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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: (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.

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.

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

I'm still not getting as much real work done as I need to, so I'm still down on myself as usual, but I've gotten a few, mostly less important, things done.

I actually did a little hacking this week: we wanted to put the music collection onto an mp3 player for m, so I had to transcode the existing collection, most of which is in ogg vorbis. I realized that I could shrink them considerably in the process, which got all the folk and filk in under 20GB. The whole thing will almost certainly come in under 64GB, and micro SD cards that size are getting cheap. There was a moderate amount of bash scripting involved. There will be even more next time; the server is about a quarter the speed of my fastest laptop.

I seem to be the official household recipient for dead or dubious electronics. It's not that I'm necessarily capable of fixing it, just that I'm the only one who might consider it worth attempting. Not that I actually do attempt it in all cases; that's why I also maintain the household's collection of dead phones and tablets. However, I've gotten pretty good at simple laptop repair and linux installs.

Top link for the week goes to The Ultimate Rain Sound Generator, which includes a very effective conversation-blocker setting. If you prefer something other than rain its parent site, myNoise.net, has an enormous number of alternatives. Done by Stéphane Pigeon, who also built (the internet has a cat)Purrli.

Also, .wtf is a top-level domain. WTF??!

Notes & links, as usual )

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

There will be a total lunar eclipse tomorrow night. The entire eclipse will be visible from anywhere in the Americas and Europe. Here on Whidbey Island, the eclipse starts at 7:33pm and ends at 10:50pm; totality runs from 8:41 to 9:43pm. This is going to be a glorious eclipse. According to Astronomy Picture of the Day, the next total lunar eclipse visible from anywhere on the planet will be on May 26, 2021, and will last 15 minutes.

Details, and times for your location, can be found at: Total Lunar Eclipse on January 20–21, 2019 – Where and When to See

ETA: of course, this is the Pacific Northwest. It will probably be raining.

mdlbear: (technonerdmonster)

It's getting so that data breaches aren't news anymore unless they're huge. The Gizmodo article calls it The Mother of All Breaches, exposing 773 million email addresses and 21 million passwords. There's a more complete post by Troy Hunt: The 773 Million Record "Collection #1" Data Breach. Hunt is the person behind the Have I Been Pwned website. That should be your next stop -- it lets you check to see which of your email addresses, usernames, and passwords have appeared in any data breach.

If your password shows up in Pwned Passwords, stop using it. Consider enabling two-factor authentication where you can, and getting a password vault. Hunt recommends 1Password. If you want open source, you can try KeePassX.

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

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Today I am grateful for

  • A callback from a prospective employer. (I still don't really expect this to go much farther, and I suspect that any job at this point in my life is a stretch, but we'll see.)
  • The occasional recruiter on LinkedIn
  • Family members getting the health care they need.
  • Housemates. (Continuing the household tradition of taking in stray puppies and lost sheep.)
  • The Ultimate Rain Sound Generator, which includes a very effective conversation-blocker setting.
  • Ginger and dark chocolate, for throat-soothing.
  • Just possibly, getting off my arse and doing stuff.

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

I'm not sure where this week went. It doesn't feel as though I did very much. (And looking over the notes, that seems fairly accurate.) As usual.

I got a little more done than usual about the yard (which is a disaster) and the garage (likewise). However, since "usual" is nothing at all, that's not saying much. And since "usual" has been going on for over a year...

I'm not finding a lot to say about this week, so I think I'll stop here. There are some good links about privacy under the cut; probably the most generally useful is How to Set Up Your Devices for Privacy Protection from DuckDuckGo.com, which is a search engine that doesn't track you, and which I also recommend.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

How the F*** did it get to be Thursday? I wasn't done with Tuesday yet!

Today I am thankful for:

  • Motivation, when (and if) I can find it
  • Informative websites
  • Cuddly cats
  • A little extra money never hurts
  • Being able to make a little extra space

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

Signal boost: jesse_the_k | Markdown Simplifies Formatting Your DW Posts.

Markdown is a popular plain-text markup language that strongly resembles the conventions of email. In fact, posting by email has used markdown for a long time; you can now use it for posting by using the HTML editor and starting your post with !markdown. It also works if you're using a client that takes raw HTML, such as charm or MakeStuff. See Jesse's post for the cheat-sheet, or go to the official spec, at https://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/syntax. Note that most GitHub extensions, e.g. code fencing with triple backticks, are not supported. At least, not yet. There is one DW-specific extension: @username expands to a standard user link, e.g. [personal profile] mdlbear.

mdlbear: (technonerdmonster)

Some day I ought to put together a comprehensive list of privacy-related links. This is not that list; it's just a few of the links that came my way recently, in no particular order.

