It is absolutely crazy how quick this last year has flown by. It seemed like just yesterday things were thawing out and it was time to start biking, and now here we are again. Madness. I'm starting this year off in a bit of a slump, too, which doesn't bode too terribly well. Let's see if I can't blog, code, and exercise my way out of it.
Spring is coming, and although remnants of the last major snowfall still peek out from the lawns of some shady side streets, the air is fresh and the sun is bright. Sunday mornings now have that golden sunrise hue that seems to promise to last forever. New Year's Day was back in January, but as far as I'm concerned, this is really the new beginning.
My brother Mark moved in to a new place near Bathurst and Harbord with his girlfriend. The apartment is a second story one bedroom affair above what once was a coachhouse and now stands vacant. I haven't seen the inside yet - they just moved last Monday - but the bedroom has an east facing floor to ceiling window which promises glorious mornings, hardwood floors that Mark just loves, and best of all, blissful silence: nobody in the same building at all, above, below or beside. He's looking forward to doing a lot of writing and studious movie watching. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little envious.
Rob W,, my dear old friend, is getting married in Ottawa this next weekend to his lovely fiancée Kate E. It's that time of life when friends are starting to marry, to buy houses, start families. On the one hand, it's delightful to see everyone doing so well, and to be handed such excellent opportunities to spend time with people who have drifted away a bit after the academic crush. On the other hand, it's a sobering reminder that there is a lot of work and forethought necessary to maintain an average middle-class lifestyle, and I've been letting that slide for too long now. On the gripping hand, I'm hugely happy for Rob and Kate, and I can't wait to celebrate with them.
Just like many other people, it seems that I've let twitter devour my blogging habit (if ever I really had one, that is, which is debatable). There have actually been a few times recently when I decided to not broach a particular topic because I couldn't think of a reasonable way to fit the thought into 140 characters... and frankly that's just crazy talk. I'm going to try building blogging back into my online habits, and I'm not waiting for any silly new year's resolution timing to do so. Since I spend more synchronous personal online time on my mobile these days than on my main machine, I've got to find a tool that will if not take advantage of that fact, then at least not be hobbled by it. LJ2ME is my first attempt at finding a tool for this purpose. It's pretty raw so far, but it looks like it might get the job done. My next try will probably involve figuring out how well Opera Mobile can render LJ. One way or another, though, I'm getting this thing back on track. Hello, world!
I am very worried by Lars Rasmussen's description of how he believes Wave relates to email:
Later on, Lars mentions that a bidirectional email-to-wave gateway might be difficult, but possible. The problem is that email includes a set of well-structured header information and the optional ability to include an arbitrary number of body elements, each which may contain highly structured information (e.g. MIME sections containing binary files), semistructured documents (e.g. HTML, Markdown, format=flowed, or other text formats which offer hints about enhanced rendering while not requiring it) or unstructured text; whereas Waves appear to not only strip away the requirement for this extra richness but also the ability to include it.
Accepting and rendering down rich structure while offering only text with primarily presentational markup makes for a unbalanced flow of information.
Passion radiates. You can see it roll off people in waves, like haze from a locomotive engine. Like that heat, passion doesn't do much in a vacuum, and most of it gets wasted as entropy.
Manage it properly, though, and heat becomes flame, flame becomes fire. Fire can warm the needy, lift rockets to the heavens, and light the way through temples, tombs and libraries.
Fire brings light. Cast wide, it can bring knowledge and safety; focused coherently, in can carry words and thoughts to the other side of the world, or on into the far future.
Passion - gathered, directed, encoded - powers the world.
My passion is for the written word. I use it awkwardly, but I love it dearly. Thought, inspiration, hard-fought wisdom and brilliant insight live on and leap from person to person, across generations, as simple words. Used well, words uplift and ennoble us. They are the crowning achievement of humanity.
That gleaming potential is all too often tarnished by poor use. Bad language is wasteful and frustrating, like a stubborn sneeze or an unreachable itch. It can be mundane; it can be tragic. And it can be avoided.
Every word is an opportunity to do well, and to do good; to strike a chord and hear it richly resonate; to drop a stone in a pond and watch the ripples spread. Every word is a chance to stoke the embers of our passions and pass on a little warmth.
We can all choose to have our words be slow and calm; fierce and torrential; strong and bright and beautiful.
We can all do better.
We can all do better.
Optical fiber is a brilliant invention: it is a thread of spun glass. By the magic of total internal reflection, the refraction index of the material, and the wavelength(s) of the light fired down the pipe; by the engineering of dense wavelength multiplexing, and quantum-tunneling solid-state laser boosters set into the fiber every few kilometers; and, sometimes, by the hard work of cable-laying ship captains who stubbornly brave the high seas to thread this spun glass across the ocean floor, billions of bits flow from point to point across the world. Against all odds, not to mention the second law of thermodynamics, the world has managed to hew from the static of random potential the most powerful communications tool our civilization has ever seen.
Now. I don't like TV.
This Christmas I was given a generous gift: a Hauppauge HVR-950 USB TV tuner. I really, really wanted one of these. The widget is about the size of one of those slim Zippo lighters. I plug one end in to my USB hub and the other end to a coaxial cable that runs to a telescoping antenna of the same sort you'd find on a plastic radio. With the help of twelve kilobytes of closed-source firmware dynamically loaded into its onboard processor, I can tune into a whole set of channels streaming right out of the CN tower, not to mention what comes across the water from Buffalo. The CBC broadcasts an MPEG-2 stream with 1920 by 1080 lines of interlaced resolution; mplayer gives me a variety of options to upsample the spatial resolution with the help of the extra temporal resolution added by the interlacing of the fields.
