Archive for January, 2006

War casualties

A New Kind of Care in a New Era of Casualties” in The New York Times is too strong not to share. Modern technology allows soldiers to survive injuries that would have been fatal in the past. Consequently, they face unprecedented challenges in recovery and rehabilitation. These people have sacrificed greatly.

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Michael M. on January 31st 2006 in General

WordPress 2.0.1 upgrade

Following a very recent upgrade, I have performed another one to WordPress 2.0.1. Although they were small, I had noticed a few problems with administration and writing in 2.0. Even after this upgrade, the fancy post editor still cannot deal with relative links properly. Let me know if you notice any problems with this version.

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Michael M. on January 31st 2006 in General

Challenger anniversary

With the twentieth anniversary of the Challenger disaster, I have reflected on my memories of the time. I have loved space exploration for as long as I can remember, and I have a good memory. I subscribed to Odyssey, a children’s magazine about astronomy and space exploration, back then. Everything in school about astronomy or space exploration piqued my interest. The loss did little to change my opinions. My deepest concern then and now is the inconsistency of public support.

I was in Quest, an enrichment program, rather than my regular morning class when it happened. A classmate who was home from school that day called the principal’s office, and our teacher told us. When we returned to regular classes for the afternoon, we told others. Our afternoon teacher would not believe us. Within a few weeks, the jokes began circulating. Then as now, I liked gallows humor. Several weeks later, Quest visited the Marshall Space Flight Center. As I recall, there was a memorial kiosk for the Challenger astronauts. It was a solemn and somber part of an otherwise terrific trip. It snowed our last day there, a rare sight in my childhood.

I remember being annoyed by the very special episode of Punky Brewster. Punky was not sure that she wanted to be an astronaut anymore. I looked down on Punky’s fears. My belief did not falter.

I read the Richard Feynman books “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” and “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” around the end of high school and the beginning of college. One or both of them include anecdotes about his involvement with the subsequent disaster investigation. Space travel is inherently dangerous, but Feynman showed that it has been more dangerous than necessary. While making it as safe as possible, we should continue the pursuit. I still believe in frontiers and exploration.

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Michael M. on January 30th 2006 in General

Harper Lee

Harper Lee is a notable media recluse. I wrote about her last spring. To my delight, I found “Harper Lee, Gregarious for a Day” in The New York Times.

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Michael M. on January 30th 2006 in General

Change my pitch up

I checked out Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus by the Vince Guaraldi Trio from the library after watching Black Orpheus a few weeks ago. I like the version of “Since I Fell for You” from what was originally the non-movie B side of the album, and I tried to play along on my fiddle. It is in Eâ™­. Not wanting to retune and not being good enough fiddler to play in Eâ™­, I shifted the pitch to D, a much easier key, using the sound editor Audacity. Audacity is great. It is free and available for many platforms including Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. It opened the file directly from the CD. I chose a shift from Eâ™­ to D. It computed the correct factor automatically and shifted it. The shifted version does have a few artifacts, but it is good enough for me to play along with it in my living room. Audacity also has the ability to change tempo without altering pitch. It has been on my mind for a while to try learning a fiddle tune that is too fast for me by slowing the tempo, an aid mentioned various places, but I have not tried it yet. Sticking with my class is enough fiddle for right now.

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Michael M. on January 28th 2006 in General

dd-wrt

I installed dd-wrt firmware on my Linksys WRT54GS last week. This article from I, Cringely inspired me to try these Linksys routers with firmware replacements. I had used Sveasoft for over a year. I like dd-wrt a lot. Sveasoft has received criticism regarding the GPL and the way dissenting customers are treated. I never had any big problems with Sveasoft, but dd-wrt seems better. The menu layout looked nicer, and the organization is better. The router provides a firewall for my small home network, and with these firmware replacements, it is extensively configurable. I can access it remotely. Using ssh tunnels, I access iTunes from work. The router is useful without being expensive, and the alternative software adds a lot wihtout much difficulty. Additionally, dd-wrt is free.

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Michael M. on January 25th 2006 in General

Pope©

Pope Benedict XVI™ is enforcing copyright according to The Times, found via this post on ABB. The free spread of religious information seems well aligned with the evangelical mission of Roman Catholicism©, but the man in the pointy hat® appears to disagree. I am bewildered.