I'd suggest starting with the ACLU's What Individuals Should Do Now That Congress Has Obliterated the FCC’s Privacy Protections. It's a good overview.

DuckDuckGo is my current privacy-preserving search engine of choice. The DuckDuckGo Blog has been a good source of additional information. I especially recommend this article on How to Set Up Your Devices for Privacy Protection -- it has advice for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows 10 and 7, and Linux. Also check out a broader range of tips here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, as you might expect, is another great source of information. I suggest starting with Tools from EFF's Tech Team. While you're there, install Privacy Badger. It's not exactly an ad blocker; what it does is block trackers.

Here's an article on Which Browser Is Better for Privacy? (Spoiler: it's Firefox.) Then go to Firefox Privacy - The Complete How-To Guide.

For the paranoid among us, there are few things better than Tor Browser. If you use it, you'll probably want to turn off Javascript as well.

The Linux Journal's article on Data Privacy: Why It Matters and How to Protect Yourself has a lot of good advice, most of which isn't Linux-specific at all.

However, if you are running Linux, you'll want to look at How To Encrypt Your Home Folder After Ubuntu Installation, Locking down and securing SSH access to your server, and Own Your DNS Data.

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

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

I'm still not getting much done. The week between Christmas and New Year felt like a vacation, but getting back to work afterwards? Not so much. this article may explain some of that. Though I can't escape the feeling that I'm simply lazy. I've noticed a tendency to get annoyed when Colleen nags me to do something that I've been putting off for too long; I think a large part of that is that these are things that I beat myself up over every damned day.

Most of my current problems are self-inflicted. The few that aren't, I've simply made worse by neglecting them. I don't like myself very much this morning. This week.

On the plus side, Colleen and I celebrated our 43rd anniversary with dinner at Toby's on Friday. And I made a wooden guide to replace the totally inadequate L-hook holding the cat lock in place. And I did a small amount of writing, and an even smaller but still non-zero amount of programming. So there's that.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: (rose)

I'm not sure whether to lead with the back-story, or the song. I think the song. One of the songs. For some of the back-stories.

Today's song is Janis Ian's "Welcome to Acousticville" (Lyrics). It's on her album, Hunger. Go and listen. I'll wait.

Back-story - the song

I first heard "Welcome to Acousticville" the one time I heard Janis perform live, at a little Mexican restaurant called Don Quixote in Felton, CA. (You might want to look at my post, though it doesn't say very much.) "Welcome to Acousticville" was one of my two favorite songs from that concert; the other was "The Last Train" (lyrics. I've sung that one quite a few times, though not recently. Never had the guts to try "Welcome to Acousticville".

Janis Ian is a science fiction fan; I find it interesting but not surprising that my two favorite songs of hers are fantasy; neither would be out of place at a filksing.

Back-story - the title

This post grew out of comments by me and [personal profile] technoshaman on bairnsidhe's poem, "No Simple Highway". I've already posted a Songs for Saturday about "Ripple"; what brought this one on was the later discussion of my purple rose icon (which you can see on this post) in connection with psychopompery. (I know it isn't officially a word, but it's what psychopomps do, and I'm not the first one to use it.)

Back-story - the icon

The rose icon started out as a gif that somebody posted on Usenet; I took out the background and adjusted the color balance until it looked right. I created it in 1990, in honor of my daughter Amethyst Rose. I first used it as an icon on LJ in 2003; it appears to have been the second icon I uploaded, after the fractal that I still use as a default.

Since then, I've been using it as my standard icon not only for the Amethyst Rose posts, but for most posts and comments about grieving. Most people use a candle.

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

So this is my first gratitude post of 2019. That ought to be good for something, but I'm not sure what.

  • I'm grateful to the universe that I'm still alive.
  • I'm grateful to 2018, mainly for being over. Not much else.
  • I'm grateful to Colleen, my wife of 43 (as of today) years, for not murdering me. (I'm pretty sure she's thought about it.)
  • I'm grateful that today's windstorm seems to have abated without causing a power outage.
  • I'm grateful to our cats for being patient with my rather meager grasp of their language.

mdlbear: (river)

This morning Colleen turned to me and said something to the effect of "It's our anniversary. Forty-three years and we ain't killed each other yet." She added that "it's been close a couple of times", and I can't argue with that.

