This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

August 2004 Archives

August 25, 2004

Jay Allen has issued a preliminary 2.0 release of MT-Blacklist for Movable Type 3.0x users. Jay is describing this as an "emergency" release, because it's not finished, but there are a lot of bleeding edge MT 3.0 users right now running without comment spam protection.

A full version of MT-Blacklist 2.0 will be released with MT 3.1, due out next week.

We're doing quite well with regards to c* s* around these parts. I get a couple a week, and I check my email often enough to delete them before Google notices. Given the age and high Google rank of this blog, I'd say that if other 3.0 users are suffering much more than I am, it must be because I renamed my CGI scripts and most comment spam bots are dumb. Kudos, I guess, to the one whose bot crawls the site looking for comment forms (which so far I haven't bothered to rename). Either that or those are manually posted, in which case I pity the fool.

When is Reputation Bad? A nice summary in layman's terms, with some not-bad LiveJournal comment threads.

August 24, 2004

The Most Untranslatable Word in the World.

Clavichord Technique and Performance Practice: An Annotated Bibliography.

The idea of clavichord performance practice may seem to be a paradox since, for the largest part of its active history, the clavichord has been relegated to use only as a practice instrument for organists. Why, then, would one want a "clavichord performance practice bibliography?" Further, would there be significant literature about the almost non-existent performance history of the instrument? And most pertinently, what would be the use of such a bibliography if it would be historically inaccurate to give performances of early keyboard literature on a "practice instrument?" Surprisingly, these questions have very little meaning within the realm of clavichord performance.

Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness.

August 23, 2004

Judges rule file-sharing software legal, as well they should. The industry response (as quoted in the article) is surprisingly sane, and emphasizes that this decision does not legalize copyright infringement, only file-sharing software makers are not liable for the illegal actions of their users.

uDevGames 2004 Mac game development contest. Write a Mac OS X-native game in three months, win a prize!

August 20, 2004

The Lewis Carroll Scrapbook Collection, from the Library of Congress.

August 19, 2004

The Classical Composers Database. (Thanks Dad.) Kind of a weird website with some odd writing, but the data is potentially useful.

Alexander Nikolayevich Skriabin, the noted Russian composer, was born on Christmas Day and died at Eastertide -- according to Western-style calendrical reckoning, 7 January 1872 - 14 April, 1915. No one was more famous during his lifetime, and few were more quickly ignored after his death. Although he was never absent from the mainstream of Russian music, the outside world neglected him until recently. Today, there is worldwide resurgence of interest in his music and ideas.

Adge's Visual History Of Gaming. [Site has background music.] Click on the arrows. Making the Jump to Subversion.

August 18, 2004

Piano Music for the Left Hand Alone, an excellent encyclopedia of composers and their works for one hand. Includes Gerhard Rühm's "Beethovens 'Für Elise" für die linke hand am klavier und die rechte an Elise," 1970. Heh. Perl Command-Line Options. An obligatory, but no less useful article on the many handy command line features. I still need to be reminded that I can make use of BEGIN and END blocks in -n/-p one-liners, as well as the LINE label. They're all good, so if you see any you don't recognize, they're worth practicing.

New bill will legalize junk faxes. 47 USC 227 makes it illegal to send unsolicited commercial faxes, a good idea considering it costs the recipient money in supplies and maintenance; this new bill guts the existing law.

This is also the law that bans telephone solicitations to cell phones and pagers. Those sections of the law are untouched by this bill, but I don't see a difference in the general logic, and would expect the passage of this bill to encourage similar attacks on those other, more popular communication services.

August 17, 2004

William Shatner and Ben Folds team up for new album. No joke. Has Been will be in stores October 5th. Original songs written by both Folds and Shatner, with help on a few from Nick Hornby, Brad Paisley and Pulp; guest vocalists include Aimee Mann and Henry Rollins. Have a taste [QT].

I guess it's not that surprising since Shatner contributes vocals to a track on Folds' Fear of Pop. Not that that's a recommendation (and I haven't heard FoP yet except for samples, so don't take my word for it). But Has Been could certainly be cool.

Also: The new SUPER D tracks will be available on iTunes on August 24.

