Archive for February, 2005

Talking American

After blogging a while back, I finally watched Do You Speak American?. I wish some parts had been different. A whole long series would have been good. I especially liked the segment at a Stanford laboratory that mixed videos and vocal tracks with Clifford Nass. Seeing Jim Lehrer’s face with an African-American accent supplied by John Baugh led to the strange perception of him as a Southern white man. The software is from the CSLU toolkit from the Center for Spoken Language Understanding. It brought to mind the one issue I wish the documentary had pursued more when it explored either African-American or Southern accents. I wonder how much African influence is in the white Southern accent and in more widespread American English. There are humming sounds I make for “yes” and “no,” often written “uh-huh” and “uh-uh,” that are straight from Africa. I can make the forms that seem generally hardest to understand with my mouth closed, and the biggest differences between them are tonal. I associate tonality in English with phrases and sentences, such as the rise at the end of a question, but not with single words. A good part of the program explained African-American English as not just lesser American English. There should have been more about the ways American English has absorbed African influences. This page links many American words and phrases to Africa. Some of its claims seem a little off.

Announcements at the end alerted me to PBS Program Clubs. There is a local group. Such clubs seem like a good idea in principle that is unlikely to catch on.

I also watched a couple of Race-O-Rama episodes after a review in The New York Times. I saw Blackaphobia , Dude, Where’s My Ghetto Pass? and In Race We Lust. The last one was the best, but none of them are quite there. In the article, the makers claim that they care about being funny. For my taste, the shows lack wit. They lack that razor quality. They turn out bland considering how controversial the topics are supposed to be. My VH1 expectations are generally and appropriately low.

If you have visited before, you probably notice the new style. I upgraded to the new WordPress release. The upgrade was very easy. The changes from my perspective as a user are few, but I appreciate them. I receive barrages of comment spam. To combat it, I got the Depokerizer plugin. It is working very well.

The weekend was fun. I saw Million Dollar Baby. It was good outside a few problems. The negative portrayal of the priest seemed like a typical Hollywood pile on, as did how endlessly rotten Maggie’s family were. The relationship between Frankie and his daughter was also left far too unclear. It is a good movie, though, and it addresses important questions. Saturday was a gorgeous day, and we played frisbee for a long time. Sunday soccer was good, too. There were many new people playing, but they were pleasant. Now in the snow and cold, I am happy to have had a little relief.

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Michael M. on February 28th 2005 in General, Movies

Open Wilco

I just listened to Wilco on Talk of the Nation from Thursday, February 24, 2005. Jump to the show. NPR also has their show from later that night at the 9:30 Club. I blogged on “Hummingbird” once and another time on their espionage connection. I enjoy the music although I have to admit to not being a true fan. Besides the music itself, I enjoy their refreshing attitudes toward their listeners, copyright, money, record labels and creativity. The interview gives some insights into their approaches to these issues of music and fame. How many rock bands talk about the library on the radio? Can they really have avoided greed so well?

This entry on Lessig‘s blog drew my attention to the radio show with this mp3 clip about Creative Commons. He also wrote a Wired article on them and their vanguard status. I feel inspired by their choices to examine what they value and cut their courses accordingly.

I also enjoy trying to play the “Hummingbird” closing solo.

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Michael M. on February 25th 2005 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

Iran memoir

To follow previous bloggage, here is a book review of Lipstick Jihad. While I doubt I will read the book, the review echoes this common view of Iran. The oppression always revamps just when it seems that Iranians might get a fair deal.

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Michael M. on February 25th 2005 in General

More Times podcast coverage

The New York Times often rides a new horse hard. As found via Adam Curry, there is another article. I blogged the first one, too. I am hopping on the train.

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Michael M. on February 25th 2005 in General

Ooo ooo la la la

Beck‘s “Pressure Zone” from Midnite Vultures is working its way up through my most played songs. I found iTunes, Amazon Windows Media Player and Amazon Real Player clips, with iTunes offering the best one. “Ooo ooo la la la” background vocals are excellent. This old review of calls them “Beatle-blessed.” The Village Voice review terms the song “Beatlesque.” What, reader, do “Pressure Zone” and “Ooo ooo la la la” have to do with the Beatles? Read on.

“Ooo ooo la la la” might make any song better. Googling revealed nothing surprising, though.

Besides the Beatles, kids’ song in School of Rock, appropriately titled “School of Rock,” uses similar back up. The soundtrack clip (Windows Media Player or Real) has a tiny bit of the backing vocals at the end behind “And if you want to be the teacher’s pet.” I first saw the movie last year on DVD with my sister and Rebecca. I instantly thought, “They lifted that part from a Beatles song.” I could not figure out which one, and neither could my sister. Rebecca is not nearly the Beatles fan we are. I later identified the song as “You Won’t See Me” from Rubber Soul. Rubber Soul also has “In My Life.” Its shadow must have blocked the light from “You Won’t See Me.”