Here's to another forty-three, love. a bunch of    flowers with the words 'for you'

mdlbear: (river)

It occurred to me about an hour ago that it's probably not surprising that I feel like I'm under stress. Some of the most stressful events are supposed to be things like losing a job, retiring, and moving. In the last six and a half years I've:

  • Moved five times.
  • Been involved in three remodeling projects.
  • Been laid off twice.
  • Sold a house twice. (In both cases for a great deal less than expected.)
  • Bought a house twice.
  • Lost a (feline) family member.
  • Totaled a car.
  • Retired.
  • Started job-hunting again.

Not to mention other household members with life-threatening health problems. (Mine were just painful as heck -- multiple torn muscles and a broken nose.)

So, yeah. That happened.

mdlbear: (river)

At this point I could punt and simply carry all of last year's goals forward. Most of them -- Worldcon in San Jose is past its use-by date. But several of last year's goals were carried over from 2017. What makes me think I'd do any better this year? My biggest problem is still procrastination. It would be easy to blame it on depression or burnout but let's face it, those are largely effects rather than causes.

And many new challenges came in from the family health crisis that we couldn't possibly have forseen. Not my story to tell, but the drain on the household finances and on everyone's time and energy is huge.

  1. Okay, then. The number one goal is simply getting through the damned year, alive and with one or more roofs over our heads. Yeah, I know -- the problems aren't all my fault. Only most of them. That doesn't keep me from feeling responsible.
  2. There are two bucket-list events coming up; the first is my 50th college reunion. I don't want a repeat of the my high school reunion debacle. I'm going.
  3. The second is Mom's 99th birthday celebration.
  4. There's a lot of yard work that needs to get done in order to make the apartment over the garage attractive as a vacation rental. Weeding, mowing, and fixing the driveway are the high-order bits.
  5. There's also a huge amount of paperwork associated with setting up a vacation rental as well -- business license, tax stuff, all that. Not to mention putting (some fraction of) the associated remodeling on our taxes. Lots of figuring-out to do. Just the sort of thing I hate.
  6. I have to either get a job (which is unlikely and largely out of my control, but I have to at least crank out the applications) or start a business.
  7. I have to put in an amended tax return for 2017; that means finding the rest of the receipts for work done on the house. Mostly that's yard, deck, bathroom, studio, and the stairlifts.
  8. Having just found out that my posting software hasn't been passing the Music: header up to DW, I'm putting writing a good command-line DW client on the list. Most likely written in Perl, Python, or Go. Of course, it needs to be able to upload as well as post, in order to backfill the music.
  9. Speaking of music, we're working toward a concert at Conflikt in 2020. That means not only picking our setlist and rehearsing the heck out of it, but having CDs to sell. This is a huge stretch -- recording new CDs has been on my to-do list for over a decade now (CC&S came out in 2007).
  10. And then there's writing. No particular target, but definitely more curmudgeon and s4s posts.

Okay, ten is enough. Ship it.

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

Hippo Gnu Deer.

mdlbear: (river)

... and as usual, even a lot of things that should have been easy didn't get done. I'd say that I blew it completely, but that's probably letting myself off easy.

Let's look at the goals for this year:

tl;dr: a total disaster )

45 1/3 out of a possible 1100. Average: 4.1%. Not one of my better years. Possibly my worst.

On a perhaps more encouraging note, here are my posting statistics by month:

Posting stats:
all of 2018 by month:
  14297 words in 11 posts	 in 2018/01 (average 1299/post)
   9412 words in  7 posts	 in 2018/02 (average 1344/post)
   8753 words in  5 posts	 in 2018/03 (average 1750/post)
  11671 words in  7 posts	 in 2018/04 (average 1667/post)
  11813 words in 17 posts	 in 2018/05 (average 694/post)
  14436 words in 15 posts	 in 2018/06 (average 962/post)
  19415 words in 17 posts	 in 2018/07 (average 1142/post)
   7579 words in 10 posts	 in 2018/08 (average 757/post)
   9339 words in 12 posts	 in 2018/09 (average 778/post)
  12017 words in 11 posts	 in 2018/10 (average 1092/post)
  15617 words in 30 posts	 in 2018/11 (average 520/post)
  12774 words in 18 posts	 in 2018/12 (average 709/post)
 147123 words in 160 posts total in 2018 (average 919/post)

It looks as though I've been posting about every other day most months, and nearly every day in November. Not sure what happened in February through April -- those were little more than the done posts. Okay, that wasn't really very encouraging.