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Michael M. on January 25th 2006 in General

Times for anonymity

Privacy for People Who Don’t Show Their Navels” in The New York Times addresses questions of privacy and anonymity that friends and I have mulled lately. I looked into anonymity software Tor a while back without trying it. I am giving it a try now. Many more aspects of identity should be protected. Electronic money came up the other day talking with friends. We need electronic cash. I occasionally use cash for privacy reasons although I do so less than I did in the past. I have become accustomed to telling store clerks that they may not have my name or address. Too much of my information is out there, though, and my identity theft experience was a big annoyance. I expect many court cases about how the First Amendment relates to private speech and anonymous speech in coming years, but I lack confidence about the outcomes.

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Michael M. on January 25th 2006 in General

WordPress 2.0 upgrade

I upgraded this blog to WordPress 2.0 today. Please let me know if you notice any problems.

For the first time after a WordPress upgrade, I had a problem. I could not view the Dashboard administration page. It either came up blank or returned an error message about memory. After googling, I changed the memory_limit setting in /etc/php.ini from 8M to 16M and then restarted Apache. It has worked fine since.

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Michael M. on January 23rd 2006 in General

Country Boys on the Frontline

Although delayed, I watched Country Boys, a documentary about two Kentucky teenagers that aired recently on the PBS series Frontline. It is excellent. The whole series plus many extras are available at the site. The documentary is awash in supplementary material.

David Sutherland‘s related links give more directions. I also enjoyed his comments about making the film. Here and elsewhere, he rightly focused on how connected these boys were to the rest of the world. From the review in the San Jose Mercury News comes

In addition, he recalls, “I kept seeing everywhere that the teenage kids all understood me. They were all on the Web, all wired, they all watched MTV or VH1. It belied everything that I had read. They were so much more aware of the outside world than the outside world was of them.”

Co-producer Erin Anguish provides looks behind the movie through her own highly connected presence. She has a MySpace profile, a Friendster profile , a Flickr site and a blog. Evidently, she is a friend of a friend of a friend of mine. Look at this photoset. According to this post, she is the woman singing with Ray Riddle, an important person in the documentary. She registered his site. A singer-songwriter herself, her song with him and others of his are available.

The David School, attended by the two leading people in the film, has a site. Read an interview with Danny Greene, its founder and head. His own story is moving. After a college spring break volunteer trip, he decided that Appalachia was the place for him, transferred to same community college there and returned after completing college. Interestingly, Jessica, another important person in Country Boys, later went to the same community college.

Seven Rise Up, Cody’s band, has a link from the PBS site, and from there, I found the band’s page on MySpace with an mp3. It is fast Christian metal. Cody and Jessica have profiles. Anguish is a friend of each. Chris does not have a profile, but Cody posted that he would try get Chris on MySpace.

Rednecromancer, linked from Sutherland’s press page for the film, dedicated several great posts to the series, including this one and this one commented on by Anguish. His perspective as a son of Appalachia adds much. Read a review or two from The New York Times, too.

Before the intarweb came into homes, PBS connected me to the world, it and the public library. I love PBS. To my great fortune, my parents gave me these directions, and my home was stable, personally and financially. I never faced hardships as many or as big as Cody and Chris. I do know the small town life, though. How few small town and rural people I know now puzzles me. I appreciate Country Boys as a continuation and illustration of the connective power of PBS.

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Michael M. on January 22nd 2006 in General, Movies

STL voting machines

I posted late last year about the choice of voting machines. Arch City Chronicle has a post about the machines that includes a reply from Ed Martin of the Board of Elections.

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Michael M. on January 22nd 2006 in General

Roy Blunt

Although I do not have strong feelings about Roy Blunt, I have to point out a funny I heard on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! today. Visit roybluntsucks.com and stoproyblunt.com. Look at the whois record for the first and for the second. In a funny twist, Friends of Roy Blunt registered both. If his friends registered these domains, I wonder about his enemies.

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Michael M. on January 21st 2006 in General

This American Life mp3s

Following an old plan, my project over the last few days has been getting available episodes of This American Life into mp3 and AAC formats. Because of a deal with Audible.com, the show does not podcast. I am unwilling to pay six dollars per episode when they are already available as Real files. I wanted them in a more widely playable format.