I need some people to stand behind me and sing, “Ooo ooo la la la.” Of course by “need,” I actually mean “need.”

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Michael M. on February 24th 2005 in General, Music, Recorded

Bloglines wins Wired Rave Award

I found this article on Bloglines in the Wired Rave Awards. How did I find it? I used Bloglines, my new favorite way for tracking my favorite sites. I tried Sage and Habari Xenu, RSS readers for Firefox. The web service’s single record of read and unread posts works wherever I go. It also ranks my feeds by the number of unread posts. I have found a few good new feeds using its related feeds feature with ones I already read. Bloglines is excellent.

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Michael M. on February 24th 2005 in General

Dirty tune

According to this article found via Waxy Waxy, Song of the South will go on sale in 2006. I blogged on the disappearance of this movie from the public previously. I am sure Disney will foul it up somehow.

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Michael M. on February 24th 2005 in General

Arash convicted

Arash Sigarchi, about whom I blogged in alliance with the Committee to Protect Bloggers, was convicted according to this BBC article. Iran seems poised to throw off its tyrants and join the free world, but these events keep happening.

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Michael M. on February 23rd 2005 in General


This article from The New York Times reports that immigration to the United States from Sub-Saharan Africa now exceeds the rate slaves were brought into the country. The Black World History Wax Museum‘s depiction of the Middle Passage was the most striking part of my visit. As with many immigrant populations, there are problems for new African-Americans, and the history and present status of American blacks add more.

One big question is how recent African immigrants and their descendants should be treated under programs created to help African-Americans with longer American heritages advance. I was reminded of this older article from last summer. Because of their appearance, some African immigrants and their decendents doubtless are subjected to prejudicial treatment rooted in racism against blacks whose American ancestries extend back many decades. Other obstacles or advantages must be quite different. Of course, the situation of each black person is at least slightly different from everyone else’s. Treating all African-Americans the same way for purposes of college or employment statistics seems unfair. I thought so when the lack of distinctions among the multiple generation African-Americans was a much more salient issue and the treatment of recent immigrants received little attention. Some argue that allowing Africans to benefit from these programs will give all blacks models of success, but I see the border between new and old African-Americans as quite distinct. I am in favor of providing opportunities and help for all disadvantaged people, and there certainly are links between impediments to success and race. Tying programs directly and solely to race is wrong, though. I wish the current systems looked more at the particular hindrances of each individual. The impression I have from my time in academia is that such careful examinations are often either never done or subsequently ignored.

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Michael M. on February 22nd 2005 in General

Sabadabada update

Sabadabada, the great archive of 1960s Brazilian music that I blogged before, has been expanded. See its music page. Thanks to Boing Boing for posting about the update. I will downTHEMall!

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Michael M. on February 22nd 2005 in General, Music, Recorded

Design and intelligence

I found this editorial in The New York Times via a post at Barlow Farms, one at and one at Boing Boing. With such a blogosphere stir, it must amount to something. I blogged before about previous news on intelligent design. My opinion on intelligent design has not changed much. We know mechanisms by which DNA mutates, and ID arguments ignore them. The ID calculations I saw involved the probability of a given sequence arising while the whole point of molecular evolution is that genes change over time. DNA replicase errors, DNA recombination events and random mutations are some of the undeniable processes of biology, and there is no credible evidence of discord between them and evolution. The shoddy arguments I have seen tossed out by ID advocates neglect to acknolwedge and address these mechanisms.

I wish I knew enough theology to comment intelligently on the point raised over at Barlow Farms. Nevertheless, I suspect that Barlow is right. The section of the editorial on original sin, procreation and spontaneous abortion was ugly hubris and baiting. One second’s thought should lead one to realize that Christian theologists must have long grappled with these questions and developed extensive answers. Holt’s nasty mocking with the underlying sloppy thinking should not have happened. It is shameful.

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Michael M. on February 22nd 2005 in General


The New York Times carried an article covering podcasting. appears to be the main site. SourceForge hosts the iPodder application. iPodderX looks popular, too. The article cites Podcast Alley and Podcast Bunker as two of the most popular sites for learning about available programming. I have not hopped on the podcasting bandwagon yet, but I have been thinking about it. My searches have not led me to any podcasts I really want to follow yet. What am I missing?