I'm not really up to writing a narrative summary of the year. I prefer stories with happy endings and, preferably, not too much bad stuff getting there. I also hate cliffhangers, and this year certainly counts in that category.

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

It looks like the basic idea works, but I was using slashes as the delimiter for the sed command that puts the post url into the archived post. Since the url contains slashes, that failed.

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

This is a test: (The results will be posted in a comment)

### this prints out the URL of the last post you made today:
    wget -q -O - https://mdlbear.dreamwidth.org/$(date +%Y/%m/%d/)  \
       | grep 'class="entry-title"' | tail -1                    \
       | sed -E 's/^<[^>]*><[^>]*href="([^"]*)".*$/\1/'

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

It's been a week. Again. It was lovely having the entire household together for Christmas; We had roast beast and Yorkshire pudding. Instead of cooking the pudding under the roast I poured out the fat into muffin tins, then roasted a batch of Brussels sprouts and potatoes in the pan with the remaining drippings. Worked well -- I'm going to remember that.

For the last several months I've been scared about my budget shortfall. Yesterday I found a mistake in my spreadsheet that brought it down from nearly $2K to just under $600. Still problematic, and there's enough uncertainty that it could easily go higher. But...

siderea's post: The Vimes Boots Theory: Further Reflections applies here. I may be able to break even on a day-to-day basis, but I'm all out of savings, and some things are going to require money up front, including everything I need to make the apartment into something that we can use as a vacation rental. And if anything happens... there's no slack at all.

Speaking of slack, I spend too much time on social media. And yet, here I am. At least I've mostly dumped FB except for the occasional email notification that looks interesting enough to follow up. I stopped reading Twitter last year. Or the year before. I don't miss it.

I have a bad habit of letting things go until it's too late to do anything about them. Usually I end up regretting the missed opportunity, and too often for comfort it ends up being a disaster. See trainwreck.

Here: have a listen to Beethoven's Ode to Joy Played With 167 Theremins Placed Inside Matryoshka Dolls in Japan. Apparently a matryomin is a thing. A thing you can make, if you don't want to shell out $400 for one. You're welcome.

Notes & links, as usual )

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

Back in November I wrote an S4S about Stan Rogers' "The Mary Ellen Carter". It's one of the two songs my family turns to when things are going bad. Here's the other.

Sydney Carter's song "Julian Of Norwich", more commonly known as "The Bells of Norwich", is about hope. It's been in short supply lately.

The lyrics are taken, more or less directly, from the writings of Julian of Norwich, who lived in what historian Barbara Tuchman called "The Calamitous 14th Century". Hope was in even shorter supply back then: the page in Wikipedia about the book lists ...the Hundred Years' War, the Black Plague, the Papal Schism, pillaging mercenaries, anti-Semitism, popular revolts including the Jacquerie in France, the liberation of Switzerland, the Battle of the Golden Spurs, and peasant uprisings. Not to mention the advance of the Islamic Ottoman Empire into Europe, ending in the disastrous Battle of Nicopolis.

The relevant quote from Julian's writing is

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

That comes through in the song's chorus as

Ring out! Bells of Norwich, and let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know.

This would probably be a good time for you to go listen to the song: Here's one, on YouTube, accompanied by hammered dulcimer. Here's another, with a very pretty harp part, recorded by the OHRWURM Folk Orchestra. (Interesting name, what?) There are others.

Nobody knows Julian's real name. She was an anchoress, who lived in a cell attached to St Julian's Church in Norwich. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, is believed to be the first surviving book written in English by a woman, and is much beloved.

I'll leave you with the last chorus:

All shall be well, I'm telling you, Let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know.

