Computers

Well. It may be work hours but since I have all of my desktop machines and
the farm thrashing away and computing as hard as they can I find myself
with a little bit of free time to write up a post.

Have you noticed that no matter how much faster the computer gets, or
how much hardware you buy or use, you’re still stuck waiting for the computer?
As it is, these "piteously slow" dual gig chips are whimpering
with the work I am throwing at them. You think we’d be able to do more than this.

Or maybe things aren’t that simple.

Way back in the very early days of computing. And we’re talking about the days when
Howdy Doody and Mickey were on the TV, computers ran slow too.

One of the first successful large scale computers was made by the Unisys corporation,
called the UNIVAC. Only 46 UNIVACs were ever produced. Still, they changed the world.
Among the many firsts the UNIVAC had were things like the first multimedia
presentation (a UNIVAC played "Anchors Aweigh" at it’s own dedication for the
Navy’s Applied Mathematics Lab in 1953) and the first computer game (NIM, created
in 1953 that no human has ever beat the UNIVAC at) as well as many others.

Probably the most famous UNIVAC moment was when CBS television used one to predict
the 1952 election. Not believing the computers prediction based upon a voting sample,
CBS didn’t air the results for nearly an hour. When they did, they were forced to admit
that the computer had been very much correct. (Ike won, by the way) It’s a famous moment
but I’m not really talking about arguing the integrity of computer processed data, more
about the processing time.

Receiving less note was a task performed in 1956. The Franklin Life Insurance company
donated use of it’s UNIVAC to John W. Ellison. John, a rector in the Episcopal church of
Massachusetts, had been tasked with assembling the concordance for the Revised Standard
Version of the Bible. (A "Concordance" is an alphabetical index of all the words
in a text, showing every contextual occurrence of a word).

A staff of fifteen persons entered the entire text of the bible via punch cards and
UNITYPERs over a period of 6 months. Two complete entries were created so that they could
be compared to locate typographical errors from entry. This produced 10 reels of output.
Then the processing occurred. The main keyword extraction took 250 hours of processing.
The final alphabetical sort of the data took another 50 hours, producing the output set
of 26 reels.

So 300 hours of run time on a computer the size of a garage. So what you may think? Why
is that so special.

The previous concordance was assembled in 1894 and had took 30 years to perform by hand.

Maybe the computers aren’t so slow anymore. Maybe we’re doing a lot more with them. Think
about this. When you throw away that musical greeting card you throw away more electronic computer
than existed on the face of the earth in 1945.

Would you look at that. My processing is done. Back to work.

Muddling Through

Isn’t it odd how your life can be described as the intersection of the lives of the people who live around you?

This weekend has been a usual knot of folks. I am very lucky that there are a lot of of people that I consider who are "Good People" who are around me. Some of them seem to be having bum luck at the moment, but even though we seem to have a good time. We’re muddling through.

For those of you who don’t know, my roommate is Gideon (gideon_hoss). He’s one of the hardest working people I know, and is incredibly talented. As it is, he just doesn’t seem to have much luck. His job let him go this week. He seems to be handling it very well and is taking it as an opportunity to strike out on his own artistically.

Gideon and myself, along with others, usually visit a few friends for our weekly video night. This has occasionally been referred to in Susandeer’s web comic A Doemain of our Own since her comic generally reflects real life and she attends as well. Attendees also usually include Ken Cougr, Lisa Lynx, Wolf Kidd, Anastasia Kidd (nyc_coyote), John Barett, the Moriarties, and others.

Anyway. On some weekends we find outselves over at Ken, Lisa, Ana and Wolf’s house (often called the "caer carnivore") or vice versa. This weekend seemed like a good weekend to hang out at their place. Gideon wanted to burn some CDs to fill orders on his web store for prints and CDs and that was enough reason as any. He headed over Friday during the day.

I had to work a little late Friday. This is nothing unusual. I work for an an evil data collection and aggregation company and had a particularly large project to finalize that involved some relatively geeky stupidities. (Who the hell has a mainframe that only parses lines ending in carriage return and line feeds? What DOS system out there runs COBOL?!)

