Ted Leung on the air: Open Source, Java, Python, and ...
Last week we finally made it out to one of the Bainbridge Island Waterfront Park concerts. We've loved attending these concerts in past summers because they are great ways to see and catch up with people, and there have been some great bands that have performed as well. As we walked down into the park proper, I heard the end of an all female, very tight harmony rendition of "I'll Fly Away". I love tight harmony, so that got my attention in a big way. The band that day was Late Tuesday, and they were great. As we were getting settled into a spot I saw a friend down at the stage shooting some pictures. I had brought my camera with just the "short" walk-around lens, so I went down and I started shooting some pictures too. I really enjoyed the music, so by the end of the night I was really kicking myself that I hadn't brought my camera bag -- a lesson for future events. I did capture a few good moments, like when these young men were negotiating with Jocelyn Feil to get up on stage.
This afternoon I took Abigail to a recital to benefit student scholarships for the local piano teachers association. The performer was Dr. Jody Graves, and the program theme was "The Romantic Piano". We had a very enjoyable time listening to some excellent piano performances. Unfortunately for us, we arrived only a few minutes early so we ended up with seats where we couldn't see Dr. Graves' hands. Nonetheless, the music was gorgeous, and I learned about several composers that I was unfamiliar with, including Edward MacDowell, Carlos Guastavino (I'll definitely be looking into this fellow some more), and Alexander Scriabin.
There were lots of piano students in attendance, and there was some educational and entertaining commentary on the various pieces. One of the best came because we were going to run a little bit over, so Dr Graves gave the audience it's choice of what we wanted to hear. A girl around Abigail's age was sitting in the row in front of us, and her hand flew up immediately. She wanted to hear Rachmaninoff. When she was asked why, she curled her lip in thought, and then announced, "Big Dynamics". And Big Dynamics she got, by way of the Prelude in D Major, Op. 23, No 4.
As we drove him, I was talking with Abigail about the concert, explaining a few things about concert etiquette (standing ovations and encores), and trying to gauge her reactions. It's very important to me that she really be enjoying music and having opportunities to hear live performances, because I feel that the appreciation and enjoyment of music is a powerful inspiration, especially during those moments when music study is more frustrating than enjoyment. Her favorite (as was mine), Debussy's L'isle joyeuse - The island of joy.
Last week when I was walking through the kitchen, Julie stopped me so I could see the blog of Seattle-based classical singer Anne-Carolyn Bird (website). I popped the url into Firefox, but it has taken me a while to get to it. Anne-Carolyn's blog is a window into the life of an aspiring classical singer. It was pretty interesting to read her accounts of auditions, rehearsals, performances, and interactions with others in the music community. Via her blog I've found (but not yet gotten to) the blogs of a number of other classical musicians.
There's a hook for me personally, because I did my humanities concentration in college in music, and I spent a lot of time in classical singing, albeit nowhere near the level of someone like Anne-Carolyn Bird. As I've recounted previously on this blog, I spent some time playing the violin when I was younger, but quit at what I now consider to be a premature age. Somewhere in junior or senior high school (during those years when the male voice is a dicey thing to begin with), one of my friends told me that I just couldn't sing. This of course, cured me of singing for quite a long time. The situation was remedied because a sister of a classmate heard me singing behind her in church one day, and she managed to convince me to try signing in a little singing group that had started out as part of the Spanish curriculum. From there it was the chorus and the school musical, and a few other things -- I even took some voice lessons from the choir director at our church.
The year that I was admitted to MIT was the first year of a course for singers, Vocal Repertoire and Performance. The format was pretty simple. Five or six students, with a teacher, covering both vocal technique and the classical vocal repertoire. The teacher when I was there was John Oliver, who was (and is) the conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Since John was the conductor of the MIT Chorale, I joined that, and got to sing some very large famous choral works, like Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, the Verdi Requiem, the Bach Mass in B minor, and a few others. The MIT Chamber Chorus got started during the years that I was around, and I sang in that as well.
