Wednesday, 09 May 2007


Evocation of place

First, Andrea Harris wrote:

I've always wanted to go to Kansas and stand in the middle of the big prairie with miles of nothing but land and sky all around.
In response, commenter "Jeffro":
Kinda where I live - I do have a neighbor within a quarter mile, which is rare out here. I can crawl up on my windmill and see the water tower in town ten miles away as the crow flies. Mostly it is windy and dry, hot brassy days in the summer that immediately dry your hidden sweat. However, there are days when it is cool, and the air is so fresh and clean it's like drinking cool water. In the spring, it is flavored with the tang of growing things, and in the fall, a different flavor - cooler and more subtle. At night, the train can be heard seven miles away, but you have to be outside to hear it. Along with the cattle bellowing, coyotes yipping and howling their songs are common.

I love it, but when the air is still, and the sky is that shade of curdled steely gray with yellow tinges - well, you sure keep your eyes peeled and listen, and keep the weather station or the tv on. I've seen a few tornadoes - nothing like what decimated Greensburg - and I have a healthy respect for them. Calm isn't always good around here.

The best writers use exactly the words needed, and nothing more.


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May ToDo

Let's see: 

  • Category Icons:  "In Passing," "Radio"
  • Archive links
  • Play with page template:  Post backgrounds?  Change quote format?
  • (thinks:  must have forgotten something...)

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On yer bike

Wonderful comment about commuting by foot and bicycle in London by Richard Hyett:

One fateful day I resolved never to use the tube again. What finally pushed me to this decision was getting stuck in a tunnel on a congested train for a long period. Its one thing to be stuck in an overheated train, when you have a seat to yourself. Quite another when you are packed in like a sardine, can't stand up straight, can't move backwards or forwards and have not the slightest idea whether you are going to be in that position for five minutes or fifty minutes... By the time the train eventually moved 20 minutes later I swore that never again would I put myself in that position.
So for the next year he walked– and then bicycled– the 5½ miles to work. And lived to tell the tale!

I could walk (or cycle, if I owned a bicycle) to work– it's only about 3 miles. I've actually done it on occasion, including one two-week period when I was between cars. But then there's the problem of mid-day errands, and also the problem of early darkness in winter. (And laziness, I'll admit...)
Via Diamond Geezer, who linked to Andrew Denny, who mentioned it in this post. Ain't the interweb grand!

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In Passing

Protected and restricted

Glenn Reynolds quotes a Reuters story:

"The Googles of the world, they are the Custer of the modern world. We are the Sioux nation," Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Richard Parsons said...
"They will lose this war if they go to war," Parsons added, "The notion that the new kids on the block have taken over is a false notion."
and then reminds us that, um...
...while Custer certainly lost the battle, the Sioux actually lost the war. That's because they faced an opponent with better technology, more dynamism, and . . . oh, hell, you get the idea.
Time-Warner represents the perfect old-media combination:  Print publishing, network television, the movie business, and the recording industry, all wrapped up nicely in one stock.  Maybe Parsons actually does see T-W as the Sioux nation... mostly stuck on reservations, protected and restricted by a cocoon of government coddling (DMCA, anyone?), many unwilling or unable to do what it takes to survive in the modern market. 

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Tuesday, 08 May 2007


Jimmy Lileks, cub reporter

Paco (in a thread at Blair's Place) channels Perry White:

Lileks! What do you think you’re doing? While you’ve been hanging around here, you’ve already been scooped by the Eden Prairie News on the Kite Fest at Purgatory Creek, and the Coon Rapids Herald is way ahead of you on the debate over the new community center. Where’s that ol’ Jimmy Olsen spirit?
Here's the reply.

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Monday, 07 May 2007

The Press

Grace under pressure

In the space of about six hours, we went from a decision to migrate a site from one CMS to another, as well as fill in for a very busy local staff to get some initial coverage up of a breaking news story.

If you missed the news, Greensburg, Kansas was destroyed by a massive tornado Friday night. GateHouse Media owns the weekly paper in Greensburg and the neighboring daily paper in Pratt.

