drugsI know it's not a new idea, but a MPR talk show the other morning got me thinking again about the contradictory feelings Americans have about ingesting foreign substances. Religion, television, caffiene, alcohol, pot, crack, meth -- there's this kind of continuum (a historically shifting continuum -- see the 18th Amendment) as to what's considered an acceptable drug and what isn't. We've spent billions in the 'war on drugs' -- and I think the war on drugs is a drug itself. One more distraction from real, intractable issues that our politicians prefer to ignore. Can't deal with national health care? Start a foriegn war. Can't deal with corporate feudalism and the growing class gap? Privatize social security.
Drugs are about distraction: avoiding your life by altering your consciousness. It's not a problem because I don't feel like it's a problem anymore -- or at least until this show is over, and then there'll be another one. Or another beer. Or another hit. Or another cup of coffee.
We all do it (I'm all about distraction). What bothers me is that the people who complain most loudly about how bad street drugs are and fight against legalizing pot (as on the MPR show I referenced above) are next in line at Starbucks, or tuned into TV for a few hours the same night. It's all about altering your state of mind.
What we don't talk about is what we're avoiding when we alter our minds. Would meth be at epidemic levels if ours was a culture that provided support and direction to our young people? Al Quaeda is attractive to young, disaffected Muslims the way meth is attractive to young disaffected Americans: it provides a focus for the violence and anger in the human heart.
We do drugs because we want to feel. Different. At all.
We do drugs because we're hungry. For meaning, emotional connection, purpose. If we can't find those, then at least we can distract ourselves from wanting them for awhile.
Can I Work Here? or, How I Became Confirmed in My Decision Not to Become a LibrarianChilly November Monday. I circle the Wilson parking lot, vainly looking for a free space to leave my car. No luck. The pay ramp across the street does nicely. Whenever I come to the Wilson, I recall the first time I ever came, in college, with my girlfriend of the time, who revealed the Wilson to me as her favorite place to study. We suburban collegians hardly ever ventured into the city, so the Wilson seemed exotic. It still does.
Continue reading "Can I Work Here? or, How I Became Confirmed in My Decision Not to Become a Librarian" ...
SWISHED exampleI've worked with Josh Rabinowitz to put together a demo of his SWISHED server.
The demo is hosted here at peknet. You can read all about it here: http://swishewiki.org/index.php/SWISHED_Demo
Our idea for this demo was to illustrate how you might use SWISHED, SWISH::API::Remote and HTML::HiLiter. Those are all Perl projects, the first two written by Josh and the last written by me.
CrayDocI've been putting together a history of CrayDoc for a presentation to the local MidWest XML users' group.
Turns out the product goes back over 10 years. I inherited it in 2001, when I started in my current job at Cray. There was a time when Cray was owned by SGI, and during that time the documentation server was not known as CrayDoc -- it was Dynaweb, a third party product. But starting in 2002, with the shipment of CrayDoc 1.0 (though I guess that versioning is erroneous, now that I know the history), CrayDoc is again a home-grown product. Versions 1 and 2 were 100% Perl, though now we use the SWISH-E search engine, which is written in C.
My work on CrayDoc has been a real education in CGI programming, HTML, databases, and code design. When the presentation is done, I'll post it here for posterity.
UPDATE 11/22/2004: posted here PDF
French labelIf I can find this company, I will buy their clothing.
expatriateI know we've talked about it here at our house. Here's a beautiful little story on the realities: http://www.harpers.org/ElectingToLeave.html
Decision '04every blog is an election blog, right? politics, shmolitics. but this usa presidential election seems to matter more than most. as if the fate of the world hinges on it.
i wonder, though, if what we lefties are hoping for is not so much a way to avoid a conservative future but a way to forgive the weak-willed past. every dem who talks big now sided with the poor evidence of a puppet president, hungry for war, 2 years ago. our lone voice in the wilderness went down in a freakish plane accident about the same time. did we not protest loud enough before? did we not make our voices heard? did we not say 'no' with enough persistent force?
or is it just that half our fellow americans think gwb is doing a fine job as it is. that's what boggles my mind.
and here's what grieves me the most: no one is talking publically about why it is that "terrorists" (a pegorative normally spelled s-c-a-p-e-g-o-a-t) would attack the usa in the first place. that seems to me to be the most important issue. what is it about america's way in the world that angers so many nonamericans? and how might all americans be implicated in that discussion?
perhaps that's why it never happens.
