Tuesday, February 28

rage

A big ol' fuck you out to the City of Boulder for this afternoon's two sequential $20 parking citations, the first written about 20 minutes after I moved my car in order to avoid same. Boulder, you see, has sort of combination permit & limited time parking in a good portion of its residential zones. Apparently, a block was insufficient distance to move the car.

As far as it goes, this is kind of my own fault. Sure, I despise the entire petty, rent-seeking system, but I did fail in gaming that system. It probably isn't that hard to pay attention to the little numbers on the parking zone signs if you know they exist.

Then again, 37% of my before-tax income for the day seems a touch harsh. And what really gets me is this gem:

If you are disputing a Permit violation of any type, you must include a copy of your valid permit, or the dispute will not be reviewed.

Yep, that's right. It doesn't actually matter if you have grounds to dispute the ticket - if you're not a permit holder, which means pretty much if you've been cited for a permit violation, they won't review the case.

In the abstract, I can sort of admire the cleverness of this little regulatory hack. More immediately, I sure would like to take this out on someone. But of course there's no one in particular to blame. You can't demand satisfaction from a bureaucracy. Even my pathetic anger is just one more little victory for whatever sickness it is that drives the formal monetization of every last action in daily life.

command line love

Had another one of those low-key experiences today that underlines a basic truth about computing in the modern age: It has been a long time since anyone has improved in a fundamental way on the Unix model of dealing with information by pushing text around between little utilities and scripts. In fact, most other models seem to be either flawed approximations of this one, or essentially incomplete without ready access to it.

Even something as useful as near-universal copy & paste is often more of a way to extend pipes into the realm of fat GUIs than a replacement for them, and it's a damned annoying one at that. Still, it does provide a bridge between clumsy aberrations like server-side-Java driven web applications and the shell where real tools like sort and uniq live.

Here is a partial description of today's annoyingly repetitive task:

  1. In Firefox, login to web app and copy all cells of an HTML table sorted by a given attribute. No, you may not query the underlying database directly.
  2. In Excel, Paste Special as Text, then convert first column of table into a list by copying and pasting into a given Confluence wiki page. Make sure to note count of list items, and put count into the {excerpt}ed portion of the confluence page. Iterate through list of tables, repeating process for each.
  3. Copy Confluence wiki page which collects all {excerpt}ed numerical values.
  4. Paste as plain text into vim through PuTTY session to FreeBSD machine.
  5. Feed list to 5 line Perl script for quickie conditional search/replace plus an arithmetic operation or two.
  6. Copy & paste pretty results from script back into wiki.

This sort of rigamarole is only necessary in a limited environment, and it is probably not necessary to point out that a trained Perl monkey would have done the whole thing in about 15 lines without the manual repetition, but I think it is worth noticing a couple of things.

Most people who deal with the ugly back end of the software world (not the developers, but the poor bastards doing things like content generation for web applications or tech support with a web-based trouble ticket system) work in a very limited environment, without access to the small tools I rely on to stay sane. I think the limitations of this environment are usually due to its lack of the kind of simple, flexible framework provided by a decent Unix environment.

Sunday, February 26

I started reading [LawrenceLessig|Lawrence Lessig]'s ''[FreeCulture|Free Culture]''. I've been working a job again that requires constant attention to copyright, and when I saw a copy on a clearance rack it seemed timely.

My initial impression is that Lessig makes the respectable argument for a reformed approach to "intellectual property", and makes it quite well. I can't fault him for this. Probably it's a necessary task, and I expect I'll enjoy the rest of the book. In broad terms, his enemies are my enemies.