Right up there with "the show must go on" is "the paper's gotta get out."  Howard Owens tells what they did to get the Kiowa County Signal back online after Friday night's tornado.  (One lesson learned:  Don't leave the only copy of the website password locked up in the office!)
Hattip:  Tim Blair.

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The Press

Stupid Stupid Stupid - Part 2

The Star-Tribune cancels James Lileks.

As it happens, they've killed my column, and assigned me to write straight local news stories.


So you take your best feature writer, you know-- the one with national recognition-- and put him to writing news. How (ahem) progressive of them!  Don Surber:
Let’s see, we have to move online and attract readers by presenting interesting copy — so let’s kill Lileks.
Surber goes on to posit "another side to the story."  I fear that the story is that Lileks isn't PC-lefty enough for the current PC-lefty regime at the Strib (although his columns weren't political), and that this is a calculated move to "encourage" him to leave.  Ideology trumps audience!  The mark of today's newspapers!

Just one more example of how to kill your business:  Keep on eliminating the  things that attract customers, and sooner or later you won't have any.

UPDATE:  Dave Barry:  "Incredible. [L]ike the Miami Heat deciding to relieve Dwyane Wade of his basketball-playing obligations so he can keep stats."

Via just about everybody, with probably lots more to come, but especially Hugh Hewett, who has already made a list of "10 places I expect to recruit him within days."

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Stupid Stupid Stupid - Part 1

John Dvorak blames the lawyers:

...nobody, myself included, knows what to do with the code. It is practically useless.

If the lawyers did nothing, it would have languished as a curiosity with perhaps a few crackers developing some software with it. The end result would be a few cracked copies of DVDs running on a few computers here and there.

Because of the lawyers and the nasty letters, now everyone online knows how important this number must be. Boom! Now users get to work on it.

Heck of a job, lawyers.
He notes how the RIAA's anti-piracy campaign generated tremendous publicity for MP3s-as-music-storage-and-trading medium, and the subsequent decimation of the retail CD business.
My humble contribution to spreading the word is here.

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In Passing

Artificial orchestras

This weekend's Wall Street Journal (no link, 'cause I read it in hard copy) included an article Fugue for Man & Machine [Weekend WSJ, May 5-6, 2007] that's blatantly designed to stir up the purists:

Amid all the troubles facing the classical music world in recent years..., none has mobilized musicians more than the emergence of computers that can stand in for performers... Now a new alliance of conductors, musicians, and engineers is taking a counterintuitive stance:  that embracing the science is actually the best hope for keeping the art form viable and relevant.
Keep in mind that arguments over "canned music" are nothing new.  My local ballet company uses recorded music for most performances, and has done so for years.  In Las Vegas, several of the show rooms use recorded tracks to augment the live orchestra, and they've been doing it since the 1970s.  And as the millennium opens, many touring show companies, and even some in London's West End, have added synthesizers and other electronic "enhancements," with an eye on cutting the body count in the orchestra pit.
So it's already being done.  And it can be done.  So as usual, the questions comes down to "just because we can do something, should we do it?"

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Saturday, 05 May 2007

In Passing

"Music. Marching men. Organ."

An ex-RAF codebreaker and his composer son say they have deciphered a musical score hidden for nearly 600 years in the elaborate carvings on the walls of Rosslyn Chapel.
The pair believe the tune was encrypted because knowledge of music could have been considered heretical.
Thomas Mitchell, 75, a music teacher, and his son Stuart, 41, a pianist and composer, say they became intrigued by the markings on the chapel's arches more than 20 years ago.
-- Richard Alleyne in The Telegraph
In the 1940 movie The Ghost Breakers, Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard open the door to the Secret Room in the Haunted Castle by chalking stave-lines across a group of carvings on one wall, and playing the indicated notes on the Enormous Pipe Organ (which just happens to be there, and just happens to still work).  The quotation in the post title is The Dying Man's Cryptic Last Words.  Fun stuff.

Thanks to mkelly, whose post about this story reminded me that I wanted to write this one.

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