. . .
My blog has been much neglected over the past month, but I've just put up two new entries:
and some pictures of the swamps in Louisiana:
say it with me...
ah-nee-bah-dee but bush
moveon.org is collecting pledges of time to counteract bush's enormous war chest of cash. 6407940 hours have been pledged so far, 36 by me (I pledged one hour a week until the election).
Take Back the White House!
President Bush has already raised hundreds of millions for his bid. Our great hope is in our collective power to get out the vote. We'll work via the Internet, the telephone, and face-to-face conversations with voters. And we'll take back our democracy, city by city, block by block, and voter by voter. Are you in? Sign the pledge
short on time? how about donating some money?
geov parrish at working for change lays it out so clearly that I've excerpted most of his column here. bush & co. used a relentless campaign of innuendo, slander, deception, and outright lies to fabricate support for their invasion of iraq, we would be foolish to expect different from them in the battle for the presidency: we're in for a long ugly fight.
This year's presidential race is going to be the most important the United States, and the world, has seen in decades. At least. And it is going to be very, very nasty. Liberals had better stop being nice, stop being complacent or cynical or despairing or disengaged, and take your gloves off. Now.
Like it or not, the president who came in promising to unite us has created, in only three short years, the most polarized and the most bitterly politically divided country since Reconstruction. His team has created more anti-American hatred around the globe than has ever previously existed in history. Those same political strategists have shown that they will stop at virtually nothing to gain and exercise power, and will do so almost exclusively to enrich their hyperwealthy friends and feed their warped ideological crusades -- crusades that, if presented honestly, would be rejected by the vast majority of their countrypersons and the rest of the world.
This is a war. It's being fought like one, whether or not we participate, and we are all targets. We'd better start acting like our asses are on the firing line. They are.
I don't hate George W. Bush; I do hate what he has done and is still doing to our country and to my planet, and I do intend to do everything in my power to ensure he and his cabal don't have another four years to abuse their public trust. But now comes the hard part. The excitement and headlines of the Democratic primaries are over. It will be a long, hard slog to November, interrupted only by two party conventions/infomercials and the power of the White House to control the headlines of a news media whose critical thinking muscles are atrophied beyond recognition.
We can already see how this will go. If you have any doubt how the White House will attack John Kerry, look at its last great sales job: the invasion of Iraq. For months, we were besieged with exaggerations, accusations, planted stories, and outright lies. No fib or rationalization was too ridiculous; as soon as one was disproven or shot down, three more were trotted out. Eventually, some stuck, for a while. But more to the point, the White House wore down public skepticism just enough, and just long enough, that their raw power could do the rest. If it all turned out to be a fraud, who cares? This is what ruthlessness looks like.
John Kerry has decades' worth of votes and public statements from which this sort of malicious playbook can be stocked, and the attacks have already begun. The question is one of perspective: by virtue of sheer scale and audacity, George Bush's crimes against the public trust dwarf any policy reversal John Kerry, or most any other politician, has ever contemplated. But if Kerry and his supporters wring their hands and spend the next eight months answering every charge and talking nobly of future public policy, they'll deserve to lose. The issue this year is nothing other than George Bush's attack on 300 million of us, his betrayal of what is best in and about America: front, back, and center.
Defense doesn't win wars. And that's what this is: war, one we didn't start, for nothing less than the future of the country, the world, even. The six billion of us without any trust funds to finance our tickets to Mars are pretty well stuck with this one planet. We'd better start acting, all of us, like no one government, let alone one politician who says he talks regularly with God, has the right to recklessly endanger it and the lives of so many of the people on it. Get angry about it. You should be.
I've been working on a project (nicknamed "beat geek" in my head) that uses the digital equivalents of dada/beat cut-up techniques and other forms of randomness in or artificial generation of language.
For example, I have a program called autopoem (written by Bill Sethares) loosely based on an idea from Shannon's original paper on information theory.