Wired decapitalizes "internet," "web," and "net." Wired has been very influential in how internet-related writing is styled. I wonder how quickly other publications will update their style guides. I blame Wired for the proliferation of "e-mail", though I don't know for sure if that's entirely fair. I prefer "Internet" for its resemblance to a proper noun, vis-a-vis Wikipedia's justification, though perhaps I'm just used to it. I've never used "net" to refer to the internet or any network in any formal writing, and in informal writing I would write "the 'net." On the other hand, I've never capitalized "web," but I don't think I've ever refered to the portion of the net that consists of web pages as "the Web," either, at least not in writing.

The Chicago Manual people answer net style questions.

A single source of formal writing needs a consistent set of stylistic guidelines. The choices major publications make tend to influence a cultural notion of what professional writing looks like, so while style guide declarations are not hard-nosed rules of writing, they're often a pretty big deal. To writers, anyway.

August 13, 2004

The new Yamaha Clavinovas are here! The CVP-30x series finally brings the Clavinova to the 21st century, with a SmartMedia slot (replaces floppy drive), USB connectivity to PC (replaces serial cable), USB "to device" so you can hook up a USB 2.0 hard drive, "Direct Internet Connection" (ethernet) to purchase and download songs directly from the Internet—proprietary to Yamaha's website, naturally—and optical digital audio out. New sounds, including Tyros and PSR-3000 sounds, which people seem excited about. Other stuff too; just shows what kind of a user I am to be attracted to these features.

Question: All those expensive book+floppy disk sets that we all bought, how will they work with the 300-series if there's no floppy drive? Some Yamaha dealers appear to be suggesting the use of a USB floppy drive, but I'd like to hear this confirmed with a test. Yamaha puts copy protection on its floppies, and I'm not convinced any old USB floppy drive would do the trick (though it might).

Music Minus One publishes sheet music for major works for solo instruments plus accompaniment, as well as chamber music, that includes audio CDs of the work performed by a full orchestra, and the same work performed by the same orchestra without the solo instrument part. Tune up your piano, rev up the CD player and play along. Their website features an online store with their full catalog, and lots of sample clips.

Part of the fun of having a digital piano is the potential for having the piano perform the accompaniment for a piece while I play the solo piano part. Ideally, this requires professionally produced song discs designed for this purpose, and while there are many such discs available for purchase, very few are anything I'd be interested in. (The E-Z Play Disney and Christmas songs are probably great for a certain demographic, but I'm not in it.) You also have to put up with the limits of the digital piano versions of other instruments, which are sometimes less than convincing. But—and this is a big but—the digital piano can have the accompaniment follow you, and wait for you to hit the right notes before proceeding. MMO on an audio CD waits for no man.

You can also use regular MIDI files, commonly found on the Internet, though they may take a little tweaking in a sequencer to play properly (i.e. muting/following the solo track).

Yamaha's Disklavier format is essentially a combination of MMO and MIDI follow-along, with recorded audio following your playing. It's only available on very expensive and well-equipped Yamaha acoustic+digital pianos, and not available for the Clavinovas.

MMO has been around for years. IIRC, they used to print stereo LPs with the solo part on the left track and the accompaniment on the right, so you can tweak your balance to hear one part, the other, or both.

The Seattle Times on King County's "urban village" developments. The article quotes a representative of 1,000 Friends of Washington as saying, "Should [urbanite house buyers] be there at all, or should they be closer to Seattle?" The answer, of course, is we'd be happy to be closer to Seattle, if we could afford it.

I like the urban village idea, but I'd need to see schools, quality grocery stores, and public transit conduits before I'd buy. If there's nothing stopping these things, then I might consider living with suburbia-with-sidewalks until they come, but why don't these neighborhoods have them now? Is it just because the developers wanted to fill the residential properties as quickly as possible, to incentivise the commercial properties? And how is bus access? Would I still need a car to get to a library, or to work?

August 11, 2004

The Fool's World Map. (Thanks Jason.)

The Apple Product Cycle. (Thanks Jason.)