I wish I could believe that. Maybe if I sing it loud enough.

mdlbear: (technonerdmonster)

From king5.com :

In case of an emergency and you can't get through by dialing 911, you can dial the following numbers for dispatch centers:

Chelan/Douglas County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (509) 663-9911 Clallam County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire 360-417-2259/2459 or 360-417-4970 Grays Harbor 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (800) 281-6944 Island County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (360) 678-6116 Jefferson County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire 360-385-3831 or 360-344-9779 EXT. 0 or text 911 King County 911 Bothell Police (425) 486-1254 Enumclaw Police (360) 417-2259 Lake Forrest Park Police (425) 486-1254 Issaquah Police (425) 837- 3200 Redmond Police (425) 556-2500 Snoqualmie Police (425) 888-3333 Seattle Police (206) 625-5011 Seattle Fire (206) 583-2111 Norcom (425) 577-5656 Fire Departments – Bellevue FD, Bothell FD, Duvall FD, Eastside Fire and Rescue, Fall City FD, Kirkland FD, Mercer Island FD, Northshore FD, Redmond FD, Shoreline FD, Skykomish FD, Snoqualmie FD, Snoqualmie Pass Fire and Rescue and Woodinville Fire and Rescue Police Departments – Bellevue PD, Clyde Hill PD, Medina PD, Kirkland PD, Mercer Island PD and Normandy Park Police. Valley Com (253) 852-2121 Fire Departments - Valley Regional Fire Authority (Algona, Pacific and Auburn), South King Fire and Rescue (Federal Way and Des Moines), Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority (Kent, Seatac, Covington and Maple Valley), Tukwila FD, Renton FD, Burien /Normandy Park FD, Skyway Fire, Mountain View Fire and Rescue, Palmer Selleck Fire Districts, Vashon Island Fire and Rescue, Enumclaw FD, King County Airport (Boeing Field) and King County Medic One Police Departments - Algona PD, Pacific PD, Auburn PD, Des Moines PD, Federal Way PD, Kent PD, Renton PD and Tukwila PD. King County Sheriff’s Office (206) 296-3311 Town of Beaux Arts, City of Burien, City of Carnation, City of Covington, City of Kenmore, King County Airport Police (Boeing Field), City of Maple Valley, King County Metro Transit, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, City of Newcastle, City of Sammamish, City of Seatac, City of Shoreline, Town of Skykomish, Sound Transit and City of Woodinville. Kitsap County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (360)-308-5400 Kittitas County 911 Lower County: 509 925 8534 Upper County: 509 674 2584, select 1, then select 1 for KITTCOM Lewis County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (360) 740-1105 Mason County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (360) 426-4441 Pacific County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (360) 875-9397 Pierce County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (253) 798-4722 *Except Tacoma, Fircrest, Fife and Ruston - call Tacoma Fire Dispatch (253)627-0151 San Juan County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (360) 378-4151 Skagit County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (360) 428-3211 Snohomish County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (425) 407-3999 Thurston County 911 Countywide 911 Center for Police and Fire (360) 704-2740 Whatcom County 911 Whatcom County Fire (360) 676-6814 Whatcom County Sheriff (360) 676-6911

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

mdlbear: (technonerdmonster)

Last night around 11pm I was awakened by an alert on my phone telling me that 911 service was down, and giving me an alternat number to call. By morning, it was clear that it wasn't a local problem. A quick search showed that the problem was caused by CenturyLink, which tweeted, blaming it on a a network element that was impacting customer services and saying that they estimated it would be fixed in about four hours.

It was more like twelve here on Whidbey Island, and some parts of the country are still (as of 2pm) offline, according to Outage.Report. The FCC is investigating.

If you live in Washington, king5.com has a handy list of numbers to call, by county. (The news article also has auto-playing video - you may want to mute your speakers.)

Notes & links, as usual )

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

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Feeling scared and not particularly grateful this week; we'll have to see what I come up with.

  • I got some nice presents on Christmas. You know who you are. Many thanks.
  • Colleen, who somehow manages to put up with me.
  • I'm really grateful to my Mom, who has been providing some financial assistance (out of my inheritance). I'm not the first one in the family she's helped -- both my kids and my nephew have benefited from her generosity.
  • I'm no-end grateful to my sister N, who came up from Seattle to visit for nearly two weeks. (Does it count as a visit if this is her real home and she's only living in Seattle temporarily because Reasons? Whatever; I'll take it.)
  • Cat cuddles. We have excellent cats.
  • Grandmother in the Kitchen -- I don't know how long Colleen has had that cookbook, but we've gotten a lot of good use out of it, Especially the Yorkshire pudding recipe.
  • ... and I guess, since this is the last Thankful Thursday of 2018, I ought to be grateful to have survived it.

