idle. I got my second song out on time, and then got totally stuck trying to come up with either a follower to that one, or something about my father. Total blank. I guess, in retrospect, that getting derailed was not really surprising, but those songs really want to get written. I was rescued yesterday by a collaboration with [personal profile] pocketnaomi, and it did involve a truck, but I'm still behind.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

I am falling behind in FAWM -- it's the 9th, and as of this afternoon I had only two songs up. Now, thanks to a collaboration with [personal profile] pocketnaomi, I have three (which is still behind, only not as much).

Today's s4s is Weird Load, and it was a heck of a lot of fun. N had the initial idea, and wrote the chorus (including the melody). I filled in the verses, and N posted it after some edits. Then I consed up the verse melody (which is almost the same as the chorus). It continues my short string of truck songs, although it's not connected at all to the other two.

Lyrics )

February Album Writing Month: FAWM.ORG/fawmers/mdlbear/.

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Today I am thankful...

  • that I was able to get Molly (our Chevy Bolt) down the (snow-covered) driveway and on the charger Tuesday;
  • for our newly-installed charger, that can charge Molly from empty in nine-and-a-half hours, as opposed to fifty;
  • that I was able to get Molly up out of the driveway yesterday, and do some grocery shopping and drug running between snowstorms;
  • that Colleen's appointment in Freeland was cancelled (just as she was in the process of cancelling it herself);
  • that I was able to retrieve Desti after the silly creature decided to go out in the snow;
  • that I was able to get a couple of songs written for FAWM (whether I will manage to write any more remains to be seen);
  • for Boot-Repair.

mdlbear: (river)

It's been twenty years to the day since my father died. (And twenty years plus two weeks since my mother-in-law died; that was a devastating couple of weeks.)

Since it's FAWM, I probably ought to try to write a song. But there are two already: "The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of" and "Rainbow's Edge". Both have pretty extensive notes; I'm not going to duplicate them here.

I'm okay; it's been long enough that most of the sharp edges have worn off. (Although, I almost posted this with 10 instead of 20 -- maybe it hasn't been that long.)

The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of: [ogg] [mp3]

I still find myself wanting to call and tell him something, from time to time.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Today's FAWM song, the second this month, is up: "Besties'.

It's the anticipated follow-on to "Twenty-First Century Breakup Song". I'm very unhappy with the audio of the first two verses; it's still very unstable and was even more so when I made the recording.

As the liner notes say, as soon as I'd written "Twenty-First Century Breakup Song", it was clear that I had to write the other part of the story. The only question was whose point of view to use, and that answered itself with the first line.

lyrics, if you don't want to click through or prefer indented choruses )

(Just as an aside, it's really hard to type with a warm, cuddly cat in one's lap. Should I write a song about you, Desti?)

It's been suggested (see comments on the song page) that this could turn into a theme album. I'm not sure I can sustain it for a full month, but there's certainly enough material in this story for an EP. *rubs hands together gleefully*

February Album Writing Month: FAWM.ORG/fawmers/mdlbear/.

mdlbear: (audacity)

Good grief! Got so wrapped in songwriting -- or is that FAWMwriting -- that I didn't notice it was Sunday. I will attempt to rectify that error.

I managed to start FAWM (February Album-Writing Month, in case you missed the announcements) pretty well; the silly thing's been well received, I think. You can also see the lyrics on yesterday's Songs for Saturday, but you'll have to click through to FAWM if you want the audio. Which is not too bad for something that was slapped together in under an hour. It's only the one song so far, we'll see whether I can make a second song come together by tomorrow night.

Related to that, I finally got around to uploading Coffee, Computers, and Song to bandcamp

It's still snowing here on Whidbey; we're well on our way to getting the predicted 3-4 inches. I am not crazy about driving in snow, but I can do it when I have to. I parked on the street this evening; I don't know what the driveway is going to be like after the slush freezes, but I don't really want to know.

The most useful links this week are probably the ones on Monday about Data Privacy Day.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Since I'm doing FAWM (February Album-Writing Month) (for the first time), and I've just uploaded my first song, and it's Saturday, I'm going to subject you to it.

The song in question is "Twenty-First Century Breakup Song", and it even has an audio track. lyrics, just for the record )

By the end of yesterday I'd squeezed out a four line verse and what looked like three lines of a chorus. The chorus actually made it all the way into the final song, having acquired two more lines. It took me a most of today to make the verses work, but when I got the last verse to come together I knew it was going to work.

The melody came together in less than an hour. That often happens; I tend to start hearing bits of it in my head while I'm writing. D is an easy key to play, and generally a good one for me to sing in.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit

Also, FAWM.

