Tuesday, March 09, 2010
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Saturday, December 19, 2009
Dad and computers and runtime environments
My dad doesn't like his Mac. He doesn't understand it. He doesn't want to understand it. He knows how to use a slide rule and understands non-Euclidean geometry, so it's not that he can't do math or can't grasp concepts. He just resents the terminology. He doesn't like the word "server," and all the other made-up, insider-y sounding terms that computer people toss around all the time. He tries to learn about it by reading books sometimes, but as soon as he sees a word like "hypertext," he gets disgusted and shuts the book.
I share some of this novelty anxiety and terminology fatigue, but I want to make myself a more useful and employable member of society. Also, I really love the internet and truly envy people who can create their own little worlds online, and so I genuinely want to overcome this temperamental limitation. A prerequisite for transcending this is a capacity to recognize when I have reached my daily limit of new concepts and unfamiliar terms. In addition, it's equally important for me to acknowledge when some term just plain annoys me.
I just experienced this annoyance upon reading the following sentence, "The Java applet runs in a generic Java runtime environment supplied by the browser...." You might guess that it was the word "applet" that got on my nerves, but I'm actually okay with that. Once I realized that it has nothing to do with Apple computers, and that instead it refers to a sort of mini "app" that you download and then kind of unpack and run on your computer, I was fine. What made my eyes roll was the phrase "generic runtime environment." It's actually the word "runtime" that annoyed me, because I'll bet it has nothing to do with time, and also because I don't care for the way the words "run" and "time" are sissily smooshed together. I'm pretty sure that the guy who thought that up was and probably still is pretty satisfied with himself because of it (and I am sure it's a "he"). I also feel resentful of and kind of excluded by the use of the word "environment." The people who are in the "in" group know darn well that the rest of us find it unsettling and confusing, because we were basically in agreement about what that word meant before they appropriated it. How can "environment" be linked back to "time" in any way other than a most annoying, clubby, cutesy kind of way?
I may have reached my threshold for the time being and should do some laundry or something.
"Runtime" is what you get when you do the fifty yard dash in an "environment' that involves grass and sun and bugs.
Database driven web sites
Trying to figure out databases. I am confused. Okay there's the client, say, a library patron trying to find a book from their own personal computer. The patron's computer is the client. They go online to the library's web site and navigate to the library's online catalog, which has some boxes to enter the title and author, call number, etc. The patron types in the title: The Road Less Traveled. The library's server does something. What? It turns it into a query or something. The library's database management system processes the words the patron types in and turns it into a query that looks like what (I don't know). The query goes to the database which is located where? On some server computer somewhere. I guess the database will have a record that has Title, Author, Call Number, What libraries in the system own the title, and then of those, which ones have one available. It might also have other details like other formats the title is in like CD, audiotape, etc., whether it is on some special status, like it can only be checked out for two weeks or something. The database doesn't "do" anything, does it? It just sits there with the data, right? And it's the Database Management System that sorts it, and then the web server puts it into a readable format and renders it into a sort of temporary web page that it sends over the internet back to the patron.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Possible solution to the "they" dilemma.
I had thought that I'd read somewhere that it was now acceptable to use "they" instead of either "he" or "she" as the "variable" personal pronoun (as in, "If anyone needs a farecard, they can get one out of this vending machine"). If it makes you resentful to use "he" (I didn't realize I resented it until a St. John's tutor corrected my "they" by changing it to "he"), and it makes you twitchy to allow this use of "they" based solely on the questionable principle that "if people speak it, it's a language. If people do it, it's authentic, so get off my back," then consider this approach: think of the third person plural "they" as a completely different "they" from the other one.
In Italian, the word "lei" is used both for the 2nd person singular pronoun in formal address, and also for the 3rd person singular prounoun. If you do a subtle mental shift and decide that "they" is the new "lei" and that 1) It's about time we invented a new pronoun to represent a concept that sorely needs to be represented linguistically, and that 2)if we all agree not to obssess about subject-verb agreement, then we can pull one of these deals: "the pronoun "they" in this sense takes
the plural verb form."