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

Whidbey Island has wind storms. Last week was punctuated by a pair of power outages: one from 12:40am to 3:30pm Monday, and one from 11am Thursday to 10:55 Friday. I was actually surprised that they got the power up as fast as they did Friday; I was expecting another day's worth. I never did get a good look at the eventual outage map.

In the first outage, I learned that my bedroom UPS will keep my CPAP running for about three hours. It would be significantly more without the huidifier, but there doesn't seem to be a way of turning it off remotely; next time I'll try to remember to take it off if the UPS alarm wakes me up (as it did this time). The IT UPS (in the entryway/laundry room) kept the routers up for about ten, even without shutting down the server, which is probably the biggest power draw.

In the second one, I learned that:

  • Phone service is spotty to nonexistant during a sufficiently long outage. (My phone's hotspot went away just as I was trying to post Thankful Thursday.)
  • I can sleep without a CPAP if I have to. (Actually I knew that already, but recent confirmation is nice.)
  • We don't have water during an outage because the well has an electric pump with no backup generator. Water stayed up long enough for me to fill a couple of gallon bottles, though.
  • We didn't have nearly enough water available for flushing the toilets.
  • Molly, our electric car, can be used to charge phones and other electronics. (On the other hand, we don't have a way to keep her charged; that would have been problematic in a longer outage.) Her WiFi hotspot can be used to network a couple of laptops together even if it can't get to the internet. I like Molly.
  • Although I'm positive we have a hardwired phone someplace in the house or the garage, I have no idea where it went.
  • We did have enough flashlights and LED lanterns to go around, but we probably don't have enough batteries for a longer outage.

N has been up from Seattle for the entire week -- that's been wonderful. (The kids are with their father because their cousins are in town.) She's been staying in the Box Barn (as we've started calling the apartment over the garage). It has hot water, finally; the only thing left to do is some electrical work; that's scheduled for the first week in January.

I'm continuing to have problems configuring a WiFi repeater to cover the Box Barn. You would think that it would be easy to configure a dual-band router as a bridge -- you'd be wrong. Apparently there are some problems with the WiFi protocol and DHCP that make this difficult. It would be easier if it wasn't so easy to break the configuration to the point where it becomes inaccessible and I have to do a hard reset.

I've also learned that my recording and cd-burning toolchain has serious problems, which is not at all surprising. It hasn't been used for years, so the whole transition to MakeStuff has sort of passed it by. I finally have most of it working; it's enough to put together and burn a CD. The parts for publishing concerts on the web mostly aren't working; I've fallen far behind in that department.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: (ccs)

In 1985 I wrote a song called: "The World Inside the Crystal". At the time there didn't seem to be any songs about computers, or programming, that weren't meant to be funny. (I think there might have been a few about AI or robots that were meant to be scary. It's entirely possible that this was the first serious computer song ever written.)

I also wanted to explore the notion that inside of computers is an alternate universe where magic works. I don't remember whether I came up with that, or somebody else mentioned it to me; it was definitely an idea that I was kicking around at that time. Kick it far enough, and it winds up someplace like this:

Beside the world we live in Apart from day and night Is a world ablaze with wonder Of magic and delight Like a magic crystal mirror, My computer lets me know Of the other world within it Where my body cannot go. chorus: You can only see the shadows Of electrons on a screen From the world inside the crystal That no human eye has seen. The computer is a gateway To a world where magic rules Where the only law is logic Webs of words the only tools Where we play with words and symbols And creation is the game For our symbols have the power To become the things they name. chorus Now you who do not know this world Its dangers or its joys You take the things we build there And you use them as your toys. You trust them with your fortunes, Or let them guard your lives. From the chaos of creation Just their final form survives. chorus Call us hackers, call us wizards, With derision or respect, Still our souls are marked by something That your labels can't affect. Though our words are touched by strangeness There is little we can say. You would only hear the echo Of a music far away. chorus

I can always tell the programmers in the audience -- they've been there. It won a Pegasus Award for "Best Science Song" in 1997, possibly because I mentioned it on Usenet.