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

How did it get to be Thursday again so fast? Today I am grateful for...

  • FAWM.ORG for giving me a reason to get off my butt and do something creative...
  • ... and also giving me an incentive to put Coffee, Computers and Song up on Bandcamp...
  • ... and that it hasn't started yet, so I can be grateful for it without knowing whether I will actually have any creativity to be grateful for next week.
  • The electricians, who are finally installing the car charger outlet, and the outlets in the garage that I expect to be plugging shop lights into.
  • As always, my family...
  • ... including our quadrupedal family members.

mdlbear: (ccs-cover)

FAWM (February Album-Writing Month) starts tomorrow. In a not-entirely-unconnected event, I have (finally!) put Coffee, Computers and Song up on Bandcamp.

I'm going to use the fact that Bandcamp (started in 2008) didn't exist when I released the album (2007) as an excuse for not having done this sooner. I know, pretty lame. But joining a site that asks for a Bandcamp link if you have one makes as good a reason as any.

I should also add that it's still available on CD Baby Music Store, which also has actual, physical CDs to sell you.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

This is coming out on a Monday rather than Sunday because I spent the weekend at Conflikt, our local filk music convention. I'm usually too lazy to do a formal con report, and this lets me collect all the notes in one place that's easy to find .

Meta: rather than create tags like conflikt-2019, I use the two tags conflikt and 2019. This only works if the year tag is only used for events that occur annually. Using the same tag for every post in a year would be pretty useless. DW doesn't appear to give you boolean searches, but I can do it in my archive.

I didn't have a concert slot this year, and didn't feel up to a twofer, so my own music-making was confined to a little noodling in the hallways and a couple of songs on Sunday. One of those was following Frank Hayes's "When I Was a Boy" with my parody of it; that was a major win. Ad-libbed a reference to RFC-1149, and "talk about spaghetti code" after the line about plugboards. But, yeah; not enough singing. Not enough conversation, either.

I think my favorite concert was Lauren Cox's Interfilk Guest concert; her song about her cat made me tear up a little. That, and her joining Cat Faber on "I Will Remember" (about depression) on Sunday.

I got in my request for a concert slot next year; we'll see how far that goes.

The week also included a total lunar eclipse -- I didn't stay outside for the whole thing, but got a good look just at the start of totality.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Today I am grateful for...

  • Housemates who can cook.
  • Family members getting the health care they need.
  • Firefox. Also, other software made by people who give a damn about privacy.
  • mynoise.net
  • A second week without a trip to the ER.

Icon Meme

2019-01-24 02:16 pm
mdlbear: (lemming)

How it works: reply with "Oh! Shiny" and I'll choose three of your icons. Tell me about them: where they came from, what they mean to you, and/or when you deploy them. Drop a link here to your post in your own journal. Spread it around.

(Not sure how long it will take me, if there's a deluge of responses.)

[personal profile] jesse_the_k asked me about:

"My fandom predates TV"

A stylized, multicolor line drawing of a propeller beanie. The outlined gores are colored (left to right) red, purple, and blue; there are white spaces between them. The propeller is a green infinity sign.

described in  entry

I got this from [livejournal.com profile] lysana; it looks like it was made by her artist husband [livejournal.com profile] blackfyr. It has fallen out of use recently; I used it 26 times, between 2004 and 2011, for posts about science fiction fandom or conventions.

The icon isn't completely accurate; Science fiction fandom as we know it today dates back only to 1929. Philo Farnsworth demonstrated the first electronic television, using his image dissector tube, in 1928, and mechanical versions existed before then. Television broadcasting, however, only started in the late 1930s.

"hacker traveling"

The background is a 3x3 grid of black lines on a white background; five black circles make a "glider", instantly familiar to anyone who knows about Conway's Game of Life. Against this background a picture of an old guy in a tweed cap moves counter-clockwise in a circle centered somewhere in the lower right-hand corner.

described in  entry

This icon was made by [livejournal.com profile] snobahr, in 2007; the moving image came from the cover of my CD, Coffee, Computers and Song, which was in production at the time. It was first used in this post, the second of two posts from OSCon 2007. It was used a total of 30 times in 2007 and 2008, once in 2009, and once in 2012, mostly for posts about software-related conventions.

On a purple background, the word "CONSONANCE", in black. The letters are compressed toward the top, and the two "N"'s are the support towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.

described in  entry

This is the logo of Consonance - The SF Bay Area Filk Convention. Colleen and I attended all of them until 2012, when we moved to Seattle, and a few after that; our last one was in 2015. This icon appears to have been used only once, in this post, live-blogged from the Interfilk concert.

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