So, to review, the main idea is that the two "theys" are now offically (if I were dictator, that is, heh heh) NOT the same word. Instead, they are homonyms, two drifters that just happen to look and sound the same but are headed for distinct, yet related destinations.
Voila! What was once an awkward, cheesy workaround, the "poor relation" of the pronoun family, is now suave and European, with greasy hair, five o'clock shadow, and a single gold earring.
And the good news is that we were entitled to an extra pronoun all along, since we didn't take the one we would have needed for using formal address.
Friday, July 24, 2009
A test on "The Farthest Wave"
In case you are wondering what the chicken scratches are in this post, they were my attempts to get myself to practice a few songs
. I am an inveterate non-rehearser. I just HATE it. Especially if I'm by myself. So, in the spirit of the 'webcam,' I decided to share my little self quizzes on one of the songs I learned for a memorial service recently.
I don't usually test myself like this (btw, these were 'closed book' tests). I usually just 'run over' the songs a couple of times and figure it'll all come out in the wash. But that worked when I was sixteen and had a young brain with no bills to pay. I have do to more now to prepare. I learned this at St. John's, trying to demonstrate proofs in front of the class. In my head I knew what was supposed to happen, but I couldn't do it in front of the class. I tried to explain this to my tutor that, like Nigel Tufnel (pictured above), "I get the sense of it. I just don't understand it."
So, this is what I was doing at 3:00 am the morning of the service. I just wrote out some questions on the song, called "The Farthest Wave
," and tried to recall the answers from memory. Wow. Pretty revealing, especially after I had already writren out the lyrics and a chord chart. Talk about ADDDDDD.
The 11:30 P.M. of the soul
Image by Tamar Messer used without permission.
I think I understand why so many people like to set up webcams so that the world can see them living their lives. I believe that they do it out of loneliness. Or, if not loneliness per se, something like it. When I was a little kid, I used to pretend that my life was a documentary on PBS. For some reason, this gave me a bit of dignity when my first grade teacher was cornering me in the section of the classroom she called the 'cloakroom' where all the 'cubbyholes' would be with our coats hanging in them. On many mornings I would be hurriedly trying to get out of my coat and into my desk well after the bell had rung. "A diller, a dollar, a ten o'clock scholar." That was the first time (and probably not the last) I was to hear that phrase. But for some reason, imagining that a camera was following me as I nervously walked to my desk made me feel as if I had company, or that my life had some significance and shape to it, and a bit of drama. Maybe it allowed me to get some distance from the shame, and from that slight remove, to "make" some sense out of what was happening. That sense making is one of the chief therapeutic benefits of the process of creating.
It was around that same age that I started fantasizing about performing on stage. I'm sure that I wanted to have as much fun as the Osmonds and Jackson Five seemed to be having. But also, I wanted to do something that other people would see and remember.
The lack of an audience is a major factor in my dread of 'rehearsing.' Oh, god. There's something about it, especially when I try to do it by myself, that is so lonely and desperate and formless. I have a similar feeling when I try to write anything, particularly for a class on a subject that isn't personally compelling to me. During my last semester at St. John's, I experimented with blogging while writing, and it did make me feel less lonely. Like maybe there was more at stake since I was giving "updates" to unknown readers and therefore owed it to "them" to finish my paper.Plus, it provided a little breathing room between me and my tutor. Maybe having one person out there judging my performance was paralyzing, too much pressure to bear. Having imagined "others" out there gave me a sort of hedge against total rejection. My tutor might think my work was worthless, but someone else out there might not. Another fear that haunts me is that I will have "wasted time," particularly if I spend time on something that I ultimately scrap. If I blog about it, I will at least walk away with some nicely illustrated little tableau to look at some day and recall the struggle.
So, tonight, I am preparing for a memorial service. The person who died knew in advance that she had a terminal illness, and so she planned her own service, right down to hand picking the music and the performers. I like the songs I will be singing, for the most part. Two of them are new to me: "Let the Mystery Be
" is by Iris DeMent, and it's all about how it's okay not to know what happens when we die, "I choose to let the mystery be." I like the way she and her band do it. It's a nice, bluegrassy arrangement that gently percolates. Moving forward but not in a big hurry to get there. Oh, and it is a song that definitely wants to be sung in the key of F major. We tried it in G and it refused to be sung in that key.