There are several different recordings. The one to start with is Kathy Mar's cover here, off of her tape Plus &csedilla;a Change, with an awesome synth track by Chrys Thorsen. The one on my CD is okay, although I'm not all that happy with it now. It's way too fast, for one thing, and there isn't an instrumental break before the last verse. It's on YouTube courtesy of my distributor, CD Baby.

There have been some good ones in concerts. The one at Consonance 2009, with Tres Gique, is one of the better ones. Here's another, at Baycon 2009. Consonance 2012 appears to be my best (recorded) solo performance. Audio players don't come off all that well on DW, but I'll close with one anyway.

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Thursday I was thankful for:

  • our gas stovetop
  • the UPS that kept my internet connection up for a couple of hours
  • my phone's mobile hotspot
  • laptops with decent batteries
  • a remote server I can sync with
  • N staying with us through Boxing Day
  • sunshine, at least -- bright and sunny even with the current windstorm

Today, I am thankful for:

  • the return of power, water, phone service, and internet (The cell tower lost power just as I was preparing to post this.)
  • an electric car that can be used as an emergency UPS

Extra points to anyone who recognizes today's music.

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

An interesting week. Parts of it were good. The high point was definitely my Younger Daughter's wedding on Thursday. Another good part was N coming up to visit Friday, to stay through Christmas. I gave her one of my (in)famous cutting boards -- she'd asked for it. She'd also requested a copy of my music collection. It fits on a (128GB) thumb drive, but we both then forgot about it. I'll have to mail it.

Also on the good side was Desti's vet appointment to get her sutures out; the vet said she's healing well.

A somewhat mixed part was figuring out how to copy a long-out-of-print LP onto disk. For some reason "line out" on the player wasn't working; fortunately the headphone jack was. Mixed, because I then discovered that my CD-burning scripts were long out of date and suffering from severe bit-rot. I will probably make CDs via the GUI and fix the scripts later.

Also in between was a little singing (good) and not enough blog posts (not so good). Blarg.

The low point was probably having my last singing lesson on Tuesday night -- I just can't justify the cost at this point. It had some competition from a wide range of configuration struggles with the local network and its devices. Struggles are still continuing -- I ended up having to hard-reset the router I've been using as a range extender. It turns out that range-extending WiFi is an insufficiently-solved Problem.

Other lows included a couple of depressed episodes. I think. It' hard for me to sort that stuff out.

Anyway, a week.

Notes & links, as usual )

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

Following up on mdlbear | Welcome, tumblr refugees: this might otherwise have just been a longish section of next Sunday's "done" post, but the Tumblr apocalypse (tumbling-down?) is happening now and I wanted to get tumblr_backup.py out there. (It's a tumblr backup script, via this tumblr post by greywash, who notes that the original post by Greymask has disappeared). I think some of my readers will find it useful.

It's also worth noting greywash | State of the Migration: On fannish archival catastrophes, and what happens next (by way of ysabetwordsmith; I saw this someplace else last week, but apparently didn't log it.)

More meta stuff:

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

I guess not a bad week. Not a good one, I don't think. Just a week. But we have our internet connection back, I spent some time down at the south end of the household, and I have the YD's wedding present (one of my famous cutting boards) mostly made. Not as good a finish as I like, because I couldn't find most of my planes (they turned up today, so I may be able to do some fixing) and had to make do with the sander. The beauty of the wood may make up for the slight irregularity of the surface.

One bit of good news: I heard from the vet about the histology report on the cysts removed from Desti last week -- they were benign, and were completely excised. So she's going to be okay. She's getting her sutures removed tomorrow.

Elsenet, Tumblr gave me a great excuse for a meta post. There's nothing wrong with event-driven scheduling, is there?

Not much programming -- just filling in some gaps in word-count -- and no writing beyond what's here in the blog. I think I'm supposed to feel accomplished because of what I did get done, but I know that I'm losing ground.

Notes & links, as usual )

mdlbear: (smith-lightsails)

"Ship of Stone", by Don Simpson, is my favorite song. Not filk song; song. I don't remember the first time I heard it, but it was written in 1981, which is just about when I was first getting involved with filk; I first heard it sung by Leslie Fish, so it would have sounded a lot like this (from her tape Chickasaw Mountain). Here's a more recent version from Avalon is Risen. This is Kathy Mar's a capella version, from Yankee Doodles, recorded at the 1986 Worldcon.