Michael M. on February 22nd 2005 in General, Music, Recorded

Free Mojtaba and Arash

Free Mojtaba and Arash. This article at the BBC alerted me to a blog protest movement for two Iranian dissidents, Arash Sigarchi and Mojtaba Saminejad. Then I found this post on Boing Boing. Everyone deserves freedom of expression.

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Michael M. on February 22nd 2005 in General

Parties, sports and a dog

My weekend was great fun. A potluck at Rebecca’s Friday made for a good time. In addition to people from campus, she has befriended some good people beyond its borders. I am happy to share the fruit of her overtures even though I continue to be rather introverted myself. I third wheeled to a party thrown by graduate students Saturday. The medical school tends toward being socially insular. I had never met so many students from other programs. There was a variety of people from academia and several from without, and they were interesting, bright, witty and friendly.

I got to play both soccer and frisbee this weekend! It was the first such weekend in quite a while. The weather was backwards. Saturday brought drizzle and some sleet for outdoor frisbee, and Sunday was too gorgeous a day for indoor soccer played after sunset. I had plenty of fun both times anyway.

Soccer brought a little incident that I am still mulling. I am a spirited, if not especially talented, athlete. Even though I am not so good, I resent disregard with passion. In addition to skill deficits, I possess a completely unimposing physique. I am fast, though, much, much faster than anyone would guess upon first viewing. I like to think that I am quick for the general population; I know I am plenty fast for sports played with graduate students. My interpretation, admittedly a generous one, is that I draw my share of anger and then some because everybody and his little old grandmother size me up and think that they should beat me handily and even though I am what I am, I win a few. When somebody turns games into footraces, I win a few more. To attempt a little fairness, I am simply a jerk sometimes, too. I derive pleasure when my opponents anger if I can smile myself. It is either coolness under pressure or brazen mischief. Which one apparently depends on perspective and the particulars of each incident.

My Sunday soccer incident began when a guy trapped the ball between himself and the wall near his own goal with his back to the court. He is, no doubt, often a rude player. On a free kick, he once booted the ball into my face from about two feet away because he incorrectly thought he could kick it over me. I called him a name and told him not to do it. I think he pulls such garbage because he thinks he is better than most of us and better than he really is. I cannot tell how out of line I was Sunday, though. I popped the ball off the wall and then cut him off to pass to a teammate. I think my teammate then scored. He hotly said, “You know you can’t play from behind.” I said nothing. Maybe I shrugged my shoulders or smiled. Then I jogged back to my team’s end of the court for the next point. We play pickup, and we referee ourselves. We have many understood rules, and I am not sure about this one. We often call rough tackles, but I did not knock him. I cannot recall hearing anyone else call a foul over a steal from behind along a wall. I found rules prohibiting aggressive play from behind in one indoor league. I certainly did not crash into him, and I do not think that I kicked or tripped him. Maybe my play would have qualified as aggressive, though. Definitely nobody enjoys a whipping from somebody he thinks he should beat, even if it is only one tiny play in a long game, and my being much smaller probably only made it worse. Judging from past games, including last night, he is one whose effort soars while his performance drops once he becomes angry, and the ugly cycle continues until he leaves. He did not play well the rest of the time while I played about as well as usual. Toward the end of the game, I mostly played back, and I either blocked his shot or stole the ball every time I can remember matching up for the rest of the game. To my possibly (but not actually) paranoid mind, he was seeking me out, too. If he had been calm, he would have made it past me now and then. It was intoxicatingly fun. I scare myself a little in such moods. I have to repeat to myself that it is just a game, that I want maximum fun for myself and everyone else playing, that other people are not means to my joy, especially schadenfreude, and that glory and triumph, even piddling pickup game varities, are ephemeral.

How should I handle such situations? I can keep myself from taunting, but the glee is there. Should I have stopped and told him that he needed to calm down? He might have grown worse if I had played know it all. It ran through my head to say, “You’re just mad because you turned the ball over.” That one did not seem like such a good idea. I do want the proper respect that everyone deserves, and I want my opponents to recognize their mistakes. Pointing them out directly might not be the best way. I am not suave even when I want to be, and getting a little rise out of someone can be disaster for my humility and judgment. Was I in the wrong with my play? Should I have apologized? I wonder whether it ever crossed his mind to apologize for his mouth and subsequent aggression. I see three criteria for evaluating the possibilities. First, I want to act fairly for myself, my opponent and everyone playing. Second, I want to keep the game enjoyable for everyone else. Third, I want to promote good sportsmanship. What is the best way to handle someone who gets angry during a game? What is the best way to keep myself from being a jerk and ruining the time for others? I have been turning these questions over for the last day. It is too thrilling to cast myself as David teaching Goliath a lesson. To do so is to cast the situation too far in my own favor, though. Standing up for myself is one thing; playing punisher is another.