Another selection she wanted is called "The Farthest Wave
." This one is by Cathie Ryan and Karine Polwart. It's going to be the highlight of the program, I predict. It's a song about separation that could be about death or divorce, but definitely something insurmountable. The lyrics are well crafted yet natural, and the melody is perfect. It's got that magic combination of familiarity and novelty with the all-important unexpected couple of melodic surprises. I know that this song could be a major hit if someone like the Dixie Chicks or Mary Chapin Charpenter or Kathy Mattea got ahold of it - someone who is a grownup and a real singer.
Now I have to get to it. Here is how the sausage gets made. I have plotted out the basic forms of these songs and have a general idea of the melody of each, although I'm notorious for making up my own melody in the heat of the moment. It's unlikely that I will have the lyrics memorized in time for the service, so I'll have a music stand. I have to be able to spit out, like my name, rank, and serial number, what happens in the intro, who starts it, how many verses and choruses there are, where the instrumental break goes, and how the song ends. I also have to go back over my chords to make sure they are correct, and fix some of the lyrics that I transcribed and that I know are incorrect. OK, it's 12:14 am. I'll check in after I'm done with proofreading the charts for these two songs. Bye.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Get ready for StupidGate
Sean Hannity must be licking his chops right now. Who do you think is going to come on his show tonight to get peppered with leading questions? I have a feeling that Officer Crowley, the Cambridge cop who arrested Henry Louis Gates in his own home, has too much class for that.
Let's see - what is he going to sputter tonight?
"Don't you think, in this day and age, that the President of the United States, would have enough respect not to refer to men and women who put themselves into harm's way on our crack pipe littered URBAN STREETS as "stupid"? Do you agree that the President thinks ALL WHITE POLICE OFFICERS are STUPID?"
"Is Obama's POST RACIAL AMERICA officially over?" (Hannity hopes it is, so he can keep using racial innuendos to sow discontent and advertising revenues for Fox Opinion Network.)
Have I said before that I have no respect for Sean Hannity? This is his philosophy:If you criticize anything the government does, you are unpatriotic, unless there are Democrats in the White House and Congress. If everyone would just stop whining and play by the rules and go to church and be NORMAL like me, Sean Hannity, there'd be no problems in this country. All liberals hate America. If I disagree with you, all I have to do is turn the music up and cut to a commercial. It's my show.
His screechy voice and self satisfied smirk give me agita
. He has zero insight and is incapable of engaging in civil discourse with anybody who is not reading straight off of the RNC talking points. He makes Archie Bunker look like the Dalai Lama.
I would rather spend eternity in hell, carrying golf clubs for Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter than so much as share a cab with Hannity. Why? Because those guys may be mean spirited and intellectually dishonest, but they are clever and have some measure of wit and legitimate show biz chops. What about Bill O'Reilly? Hmm, well, he's a blowhard, but like Ted Baxter
, to whom Limbaugh himself has compared him,
there's something adorable about O'Reilly, so I'd carry his golf clubs if I were to end up eternally damned. But Hannity is just boring and a bully.....HOW DID HE GET HIS OWN SHOW?? He can carry his own gold-plated clubs.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Mireille Mathieu sings La marseillaise
Monday, June 29, 2009
I've been told by a reliable source that my resume needs more "white space" in it. Also, apparently there's no need to have complete sentences after those bullet points, and so I'm going to go take out all the personal pronouns. That's okay - they did seem unnecessary since it's pretty obvious that it's "all about me." But...right now I have to go look at the job announcement and make sure it's still being advertised. I'm scared. I keep putting this off. Okay here goes...
It is on the web site. I'm actually surprised that it's still there. It's been advertised since April. Doesn't that seem odd? It's not like it's a posting for a blacksmith. This is a public interest/publicity job that every third person is probably qualified for. Hmmmm. Just stop procrastinating and apply for it. What's the worst that could happen?