I got home friday evening and hung out with some neighboring friends. Kristy (krdbuni) and Jessie (tracerj) of IRC fame. A good meal was had and a relaxing evening of committing felonies on Grand Theft Auto Vice City was had.

Saturday morning met with an urge to clean and the run off to a good morning workout at the gym. Ahh. Endorphins help so much.

After encouragement from the folks already in NJ I headed over.

Suedeer had been hanging out for most of the previous week.
She had caught up on all her work for Pawpet Megaplex and seemed very happy with how things were going. Ken was in a good mood too and we’ve generally bummed around and done nothing important.

After dropping by Wolf’s workplace to pick up another PSII (Ken’s had died earlier that week) we had more felonies to commit in 80’s Miami.

It’s hard to describe in actions this weekend, because it seems like nothing got done. But with just hanging out and the nice weather with friends around, life seems to be good.

I know a lot of folks who are having job frustrations and trouble. Aside from myself and Gideon, Ana and Wolf are going through frustrations. Kristy and Jessie are no better off. And there are handfuls of other people I know on and offline that are also hurting.

At least we can all muddle through and have good friends around us even with all the suck. And for some reason I think things have hit the turning point and are only going to get better here.

Life’s good.

It’s a wonderful world.

You know. Sometimes I think we forget too much about being a kid. I got up this morning and piled into the car for the usual drive to work. The car is suffering from it’s usual host of problems and will probably visit the car doctor, so I nursed it out of the driveway and on it’s route to work.

But walking to the car I spotted something on the drive. There were two dimes on the gravel. I reached down to pick them up, but they had frozen to the ground with the previous nights frost. I popped the cold icy things in my pocket. (Hey. I’ve never had trouble bending over to pick up free money no matter how small) and hopped in the care and went trundling down the driveway.

As I thought about being 20 cents richer while the radio informed me about the world at large I got into a mood that occasionally strikes me. Have you ever tried to think back when you were a kid? I know I had a rough time in school and my memory has done a wonderful job of erasing a lot of hurtful memories, but sometimes wonder if I lost things.

What did I do back before the internet? What did I do back before video games? What did I do back when I played with my toys. Life was a wonderful and amazing thing to behold.

I started catching the ponderous and reflective moods in college. I went to college in the central Shenandoah valley in virginia. The Shenandoah valley is an odd geographical area that tends to funnel weather up and down it’s length in a few hours. But what sparkles is that due to the interesting side effect of being bordered by two relatively pristine mountain ranges you get this spectacular view of mountains from almost everywhere, and the most bluest of blue skies you could ever imagine. Take the blue sky you imagined as a kid in school when you colored and pour liquid blue into that Then add the puffiest whitest clouds you’ve ever seen, and the most beautiful gradient sunsets you could imagine.

It was these jaw-dropping vistas that would make me ponder the wonderment of life. Every day people would rush to and from class in that constant state of haste and lack-of-sleep known as College. Very few of them would look up and enjoy. Sunbathers did on the particularly nice days. And I’m sure a lot of folks who I saw relaxing were enjoying natures colors with the enhancement of cannabis, but still. I found myself slowing down, taking longer walks and generally enjoying myself.

A walk is a wonderful thing after all. I had nearly a mile walk to college. And no matter how rushed I was or wasn’t it was always about the same amount of time. No matter how angry or stressed, I have 15 minutes of general reflection to myself accompanied only by observation of the beautiful world around me.

And you know what. The world is beautiful. Anyone can go to a national park and see beauty. That’s not hard. For a while I was living in Naples, Italy. A town that was known to be trashed out and dirty since the time of Christ. But it’s still a beautiful city. It’s full of life and wonderment that is so hard to describe. All you have to do is look for it.

So on my drive this morning and here at work I find myself reflecting on the beauty of life. To someone who is used to this world It’s a grey, ugly day of overcast with general cold. The snow has melted enough to leave the salt-covered roads muddy at the edge with the mix of trash scooped up by the plows. There are no leaves on the trees. Everyone is tired and worn out by the season and the lack of sunlight.

Maybe I’m just a fool. Look a how the clouds merge into a layer that is dappled with the smoothest blending of color. The grey is blue in some areas and red in others. the light is diffuse, making the ground sparkle in the shadows. If I was 4 years old this would all be new to me, and after some observation, it is again.