I will have a little dog friend soon. I will watch my sister’s dog for a few days next week. Ralph is a sweet dog, and I always enjoy keeping her even if she goes into gastrointestinal overdrive when she visits. We will have a good time, and I am looking forward to having her.


Michael M. on February 21st 2005 in General

STL short films

The Academic Film Archive of North America sponsors cinĂ©16, a monthly screening of 16 mm films at the Mad Art Gallery. I went tonight with a few friends, and it was great. Tonight’s program had several fun films. My favorite was Two Black Churches followed closely by Gerald McBoing-Boing, based on a Dr. Seuss story. Boing Boing had a post with links to audio and pictures files. Two Black Churches was made by William Ferris, currently a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill. He helped found and directed the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss before moving on to head the National Endowment for the Humanities. I saw Bill Ferris when he came to my hometown and gave a presentation at a retirement home. He played guitar and told good stories. The only person close to my age was an older brother of a friend.

Life and Death in a Pond was fun to watch. Tadpoles were followed most closely. The segment on the progression from egg to frog was excellent. I understand why they are and have been such a favorite model organism for developmental biology. I saw a blastula, a gastrula and the neural crest all very clearly. I liked the damselfly nymph a great deal, too. I remember catching one, the first one I ever saw, in Luxapalila Creek in high school in an aquatic ecology class. I thought maybe it was a crustacean, some kind of crawdad that I had never seen before, but my teacher recognized it. It was clinging magically to the red clay bottom in a swift current before I nabbed it.

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Michael M. on February 17th 2005 in General, Movies

Small projector

Many technology news articles have profiled the PocketProjector to be released this summer. The New York Times belatedly jumped on the reporting bandwagon. The projector will go on sale for $699. It only displays 800×600 SVGA. I looked up some resolution numbers for comparison. While better than television, it is significantly worse than the 1280×720 HDTV 720p standard. NTSC D1 DVD resolution is 740×480. It ought to make a nice DVD movie projector. I am ready for a higher resolution projector to reach this size and price range. The projector combines DLP and LED technologies. As I understand it, DLP is an array of tiny mirrors, a digital micromirror device. The mirrors flip between two states, one on and one off. Brightness is varied by keeping it in the on state for a longer time, pulse width modulation. Current technologies seem to use a white light source and either a color wheel with a single DLP chip or three DLP chips with filters. Although I do not know for certain how this projector works, it probably uses separate LEDs to get red, green and blue with a single DLP chip. The rainbow effect still might be a problem, but no color wheel and no light bulb should mean big improvements in reliability and durability.

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Michael M. on February 17th 2005 in General

Computer upgrades and personal updates

I spent some time upgrading my server computer to SUSE 9.2 Sunday. I rate it fair to good. I missed the Pixies on Austin City Limits while monkeying with it, but I managed to see the show later. The computer now boots slowly for reasons unknown, but apparently tied to checking the disks. It works fine. The free ISO DVD image I used includes relatively few packages. It took more downloadng to get all the software I wanted.

I have not upgraded MythTV to 0.17 yet, but I will soon. The most appealing new feature is timestretch that plays videos back at higher speeds without greatly altering the pitch. I wonder how it does it. Another reason to upgrade MythTV is that the front end works with OS X. In related events, my PowerBook arrived on Valentine’s Day. The days when every new computer did something very different from the last one have passed. Instead, this computer seems to do everything I want better and more elegantly than my old one. I still am seeking useful and cool software for it.

Before my plunge into computer tinkering. the weekend was fun. My sister and I visited the Black World History Wax Museum Saturday. It was a good trip. The figures were made from a different material than the wax figures I have seen before, and the building was warmer than I expected. The topic is awfully broad for a museum. It focuses more on the African-American experience from the slave trade foward. I hope it gains enough funding to grow. I recommend it as a way to spend a few hours some afternoon. While on Saint Louis Avenue, we had great milkshakes at Crown Candy Kitchen. After visiting Pin-Up Bowl Friday for neuroscience recruiting without bowling, I went to Tropicana Lanes Saturday night to wish some friends farewell. I wish them the best.

A former staff surgeon at Homer G. Phillips Hospital gave a short talk following a screening of a documentary Tuesday for Black History Month. It was a prominent black teaching hospital in Saint Louis. Unlike previous attempts at providing segregated health care, the hospital operated for black people from patients to administrators. It suffered a lingering decline and eventually closed following integration. The staff and the community it served treasured it. Today, it is undergoing conversion to residences for elderly people. Built St. Louis has a few photographs of it. As bad as segregation must have been, something wonderful bloomed within it and then died with it.