August 10, 2004

Tough Pigs reviews the new Fraggle Rock DVDs, and explains what's so great about Fraggles. The first DVD is available exclusively from HIT Entertainment's website or WalMart until October. (Thanks Boing Boing.)

Great Hacker != Great Hire, Eric Sink's response to Paul Graham's "Great Hackers" essay (which I linked a few days ago).

August 6, 2004

In March 2003, playwright Tony Kushner published the first act of a new play,
"Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy" (full text), which features First Lady Laura Bush reading Dostoyevsky to the ghosts of dead Iraqi children in pajamas. The play has been performed at antiwar events, most recently at the American Airlines Theater as part of a benefit, with Patricia Clarkson playing an angel and John Cameron Mitchell playing Laura Bush. In honor of this performance, Kushner wrote a new scene with Clarkson switching to play Bush, and Mitchell to play Tony Kushner.

Salon recounts the benefit performance and the heated post-performance discussion.

Hugh of gapingvoid muses on how to be creative. It's amazing how motivating it is to be reminded that creative work is very difficult, requires a great deal of time, effort, energy and stamina, and almost never seems like progress.

Google Guide: Help with Searching. (Thanks

August 5, 2004

How's your Perl?

When perl is not quite fast enough. An excellent collection of tips, tools and best practices for writing optimal Perl.

(Remember: Write an algorithm that works, write its tests, then make it faster, and only if you have to.)

The Best of Google Answers.

August 4, 2004

Victorinox makes a Swiss Army knife with USB memory. The USB memory is detachable for plane travel, and is available with two models: one with a blade, nail file, scissors, pen, LED and memory, and another with just the LED, pen and memory (no knife) for air travel.

I enjoy that this press release feels it is important to mention that it is possible to boot from the memory stick.

How To Buy A TV.

My 27" Sony Trinitron is eight years old, and I hope to keep it as long as I possibly can. Sure, I have dreams of a home theater, but I'm not willing to invest the time, money and lifestyle. Maybe I'll change my mind when I own a house.

The New Yorker profile of Illinois state seantor and U.S. senate candidate Barack Obama.

August 3, 2004

Great Hackers, a nice essay by Paul Graham. Includes fun bits like, "The programmers you'll be able to hire to work on a Java project won't be as smart as the ones you could get to work on a project written in Python." Which actually follows the much more important bit, "...[W]hen you choose a language, you're also choosing a community."

And, "Working on nasty little problems makes you stupid. Good hackers avoid it for the same reason models avoid cheeseburgers."


I've found that people who are great at something are not so much convinced of their own greatness as mystified at why everyone else seems so incompetent. The people I've met who do great work rarely think that they're doing great work. They generally feel that they're stupid and lazy, that their brain only works properly one day out of ten, and that it's only a matter of time until they're found out.

The Simpsons' Al Jean: There will be a movie.

The ampersand. (Thanks Jerry.)

August 2, 2004

SoYouWanna buy a guitar?

Probably not any time soon, but I do. Would be nice to learn a portable instrument.

Registration required. "It costs nothing to register and will only take a moment."

Somewhat related: I was in an Albertson's grocery store recently, and when checking out, the cashier began the "loyalty card" script we're all used to from big chain stores these days. I said I didn't have a card, and grudgingly considered getting one, even though there aren't many Albertson's in neighborhoods I frequent. Without my having made a face, the cashier invited me to throw it out on my way out the door, as if the suggestion were part of her script. I smirked, and said OK, readying a fake name and address for a form. She handed me a card. There was no form.

It's nice to see a grocery store chain that understands loyalty cards come at a cost to customers. Grocery chains get quite a bit of value out of connecting purchases, store locations and times, which can legitimately be argued as value that gets passed to the customers. They get almost no value from attaching a name, address and phone number to those records, and its this data that most obviously crosses a line.

It's still objectionable to charge inflated prices to non-compliant customers—or even to not do so and provide nothing to value to "members," a faux-paradox I understand but find amusing anyway. And purchase history still has a cost to the customer even without the name. But it warmed my heart to hear the value of my privacy so openly acknowledged in a situation we now take for granted as hostile to our interests.

That's no moon, that's a... oh wait, it's a moon.