I have very fond memories of all of that learning and performing, and I'm surprised that 20 years later I still remember parts to pieces that I have sung. As I read Anne-Carolyn's blog, I was reminded of experiences that I had during those years. When I read how she was working on arias, I remembered the various Lieder that I and my classmates worked on. Her accounts of working with voice teachers reminded me of they way that my teachers would say something that I didn't quite follow.
Having read her blog, now I'm really curious to have a listen. Anne-Carolyn is moving into coloratura land this year, and I have a fondness for coloraturas in any range. When we did pieces for the MIT Chorale, the soloists were always professionals or folks like Anne-Carolyn. In particular, when we did the Messiah, John brought a soprano from Princeton whose voice was to die for. I distinctly remember him saying (at the end of the dress rehearsal) that "if she kept singing like that, she wouldn't be around very much longer". It sounds like Anne-Carolyn's signing is coming to the same place.
I'm disgusted with how this came out. Reading the EFF commentary on the ruling hasn't done much to make me feel better about it. As far as I'm concerned, the Supreme Court has declared that the future of the US economy is in entertainment and lawsuits, not technology.
Last night I went to the midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith, along with some friends. It's been years since I waited in line for a movie, or went to a midnight show. We were in line for about two hours, which wasn't too bad because the company was good.
As for the movie itself, it's hard to say. Both the beginning and end were predetermined, so there was a limit to what could be done. Certainly there was plenty of action, and most of that was pretty good. The dialog was pretty bad, as expected. It certainly wasn't as bad as Episodes I or II, but I'm having trouble deciding whether it was good enough to edge out Return of the Jedi. Regardless, after 28 years, Star Wars is done.
We got our first CD from yourmusic.com today. $5.99 per CD, free shipping, but you have to do a 1 CD per month deal -- It's the old BMG CD club revived. They don't have all the very latest CD's, but that's fine by me. For a while we haven't bought many CD's at all, so we're several years behind on music of many genres. The CD's are cheap, I can rip them for iTunes/iPod at a high MP3 bitrate, and it's still cheaper than the DRM'ed iTunes Music store if you like at least half of the disc.
March is shaping up to be a hugely busy (and stressful month). Boing Boing made me laugh out loud today:
Two Towers translated into leet gamerspeak
A reader writes, "The author of F3ll0wsh1p of teh R1ng has now written a follow up, also in l33t 'Teh Tw0 T0werz'"
[Somewhere, under the mountains]
Gandalf [Glamdring] Balrog
Gandalf [Glamdring] Balrog
Gandalf [Glamdring] Balrog
Gandalf [Glamdring] Balrog
Gandalf [Glamdring] Balrog
Gandalf [Glamdring] Balrog
Gandalf: "U. R. PWNED!"
[a leetspeek guide if you need one ]
science is the modern world's new superstitionThis is truer than many people would like to admit, especially highly educated folks. I saw this a lot when I was an undergraduate. There were various members of the faculty at MIT that would loudly proclaim their understanding and mastery on various aspects of natural science. I always viewed this with some suspicion, and I always appreciated the professors who would get to a certain point and say "and we just don't understand how it works here" Much of the American populace is so in the dark about science, the scientific process, and the politics of the scientific process that it's hard for them to judge assertions "backed" by science. For these folks, the difference between scientific and religious assertions is pretty minimal.
"It was a lot of nerdy-looking white guys with crew cuts. I grew up thinking the average person doesn't get to do that."was due to historical context. I mean, my dad was a hardware engineer, and he used to go to work in a suit every day. The ability to express yourself is part of the creative side that all scientists and engineers share. It's good to see this being more acceptable at places like NASA. If it's a goal to attract people to the sciences, then we need to dispense with as much nonsense as possible. Maybe one day scientists can have as much "cool" as rock stars and athletes.