The video stream is completely independent of the transmission technique, and my bargain-priced, extremely powerful quad-core processor makes short work of the digital signal; but the HVR-950 itself does some fascinating, insightful and difficult work to condense the vapour of that feeble radio transmission into something from which the video signal can be recovered.
The little widget gets warm when it's in use. The signal varies depending on what lies between the antenna and the window.
We have covered the planet with a web of spun glass and the dreams of a world light the fiber day and night; but that pride is completely different from the flare of inspiration sparked by the faintest of radio signals, coming through thin air from the other end of the world.
From: "Ministers Prentice and Verner" <Minister.Industry@ic.gc.ca> To: CanadianCitizens@everywhere.com Subject: An Act to Amend the Copyright Act Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:09:06 -0400
We've introduced our version of Bill C-60. We removed a bunch of the exceptions that protected consumers from legal harassment, added in a couple of media attention grabs, and made it illegal to share or even talk about the tools that would allow anyone to take advantage of the exceptions that we did leave in.
We wrote it on Canadian soil, so we qualify for the sticker.
We totally caved to the US IP lobby, and we even borrowed wording from the WIPO treaty, but this is good for Canadians! It means that more money will be invested into our knowledge economy!
Quit screaming at us! We're just doing a favour to some people that asked really, really nicely. And they really, really want what we're giving them, so that makes everything OK.
You can do everything that you've been doing up until the mid-90s, but you can't back up your DVDs, video games or application software. Also, you're not allowed to back up anything that has any kind of DRM on it, because permitting circumvention for legal uses makes IP owners mad. You're just not allowed to break DRM, mmmkay? Unless you're a security researcher, because then you're doing it for educational purposes.
Who qualifies as a security researcher? We'll let case law figure that out! That's what it does best.
If you download music onto digital media that you've purchased, you've already payed a significant levy that filters back to the organization that represents Canadian musicians. The 2004 Finckenstein decision in BMG Canada Inc. v. John Doe may have said that paying the levy means you're allowed to download music, but we only want you to pay attention to Sexton's assertion that Finckenstein shouldn't have explicitly said that downloading music was legal.
So we're still charging you extra for the media you buy, because the CRIA lobbied good and hard through the 80s and 90s for it, but now we're making it illegal for that surcharge to actually give you any value.
We're limiting the damages to five hundred bucks per song that you download. That's just plain reasonable, of course: if you've downloaded a song, there isn't any reason for you to buy the twenty copies of the CD that you normally would have, and it's only fair to make sure that music publishers get the money they're owed. If you're uploading, though, god help you, because there aren't any limits on the damages there.
We understand what "peer-to-peer" means, but we hope that the news media doesn't, so they'll glom onto the 500 number and conveniently ignore that there's no protection here at all.
We think the internet makes the marketplace difficult for companies that have a lot of money but no real idea how to compete in it. We're going to make it easy for old companies to litigate these new upstarts right out of business. They have less money, so they can't lobby as well; they can't afford as many lawyers, so we'll set a bunch of precedents that continue to reinforce aging and ailing business practices; and everyone will be happy, happy, happy!
We'll ignore the complexities of transparent redistribution, copying-vs-caching, remixing and open licenses, because those things are new and hard to understand. We'll let case law waltz through that minefield. That worked great for Australia and the US!
We don't want to require Canadian internet service providers to police the content that flows through their networks because Canada actually has a Privacy Commissioner. We would be hung by our eyelids and kicked until we blink. That's, um, bad for Canadians. And the marketplace. And innovation. And we like our eyelids.
We'll require ISPs to forward takedown notices to customers instead of requiring them to immediately remove the material. This may seem a little soft on violators, sure, but we still don't impose any penalties on companies that issue incorrect notices. Scattershot subpoenas and intimidation are still valid tactics!
Oh, and we'll throw a sop to the photographers. They've been getting boned for decades. Time to bone some other group for a while.
Bill C-61 doesn't let border guards seize your digital devices, because bills are subject to parliamentary review. Instead, we'll leave that to the ACTA, which we're working on in secret. Canadians don't have to worry their pretty little heads about the international commitments that we're making on their behalf. Nobody will mind, anyhow: border crossing is such a fast, painless procedure that adding on just a little bit of intrusive searching won't hurt anyone.
We are high as kites.
We made this! Right here in Canada! That makes it good!
Our circular file welcomes your feedback.
Because my cow-orkers just had to bring up the Dreaded Site™, and I just had to look at the Scheme version and note that, while at least it was present, the organization of the code in all three versions left a great deal to be desired. A few more moments of reading revealed that the output was wrong, too.
I'm sure you can see where this is going.
It's been submitted for inclusion, of course, with the following lines as an additional note to the site maintainers:
I'm going to start posting the random bits of awk code that I come up with.
For a project about which I'll be writing more in a bit, I needed the ability to quickly produce long strings - on the order of a few dozen, and in some case a few hundred, mebibytes. I went through several iterations before I came up with a version that I liked. That version is called