Using this post on Boing Boing as a guide, I downloaded the Real files. This hint at macosxhints showed me how to convert them to mp3s with LAME along with mplayer, ffmpegX and RealPlayer. Using faac, I also converted to from Real to AAC. I now have 294 episodes in iPod-compatible glory. Fink let me get LAME and faac working without much effort. Although converting from one lossy format to another causes degradation, the shows should still sound good enough since they are mostly spoken. The spot checks I made all sounded fine.

I hacked together a couple of small BASH scripts with wget to grab the archive page and the Real files and sed and grep to parse archive page and figure out what the Real files are named. If you want to see my ugly scripts, let me know. The formatting, among other things, looked awful when I posted them here in a previous draft. They probably violate many fundamentals of scripting, but they function well enough.

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Michael M. on January 17th 2006 in General

Sufjan Stevens NYT

A Songwriter With Dreams of Continental Dimensions” in The New York Times reviews Sufjan Stevens recent New York concert. I became a fan by attending his concert here. I found the article via this post on a blog I somehow ended up tracking. The review has little new, but I was glad to see the attention cast his way. I, too, hope the 50 States Project does not end too soon.

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Michael M. on January 17th 2006 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

Local trailer

This post at the 52nd City blog led me to Lackluster Pictures. Judging from the trailer, A. (anonymous), a movie filmed in STL, looks funny. The trailer features “Your Buzz Is Safe with Me Tonight” by local rockers Tight Pants Syndrome.

TPS has put up new songs and new dates. They will play this Saturday at Cicero’s and the next at Off Broadway. I have been a fan since hearing them on KDHX‘s Suffragette City last spring. Maybe I finally will make it to one of these shows.

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Michael M. on January 17th 2006 in General

Racial lines

I heard Thulani Davis on Fresh Air today. She discussed her book My Confederate Kinfolk largely about the interracial relationship of her great-grandparents. I read her Village Voice piece “Confederates in My Attic” about the same people. Her story is gripping and strange. I do not know how close my closest relative considered to belong to another race is, but I wonder.

I saw Ellis Cose at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Lecture. After it ended, I talked to him with a few friends. To attend my fiddle lesson, I left the later celebration too early to see the main lecture. They spun me off into a fit of pondering. How should we seek justice? How do we help one another? We have largely segregated schools, transportation systems and businesses although Jim Crow is gone.

Living in the City of Saint Louis, the split between the city and the county seems strange and detrimental. I gather than reunification is a highly controversial and largely unpopular idea here. It should not be. Governments exist to provide services and to establish and enforce order. To do so, they ought to roughly mirror economic and social regions. The city and the county are clearly interdependent, yet they fall under common governance only at the state level and above. Sharp borders within communities lead to inequities. I do not know whether the law can act against fracturing a region to support injustice, but it ought to.

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Michael M. on January 17th 2006 in General

Blonde joke

I found a mildly amusing blonde joke at Burningbird.

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Michael M. on January 12th 2006 in General

Rolling South

A week or so ago while walking out of the local library, I saw Rolling Out St. Louis. It is one of those free newspapers often found stacked around doorways. I took a copy. The December 15 edition featured “The New South Movement.” The story covers Southern hip-hop and the ongoing reverse Great Migration. It caught my eye because the cover featured two African-American men superimposed over a Confederate battle flag in the colors of the UNIA-ACL red, black and green flag. I had read about NuSouth.

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Michael M. on January 9th 2006 in General

Super Smokers gone

This story at STLtoday.com brought the news that local barbeque chain Super Smokers closed last Thursday. KSDK also has brief coverage. The web site is gone. Although I disliked how far from the city the locations were, I always enjoyed the food. The pork varied from good to terrific. I am sad to see Super Smokers go.

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Michael M. on January 9th 2006 in General

STL blogging

Bloggers find niche in St. Louis information scene” published in some editions of the Post-Dispatch covers several local blogs. Not being a regular reader of the paper, I found it via this post on Ramblings by Joe Frank, urbanist, one of the profiled blogs. Thanks to these local blogs, I have learned much more about the city and even become more interested in it.

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Michael M. on January 4th 2006 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.