A number of things stood out to me. First of all, the voting system is designed to ensure equality. I usually think of this as "everyone gets a vote". But another key point is that all votes are equivalent. Some votes are not more important than other votes. A vote is a vote is a vote. I knew this, but sometimes things just leap up off the page at you. This was one of those times. At the same time, I'm not sure I agree with his characterization of markets and democracies existing to defeat hijackings by small groups, although they do. In an ideal democracy, a small group can change the whole system, but in order to do it they have to do it indirectly:
Fervor Isn’t VotesMargaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Generations of zealots have tacked these words up on various walls, never noticing that the two systems that run the modern world – markets and democracies — are working right precisely when they defeat these attempted hijackings by small groups. Voting in particular is designed as a repudiation of Mead’s notion. In the line at the polling booth, the guy with the non-ironic trucker hat and nothing other than instinct for who he trusts cancels the vote of the politics junkie who can tell you the name of Joe Lieberman’s Delaware field manager
You can ring doorbells and carry signs and donate and stay up til 4 in the morning talking with fellow believers about the sorry state of politics today, and you still only get one vote. If you want more votes than that, you have to do the hardest, most humbling thing in the world. You have to change someone else’s mind.You can do it -- if you can change someone's mind. But (ideally) you can't force them to change their mind, you actually have to persuade them. Persuasion is tough. There are different components to persuasion. There's the idea you are trying to push. That better look good in the other person's mind. Then there's the persuader. You can have a good idea, but if people don't trust you, you may not be able to persuade them. There's also relevance. You may have a perfectly good idea, and be trustworthy, but your idea may be irrelevant to the hearer. They just won't care. Many people believe that they know how to persuade, when in reality they onlyl know how to give orders.
Internet culture is talking culture, so we’re not used to this. In our current conversational spaces, whether mailing lists or bulletin boards or weblogs, the people who speak the loudest and the most frequently dominate the discussion. Imagine if a mailing list had to issue a formal opinion on the issues discussed, and lurkers got a vote. The high-flow posters would complain that the lurkers votes would not reflect the actual discussion that took place, merely the aggregate opinions of the group, and yet that is how the primaries work. Talking loudest or most or even best means nothingConversations that aren't aimed at making decisions lead to endless pontificating and bellyaching, regardless of the medium. But conversations that will result in people being persuaded to actually do something can be different. In order for people to act, they need to be persuaded. Open source projects that vote can be a good example of this. People need to be persuaded to make changes, to accept a design, or to fix bugs. There are no traditional levers of firing or withholding salary or other usual disincentives or their corresponding positive incentives. You have to persuade someone, pure and simple. So if you want to talk, go ahead and fill up mailing lists, newsgroups, web forums, and blogs. But if you want work to get done, learn to persuade. Take a good look at whether or not you have a good, relevant idea, and then take another look and see whether you, the messenger, have earned the trust of those you are trying to persuade.
And lo! even as he (Eomer) laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them And then wonder took him, and a great joy; and he cast his sword up into the sunlight and sang as he caught it. And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; ut Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isildur's heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor; and the mirth of the Rohrrim was a torrent of laughter and a flashing of swords, and the joy and wonder of the City was a music of trumpets and a ringing of bells.This is one of my favorite moments in the books, the moment when Aragorn's identity and return are announced to all of Middle Earth. It's a shame they felt it needed to be omitted. After all, the title of the movie is "The Return of the King" -- a theme I've been thinking about since the story of Christmas also foretells the return of a King. I was very pleased with the handling of another of my favorite scenes: Eowyn and Merry's role in felling the Lord of the Nazgul. For the most part I'm happy with the way that Jackson expanded Eowyn's role in the story. This brings us to the end of 2003's festival of trilogy endings. Maybe now we can use those precious babysitting hours on something besides movies.
In vibrant markets and political spheres we have means of goverances that can correct misleading or abusive uses of authority. In failed markets or goverments these means may take long painful periods to operate. One sign of a healthy market or goverment is that those who appear to have authority are much more tentative in using that authority to force the momenteum of the emerging standard. That tentative behavior is the symptom that there are checks and balances in place that temper their power. That tentative behavior signals that they know their status in the system is tenous. That tenous status makes their acts less forceful, less straight forward, more ambigous. That's good, even if it makes them seem slippery, or political.Or "weak".
But the best thing you can do is keep your wallet in your pocket. No matter how much "law" the RIAA may claim to have on its side you have the ultimate power. If you don't like the terms and conditions under which a product is offered to you, don't buy it.There's one other thing he left out that we could do. Find a way to support artists who are producing music outside of the RIAA.