Thursday, October 28


Earlier today, Fraxas and I were discussing a particular song and its inconsistent meter.

Pharaohmagnetic: Hmm. I see what you're saying. The dandy warhols have an interesting song called Plan A which has verses that are too long - the extra syllable adds an interesting off-beat effect
Fraxas: yeah, but this is a case of metric inconsistency that jars the whole song for me
Pharaohmagnetic: Well, sometimes a "jar" is what makes a song interesting to listen to: to wit, all those oddly-metered compositions by dave brubeck, the M:I theme, etc. But this is an example where the "jar" is just jar.
Faxas: yeah, but that's not a jar
Pharaohmagnetic: What is it then?
Pharaohmagnetic: A door?
Pharaohmagnetic: HAW

Monday, October 25

Musical Snobbery Guide

This article by Something Awful's Dr. David Thorpe is pure brilliance. I consider myself somewhat of a musical snob, but this hilarious and well-written article proves that I am, in fact, a faker! Who knew? Yeah, I know you knew, Fraxas. Who else knew, huh?

There are a couple of main aspects to seeming more pop-savvy than you really are. First of all, you have to break through the more-indie-than thou barrier: sometimes, people are going to bring up a band that you know nothing about, and you have to be able to beat them at their own game. Secondly, you’re going to have to create an air of pretentious snobbery in order to assert the superiority of your taste (and who would know more about that than me?). Finally, you must fake a sick obsession with some sort of musical cult figure. Once you’ve done these things, you’ll be virtually indistinguishable from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.
The follow up article is equally good, not least of all because it discusses using Frank Zappa as the ultimate tool for indie-cred-bait.

Combine this with Zappa’s penchant for giving his albums and songs bizarre names (Uncle Meat, Theme From The 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear, Who Are the Brain Police?, etc) and it becomes possible to create a plausible Zappa song or album title simply by stringing together seemingly unrelated words. Throw in a musical term if you want to imply it’s an instrumental piece; references to food are frequent and can be used to add that unique Zappa touch. For example, “The Industrial Cheese Variations” or “Gumbo for Jumbo” would serve nicely.
After reading these articles, I highly recommend listening to this song while snorting derisively over the articles on Pitchfork.

Thursday, October 14

William Gibson puts teh FL4M3 on White House foreign policy

William Gibson's blogging again. (He'd previously stopped because it was writing for which he wasn't getting paid.)

His Oct. 14 entry (archive link because he doesn't publish single-article links) is interesting; I don't really know what to make of it though.

Wednesday, October 13

Bohemian Rhapsody walkthrough

Holy mackinaw. Fraxas can tell you that sometimes I'll go into quite a bit of detail in analyzing music (or anything) that I like. But not like this. Then again, I would if I could.
Besides the five-piece chromatic ascent (six if we add the preceding A chord) in the top vocal part, we can find four more chromatic steps omitting the C-B cross-relation of C > E7 as the latter chord seems to drop the B (5 of E), at least in the vocals. The functional analysis of this chromatic-driven harmony would result in a mess except the V > I closing. Note the lack of minor chords, and the soprano voice added in the last measure.

For the graduates

This is old news, but I really think that anyone who hasn't should read Jon Stewart's commencement address.
I am honored to be here and to receive this honorary doctorate. When I think back to the people that have been in this position before me from Benjamin Franklin to Queen Noor of Jordan, I can’t help but wonder what has happened to this place. Seriously, it saddens me. As a person, I am honored to get it; as an alumnus, I have to say I believe we can do better.

debate remix: Hard Working George


Monday, October 11



I'd put something clever here, but I don't think I could top Gizmodo's assessment of Roland's electronic masterpiece.

Tuesday, October 5

Techniques from bioinformatics hit protocol analysis

At least, Slashdot says so.

The computer geek in me says "sweet!", the biologist in me says "See? I'm useful!" and the futurist in me says "this is a good way to combat singularities!". I'm sure you can follow the first two, dear reader; the latter might require a bit of explanation.

Most bioinformatics is designed to mine signal out of vast tracts of noise, in environments where we have only the most rudimentary knowledge of the protocols involved. Network analysis is a little different, in that we have a lot better knowledge of the structure of the corpus of data -- but this article represents a different way of looking at it. Up until now, protocol analysis has been largely a theory-based, a priori kind of science; deduce from first principles (i.e. the protocol spec) the shape of the interesting signal, then look for that. This technique takes the opposite approach: develop a general method for finding interesting things, and then let it loose.

Of course, both approaches converge on the same signal in theory, assuming perfect knowledge of the protocol and perfect interesting-thing-detection. In practice, protocol designers don't always know how their protocols are going to be used, and interesting-thing detection technology isn't perfect either. So they get different things! who knows, maybe this technique could find truths about the way protocols actually get used that the designers didn't think of. Perhaps this would be a way to analyze large quantities of data without having to have a priori knowledge of what you're looking for -- which would be a good thing to be able to do in a world that moves faster than your brain is actually capable of keeping up with.

See, I did have a point!

Monday, October 4

Boing Boing has a linking policy

The Boing Boing linking policy appeals to me. There's something terrific about using pseudolaw to fight pseudolaw.

The registration form on is similarly hilarious, though their terms of use are not.

Friday, October 1

Fast Company's take on dedicated amateurs

They're gonna take over the world.

The gist of the article is that self-organized networks of dedicated amateurs have the capacity to create and/or shape scientific disciplines (astronomy), service sectors (lending in Bangladesh), and entertainment communities (the Machinima crowd). No duh! When you give a society the tools to transmit and manipulate arbitrary information almost instantaneously, they'll use them to do things they're passionate about. And to find other people who are passionate about the same things.

There are a couple of corollaries of this observation that I want to pursue. The first is that it's becoming obvious to the mainstream media that these people are doing things worth looking at. The second is that the most successful business models are going to be the ones that let the real hard work be done by passionate Pro-Ams.

On the first corollary: I mention below the problem with service disintermediation is that it exposes the content-production oligopoly more transparently to the consumer. One of the solutions to that problem is the pro-am movement. I don't watch TV anymore, because I get my big-budget entertainment from well-made games. But what I'm really looking forward to are the mods for those games -- the ones that are going to improve the game in ways the creators hadn't thought of. There's a relatively large garage industry for games too, and some real gems coming out of it. The Scene makes astoundingly beautiful 5-minute entertainment, if I don't have time to play a round of Dawn of War. So the big-content oligopoly might break -- or at least widen -- before the tide of pro-am work. Insert indieband vs. RIAA rant here, too.

On the second corollary: Busines models. The company I work for has been reinventing itself, lately, trying to devise a set of business models that don't revolve around people doing things they're not doing anymore (like spending on IT so they can say they've spent on IT). It really does seem to me like writing the next killer app isn't as important as enabling the next killer community. What does that mean? I have no idea. There's a reason I'm not a CEO.

Cringely on the future of information services

Holy Shit.

Can I call this guy up and get service from him? This is the kind of innovation that makes me excited to be in the field I'm in. This feels like The Future to me. Fast, ubiquitous network access that Just Works. Of course, it doesn't do games, and it probably doesn't like Bittorrent, but I can see the future in there. Cringely talks about disintermediation, and I see his point. There's still problems in there -- the oligopoly of high-production-value content producers, for example -- but like I said above, there's solutions to that coming too.

The 2004 Ig Nobels have been announced.

The Ig Nobel Web Page has the details. Gogo parody award ceremonies!