What I would really like, though, is to read someone with similar credentials making the case that IP should be abolished or drastically limited in scope. This, of course, is beyond the pale. It is the equivalent of failing to assert your patriotism before making a criticism of American foreign policy.

saturday, february 25

i do not care about
content
which may in practical
conversation be used
interchangeably with
"shit"

their shit sells
our shit is premium
the shit
should be separated from
its presentation
we need to attract
more producers of quality
shit.

i do not believe
in the thesis statement
the supporting paragraphs
and the conclusion
i will not abjure the
use of the first person
singular.

i am not interested
in your anonymous folk process
i am not interested in the
depersonalization of art.

thursday, february 17

50 pages into february,
i have taken many notes

most of them are about music

lucinda williams is brilliant,
as are/were (i wrote this down
after all) the velvet underground,
guster, incubus, green day,
todd snider, death cab for cutie,
dido, tool, the pogues, rage against
the machine, old crow medicine show,
and michelle lewis, while
merle haggard wrote or stole
more great songs than i ever knew,
and nina simone singing 'sinner man'
is the second greatest apocalyptic song
next to johnny cash's
"the man comes around"

also, i seem to think a lot
about the manipulation of list data,
especially in connection with
the severe lack of humane facilities
for automating
iterated tasks

on the 8th of february i saw two
men being arrested on the pearl
street mall, early in the morning
one was drunk or sick
they made sure to cuff his hands
behind his back

i am fairly confident i could
make a coherent & pragmatic
argument against almost any use
of violence for ends beyond
immediate self defense
although some days i think
blowing some shit up would
not be unjustified

i am now 25 years old,
and this sort of thing
is about all the farther
i ever get.

Wednesday, February 1

Starting a new paper notebook. Here are some excerpts from the old one.

date text
11/1/05 Issues with sftp; couldn't login at all. We dug around forever until a forum post pointed out that SSH requires a valid login shell. Sure enough chshing the user to /usr/local/bin/bash fixed everything.
11/4/05

truly beautiful women always reminded him of horses
or maybe deer
graceful animals with legs and eyes
usually skittish
often only glimpsed over fences
or caught momentarily in someone's lights
(not his)

11/6/05

walking down pearl st. with no capacity to buy anything does a lot to your perspective. not even a workable credit card in my pocket, or 5 bucks to spend on a drink - and there goes the traction you feel like you've got. $20 in my pocket and i'm the king of the world. w/out? tricky to decide what you're even doing there.

all value/traction/liquidity seems to be encoded in dollars. cash or the ready access to debt.

11/7/05

it is after midnight
a rustling noise
outside and i turn
on the light to see
a momentary wind
in the brown grass
and the orange-leafed tree

most days in this
place they don't
have weather
they have something else
with fewer teeth...

11/14/05

"when one door closes, another opens" – who makes this shit up, anyway?

11/18/05

Here is the problem with every anti-smoking campaign: Smoking, fundamentally, just looks and feels cool.

Also: Addiction always creates an economy of need, and a specific kind of currency between addicts. This can take on very ugly forms, but it also (as in most drinking & smoking cultures) can take the form of a kind of reciprocal altruism.

And smoking, like drinking, has tangible social benefits - only in a wider range of venues, especially including the workplace.

11/26/05

memory colors the present like the parallaxing layers of animation in a 2D sidescroller.

behind every scene moves some other. loops of life distorted and torn by the passage of time and the slow chemical death of knowledge.

11/30/05

The analogy of unix system to physical security measures in a corporate office works especially because as an administrator, your visibility of either system is limited. This fits with power in general. It's much harder to see the failures of a system when you navigate it by exceptional means.

You'll never know how secure a given machine is until you navigate it without root. The inequities of the social system are not manifest to the average CEO. They aren't even manifest to the average college student.

12/16/05

Hoppottermus Dreams: an apocalyptic vision

12/24/05

The life of an archivist must be sort of nightmarish. Like that king in Dunsany trying to conquer Time himself. Your whole life is dedicated to a noble, necessary impossibility.

I guess it's a value, if not a dedication, that I share. The record, at least, should be preserved. Much else should be torn down and fed to the ravening ages. But I digress.

[Small cartoon of a stick figure tossing a crown over the edge of a cliff to the bug-eyed, toothy, ravening Ages below, while a castle burns in the background.]

12/31/05 Distributed transcription projects are sort of a brilliant idea. Put up your images/mp3s, and a wiki for the transcriptions. Someone has already done this, right?