Maybe that’s why I like life. There are dimes on the ground if you want to see them.

First real post or struggling for art?

So here we are again at the wee hours of the morning. Oddly, this seems to be the time when I can get the most work done while unwinding and relaxing. Thank goodness for laptops and a quiet house.

As it stands I’ve just done the usual updates to Anthrocon’s webpage (What do you know? We have guests of honor now.), and figured I would have a little time to post here.

This weekend was fun. The highlight of events was a concert on Sunday. Not everyone knows that I do music as a hobby. Actually I am clasically trained and do a preety passable job. Good enough anyway that I was invited to the Bucks County Symphony Orchesta. It is a non-profit group populated about halfway with professionals who look for a fun gig locall and the other half being folks like me who try to hang on to their art.

For the BCSO I am playing Bass Clarinet. One of those wonderful orchestra color instruments that means you only get to play about half the time if you are lucky. Technically my part wa not called upon at all for this concert, but since we had some relatively vital 3rd bassoon and contra basson parts and were lacking those instruments, I got to read them on bass clarinet.

As if trying to warm up in anticipation of spring the program was French and Spanish in nature. Specifically I played in Alborada del Grazioso by Ravel and Espana, Rhapsody for Orchesta by Chabrier.

I’ve never been a monstrous fan of either composer. Both being in that wonderful vein of fairly romantic, with touches of modern. A combination of music that while I can comprehend and perform, I don’t necessarily put it at the top of my play list.

Regardless of my opinion of the type of music seleced, it was a wonderfully difficult challange. Espana flip-flops on meter and musical ideas so beautifully that it feels almost stream-of-conscious in nature. Go fig. French composer and all. And the Ravel is beautifully naked in it’s transitions and vocings.

All this would be well and good. But you remember how I said I was reading a bassoon part? For folks who aren’t familiar I’ll try to make an analogy. If you don’t know how to touch type, I am sure you at least understand the concept. There are two little bumps on the keys of your keyboard to make sure you can type the same without looking or moving your hands from the correct position.

Now imagine for a moment if you moved you hands one or two keys to either side, and you still had to touch type. Everything was off a certain number of steps, but reliably, so. That is similar to what happens when you try to transpose from one instrument to another that isn’t in the same key. Add to that that basson’s are often written in two different cleffs, you can suddenly see that in the analogy the keyboard occasionally shifts around and you can imagine how "fun" things can get.

But I am getting off topic. This isn’t about touch typing. This is about struggling for art. 🙂

Somewhere in about my Junior year or so of college. I made a decision. Up until that point my education had been firmly focused in art with reinforcements in technical skills. I was a major in a concentration referred too as Music Industry. It seemed the best blending of my skills.

Things happen in your education and in many ways the formal education is not necessarily the real education that happens. I decided to shift gears and focus slightly. I went to a technical degree that was reinforced with art.

Ever since that point I occasionally wonder about that decision. Since that time I’ve done a lot of good art work. I have performed in everything from the NFL Ravens Marching Band, to a swing combo group in DC, a good half dozen community bands, and now this orchestra.

It is always a struggle for time. But the reward is always incredible. A huge reduction in stress accompanied by the joy of performing. In some cases I have performed in groups, as with this symphony, that continue to challange me and push me further than I ever have achieved before.

But you know what. Even in the best of light. The most joyful of accomplishments. There is a little voice in the back of my mind that whispers that I am a failure. I am tasting only a shadow of what I should have gone and actually done. Maybe it’s why I only half-heartedly invited people to the performances I am in. Maybe it’s why I never looked into a musician’s union card.

I know I’m probably wrong and am overracting. I know that a carrear in art would probably have burnt me out heavily on the subject. I also know that the education I received at college was odd in format and I should not take the change that was forced on me so heavily.

But still. When it’s a dark quiet evening in a house. And you’ve just stayed up late to catch up on the work you shirked so you could drive over to the next county and play for two hours in a band of high school students, music professors, and ailing retirees, that questioning voice puts a chill down your spine.

First Post

Whee. After enough folks have pointed me to this place I figured I should get off my duff and make an account as well. So here’s the first post. Simple and fun.