SWISH-E and ranking algorithmsI've been actively making noise on the swish-e discussion list for over a year now. It's a great open source indexing and searching tool. Love it. Loooove it. How's that for Geek Love?
Part of the power of swish-e (the product is UPPERCASE, the command is lower, and I'm a lazy typist...) is in the libxml2 parser from the GNOME project. That thing flies. I've since started using the libxml2 tools in my other work as well.
Part of my work with swish-e has been in improving the ranking algorithm. I found a wealth of info on that subject, thanks in part to the success of google -- which makes it easy to find information about what makes google work so well. How's that for the tail wagging the dog? Or something like that.
Anyway, this has led me down the road of natural language query and methods of relevance ranking. Pretty dense stuff. My wee brain starts to twist and shudder. But I found this a good start and this even more helpful.
I have an email in to the developer about the open source status of the NITLE Semantic Engine, which looks like a really interesting idea. The author wrote this article about vector ranking, which I found very lucid.
MOTU for saleUPDATE: it sold. good luck to the next owner; make lots of good recordings.
Shameless consumerism. I'm selling the audio system used to record several projects, including the Brett Larson debut record, and several House of Mercy recordings (with Peter Rasmussen at the helm). I've listed it on ebay but you can find pics here.
HTML HighlightingI can't count the hours I've spent hacking at a foolproof highlighter for HTML. But I'm nearing a really good approximation of foolproof. I've posted HTML::HiLiter to the Perl CPAN.
The really hard thing about this was creating a regular expression that is fast enough to be useful but accurate enough to work 99% of the time. I ended up using the HTML::Parser module, which is 'fast enough' and very powerful, due to the embedded C code and some good design. I've also looked at HTML::Tree but because HTML::Parser was a standard module in Perl 5.6.x it makes more sense to me right now to use a widespread standard. It increases the chance that folks might find HTML::HiLiter useful.
The most recent version (0.11) is due to get posted soon. I'm excited about it: I've improved the speed and accuracy, and added several features to help support my other recent project: SWISH::HiLiter -- an extension to the SWISH::API class.
Both these projects are open source and come out of my Cray work on CrayDoc. A huge project for me, and a real learning experience: character encodings, HTML syntax, and the power of Perl regular expressions. I'd wager that my Perl skills increased %500 as a result of this project.
If you use it, let me know what you think.
perldoc 5.8.1Just added the Perl docs for v 5.8.1 to the docs/ section. This is, of course, my favorite programming language... Now it's searchable via the main search tool. No more waiting if perldoc.com is down.
glibc docsI added the latest glibc docs to the docs section. Mostly because I needed a quick searchable reference as I teach myself C. Of course, I found out afterwards that glibc is not supported on Mac OS X, so it proved kind of moot. But at least the reference is handy and it was a good exercise in usability. I'll probably use that method again.
new formatI'm playing with the blosxom plugin architecture. It's pretty geek-cool (should I refer to that as GC?). So now I have an _intro file that always sorts to the top of my blog, but is just a regular blog file like the others. Ah, how I amuse myself.
I also moved the footer of the main page to the end of the blog instead of as a persistent frame. Seems like they take too much consistent real estate otherwise.
From the Holy MountainI just finished a report for my MLIS program on William Dalrymple's excellent book, From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East.
The report involved a survey of local libraries with an eye toward if their collections would support the writing of a particular section of Dalrymple's book. The gist is (surprise!) that our academic libraries are a better bet than our public libraries.
But don't let that scare you off. This book is mesmerizing and funny, tragic and involving. Get a copy at your local (public) library.
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