Suppose you took all the words in the English language and calculated how often the character "s" is followed by the character "t", the character "e", and so on. You'd end with a table of transition probabilities that showed how often each letter is followed by any other letter (or punctuation mark or space) and starting with a single seed letter you could generate "english-like" words randomly. The output using the probability that a single letter is followed by another letter doesn't actually resemble English much, nor does the output using probabilities based on two letter combinations (how often is "th" followed by "e", by "a", and so on) but by the time you get to 3 letter combinations, (how often is "the" followed by "a" or by "s") the output starts to look a lot like "twas brillig and the slithy toves", like ye olde englishe with very creative spelling.
The scheme I described above is difficult to implement in practice, because the table of probabilities gets big fast as the number of letters used to determine the next letter gets longer. Autopoem uses a particular text as a source and instead of generating a table of probabilities it scans the text looking for the next of the letter sequence, say "the", and then selects whatever letter or punctuation mark comes next, say "a", then it continues scanning until it finds the next occurrence of "hea", and selects the following letter, and so on. the longer the sequence of letters, the more likely it is that whole words or phrases from the original text will appear in the output. An alternative version, requiring a reasonably long text, applies the same principle on the word level, how often is the word "red" followed by the word "hat" or "dog" or so on.
Here's some autopoem output:
Your strip of entirely
tired witches scarecrow me at night
That reached the next
He witches at and glow in a cruel head
Done behind the mark
Nothing but the Land of blue
And the green wizard answer with sharp teeth
(anyone care to guess the source text?)
Other ideas/algorithms/programs that fall into the same genre are dilbert's corporate values generator (now defunct?), eliza (especially when she interacts with zippy), madlibs (I don't know of a computer application), scott reynen's poetry and prose generators, rob malda's poetry generator (currently offline) & googlism.
Any suggestions or links to related ideas or programs would be greatly appreciated --- anything having to do with language generated digitally would be of interest.
Recent entries include:
the erector shrine
recounts my attempt to overcome childhood trauma by building my own space station. with photo-documentation.
marie osmond saves the day
describes how my blog entry went pfft! and how marie osmond got it back for me.
I had an actual weekend. really.
smart people are stupid
my comments on the 'preferred upgrade' poll I submitted to
From the archives:
what do ladybugs eat?
Thanks for checking it out.
20% more whuffie
20% better looking
20% larger hard drive
20% more karma
except that my version had the last option as:
20% more like CowboyNeal.
Looks like it's generated some good discussion already, no shortage of folks hanging out at slashdot on Friday night.
But for some reason, the poll was listed as "rejected" on my "submit stories" page. Oh well, next time I'll remember to slap a creative commons tag on my submissions.
So what's new?
a visit with my mother describes, um, a visit with my mother and includes links to some pictures of a steam train ride through a redwood forest.
normal blog entry is an accounting of one week of my life, coffeeshops and my laptop feature prominently.
margaret mead on iraq consists of political ranting, mainly other people's.
awesome describes my recent scuba diving adventure at point lobos.
all the blah-blah-blah that's fit for cyberprint!
They say that if you play a Windows Install CD backwards you hear satanic messages. That's nothing. Put it in forwards and it installs Windows.
My long neglected blog has finally been updated --- today's topics are "weight loss the slow boring way" and "Q-Turn," a game from Looney Labs.
Haven't had anything to contribute to
plug & play broadband at my friend Liz's apartment in Bologna, Italy, and I guessed her smtp server on the first try. It's nice to kick back a bit after 4 days of hardcore tourism, plus a wedding, in Paris. I took the TGV from Paris -> Bologna, advanced technology compared to amtrak's old beasts of burden, but they still didn't have electrical outlest on the train. I read Mrs. Dalloway instead of spending quality time with my laptop, not a good exchange really. .
Today is Pi Day. Find where your birthday, or any other sequence of numbers, appears in the first 100 million digits of Pi. Eat some pie and sing some really awful Pi day songs at 1;59 PM. Or make a Pi necklace.
It's also Albert Einstein's birthday. Between Einsein and Pi, March 14 has a lot of geek credibility already. Maybe we can have it declared "Geek's Day", I mean "IT Personnel Appreciation Day." Instead of the flowers and candy that show up on Secretary's Day and even Bosses' Day people could show their geek appreciation with boxes of chocolate covered donuts and cases of Mountain Dew.
If this is a service economy, why is the service so bad?