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Michael M. on February 16th 2005 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

More Eyes

Boing Boing has yet another post about Eyes on the Prize and its entangling copyright problems. The Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement published a statement urging that the documentary. There is a petition to express support. I blogged previously about Eyes on the Screen, a project to coordinate screenings of Eyes on the Prize on February 8. I watched with a few friends. The documentary cannot be sold or broadcast legally. It ought to be available.

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Michael M. on February 16th 2005 in General

Women and science

The New York Times carried this essay from the former science editor of the paper. Since blogging about the Summers comments, I have not followed closely. I enjoyed this one. Coincidentally, my ethics course for science discussed gender and science today. The disparity in number has been pushed to a high stratum of academia, but it persists there.

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Michael M. on February 15th 2005 in General

The Constitution and my hometown

This column by Bob Herbert cites a recent survey of high school students about constitutionally protected freedoms. The mention of Hodding Carter, III caught my eye. He now heads the Knight Foundation. I am familiar with Hodding Carter, II. Here is another page on him. He wrote the book So the Heffners Left McComb about civil rights incidents in my hometown, McComb. In fact, my first trip home from the hospital landed me in the same neighborhood where the Heffners had lived ten years earlier. The Heffners had some people, civil rights workers, from their church over for dinner. Subsequently, the man’s business evaporated, and the family was stalked and harrassed. Somebody killed their dog. They moved away. The younger daughter wrote this article recounting the incident for The Telegraph. As an aside, that silver train in her story was the City of New Orleans. The Heffners were run out of town over their dinner guests.

Hodding Carter, II was a prominent journalist and newspaper publisher in Greenville, Mississippi. Hodding Carter, III ran the Delta Democrat-Times after his father. I do not understand precisely how Hodding Carter, II came to write So the Heffners Left McComb, but journalism links the two towns. Both towns’ papers criticized the demagogues and racial injustices. The two papers are owned by the same company today, but they were not then. A Confederacy of Silence also mentions the links.

One of my favorite discoveries in So the Heffners Left McComb was the role my favorite teacher at McComb High School played. He turns up in a surprising number of stories. Rebecca, a friend here, was visiting family friends in New Orleans, and she recognized him as my teacher when they told a story about him from their graduate school days. He visited the Heffners even when the heat was on and the local no-goods would circle around their house. When his family began fearing for him, he came and went through their back door. One of his most touching stories was about his church during this era. They wanted to know what to do if a black person tried to attend, so they voted. They voted on it. He came back to McComb to teach when the schools finally integrated, and I am lucky to know him.

Googling led me to a Joe Martin’s oral history at this site at USM featuring a collection of Mississippi civil rights history. I do not remember him from home. He knew the Heffners. He also mentions Aylene Quin who must have been a tough lady judging from his story and the Telegraph one linked above.

The struggle was far past too ugly at home. 16, maybe 20, houses and churches were burned or exploded in a community that probably had fewer than 30,000 people counting city and county. 650 residents, many or all white, signed a statement of principles published in the Enterprise-Journal that condemned violence. The New York Times picked up the story. I have not tracked down the text yet. I tried asking at the local library without getting far. I found November 17, 1964 as its publication date. The letter stood for its time out because locally prominent people condemned the crumbling of civilization happening around them instead of permitting and passively condoning, if not actively encouraging, poor whites to do dirty work. This transcript of an oral history reports that the Enterprise-Journal published an article “McComb Leads Nation in Racial Solutions” on June 28, 1967. Before the turn, McComb was possibly the most violent town of the time.

I grew up unaware even though I started first grade only a little more than a decade after the schools integrated. I read So the Heffners Left McComb late in high school or in college. Although it is out of print, libraries are good sources for it. One has to understand that Jim Crow poisoned their minds and they could not think right. An article in the Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi’s newspaper of record, covers events honoring activists for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The schools plan to introduce lessons on the era. The schools did not integrate completely until 1970, I think, at home. When I started first grade, there may have been high school students who experienced integration, yet I had no idea about the particulars of the Movement in my hometown until I was quite old. While it is a shame to forget, it is heartening, too.

There were church burnings again when I was in college. If I recall correctly, three men, two my age, burned two local black country churches one night. I did not know them, but friends of mine did. Unlike thirty years earlier, they quickly were found and brought to justice. Local volunteers rebuilt the two churches. We are not there yet, but sometimes progress is real.


Michael M. on February 9th 2005 in General

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.