I sing it too, of course. Probably the best recorded version to date is in Tres Gique's concert at Baycon 2009 [ogg] [mp3]. There's a solo version in my Fan GOH concert at Baycon 2010; you can find others in Tres Gique, Consonance 2007 and my concert at Conflikt 2009.

I really need to make my music easier to search for, don't I?

The thing I love about this song (aside from a melody that lends itself perfectly to my picking style) is the vast sweep of history it implies. Earth has been lost in the depths of time, and become a legend. Humanity has spread throughout the galaxy -- the "wheel of light" -- living in fusion-powered starships (you can tell that from the "blue, glowing wings" that sweep up interstellar hydrogen to burn). All that's left of Earth is the song and the story it tells.

A few years back (I don't remember how many) after reading Norman Spinrad's novel Riding the Torch, Don confirmed my guess that that had been his inspiration.

One's first impression, hearing the song, is that it's set a few thousand years in the future, but that would be way too short a time. It's been long enough for humans to have spread throughout the Milky Way, which is some 200,000 light-years across, and to have evolved (or more likely engineered themselves) into many different sub-species. It's as if the story had been passed down to us from the Late Paleolithic; about the time of the earliest known bone flutes.

As I say on the lyrics page on my website, "If one of the songs we're singing now is still being sung a thousand years from now, it will probably be this one." Next time it comes up for a Pegasus, please vote for it.

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

I don't really expect that many Tumblr refugees will see this post, even with the tag, but I know there's at least one person already on my reading list who cross-posts from there, so there may be a few. There may be some G+ refugees, too. In reality, all I'm doing is taking advantage of the occasion to post a few links. Hopefully more than just a handful of my readers will find them interesting.

Let's start with the useful stuff. (People who have been on DW long enough to remember the Livejournal exodus will probably want to skip ahead to the fascinating stuff.)

We can start with the DW community [community profile] post_tumblr_fandom and ilyena_sylph's About tumblr and DW, mostly news post answers. Good overviews. Another great summary is staranise | Basic Dreamwidth for Tumblr users. (Which comes by way of umadoshi | More using/getting-to-know-Dreamwidth, fandom-migration, and WTF-Tumblr links.)

That's probably enough to get most people started. On my personal reading list, the posts I've seen lately are:


Okay, now the fascinating stuff. Watch out for rabbit holes.

Let's start with jesse_the_k's post, Remember when Fandom Spec'ed Pinboard?. Well, no, I don't -- I wasn't using Delicious at the time. But apparently a lot of fans were, so when the site's owners (Yahoo) made some "improvements" like disallowing several punctuation characters in tags (in particular, "/" -- just try tagging fanfic without slash), there was a mass exodus to Pinboard.

Jesse links to Fan Is A Tool-Using Animal, which tells the whole story very entertainingly. It's a transcript of a talk given at dConstruct 2013 by Maciej Cegłowski. The talk included a reading from this hilarious bit of fanfic and, more relevant to our current topic, this amazing collaborative Google doc which is a list of features (with votes and use cases) that fans wanted for Pinboard.

So, finally getting back to Tumblr, (remember Tumblr? this is a post about Tumblr) here's the Tumblr-inspired version of the Pinboard spec: Fandom platform of the future - specs and features, on Google Docs.

How much of that gets into Pinboard, Dreamwidth, AO3, or anything else is anybody's guess. But fen are amazing, and anything can happen when you dive down a rabbit hole.

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

Oh, right. Thursday. Today's gratitudes include...

  • Colleen finishing her two-week course of IV antibiotics. She has her central line out (her veins have been so overused that they can't even use a PICC anymore) and is much more comfortable.
  • Desti has had no complications or even apparent discomfort from having her teeth cleaned and the big fluid-filled cyst on her shoulder removed. She get her sutures out Monday.
  • Additional gratitude to our cats. We have wonderful cats.
  • My singing teacher, Nancy Nolan, who among other things has convinced me to capo up two or three frets on most songs.
  • My friends here on Dreamwidth, with a special call-out to [personal profile] jesse_the_k for this post pointing me at Fan Is A Tool-Using Animal and some of the things it points to -- great read. Watch out for the rabbit-hole.
  • Back-handed thanks to Tumblr for driving more users to Dreamwidth, inciting some fascinating posts (vide supra), and giving me something interesting to post about tomorrow.
  • Slack, which plays a significant role in holding our bilocated family together.
  • Damnation with faint praise to Medicare.

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