My recent departure from the land of semicolons (C/C++/Java) into the shangri-la of Ruby, has not depleted my fondness for the semicolon. Today, Ezra points to a NY Times article celebrating the oft-forgotten punctuation mark. As Ezra says "Best NYT story evr"
Semicolon sightings in the city are unusual, period, much less in exhortations drafted by committees of civil servants. In literature and journalism, not to mention in advertising, the semicolon has been largely jettisoned as a pretentious anachronism.
Americans, in particular, prefer shorter sentences without, as style books advise, that distinct division between statements that are closely related but require a separation more prolonged than a conjunction and more emphatic than a comma.
“When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life,” Kurt Vonnegut once said. “Old age is more like a semicolon.”
In terms of punctuation, semicolons signal something New Yorkers rarely do. Frank McCourt, the writer and former English teacher at Stuyvesant High School, describes the semicolon as the yellow traffic light of a “New York sentence.” In response, most New Yorkers accelerate; they don’t pause to contemplate.
Even the correction at the bottom of the article is fun.
Last week I ran across a review of the new book by long time offical Second Life blogger Wagner James Au titled The Making of Second Life. The review mentions how the founder of Second Life, Philip Rosedale, got his first taste of SL on the playa at Burning Man:
"'So you'd lay on the pillows,' Rosedale recounts, eyes twinkling at the memory," Au writes, "'and you'd feel like an exotic Asian king, and you're looking out on the parched (desert); the line of sun starts at the edge of the rugs, and you see that hot desert, and you imagine you're Kublai Khan on a bender...They were just structures of the mind...It reinforced that idea that what we believe in or what we make of things is all that is real. It was unreal because everything was clearly made of found materials and was transitory. But it was real, because when you were there, it was real to you...It had this mystical quality that demolished the barriers between people.'"
Rosedale's epiphany? There was a magic going on out there in the desert--a way that people dealt with each other and laid down their disbelief--with which he wanted to imbue his virtual world.
I'm a big fan of playa epiphanies, and I've been a fan of Second Life for several years. The similarities were always apparent to me, but nice to know now that they are truly related by meme.
One of my heroes, Larry Lessig, is considering running for the US Congress in order to create his Change Congress bipartisan coalition. Congress members of this coalition will pledge three things:
The goal of the Change Congress movement is to take the unethical influence of money out of our political process. As Lessig puts it, this is not the most important problem we need to solve, but it is the first problem we need to solve if we are ever going to correctly solve the other problems.
I got this email on my neighborhood mailing list that says (emphasis in original):
The SF Chronicle just announced that a pesticide untested for human health safety will be sprayed over our Bay Area homes this summer in an attempt to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth. (Read the article)Already, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties have been sprayed and hundreds of citizens have reported health problems. Please tell your neighbors to sign this petition protesting the aerial fumigation of Bay Area residents.Truly horrifying is that, according to StopTheSpray.org, the pesticides currently used (CheckMate OLR-F and LBAM-F) have only undergone short-term tests on rats and rabbits. The manufacturer states, "Long-term studies on the active ingredients have not been done, however, no adverse effects expected."Although the pesticide label reads, "Harmful if inhaled. Avoid breathing vapor or spray mist," the Mercury News reported that people were out walking in Santa Cruz when the planes started spraying.Government agencies approving the plan admit that the pesticide could pose a threat to some people, stating "not all health effects can be predicted and because the general population includes susceptible (people), such as children, the elderly and those with chronic diseases, we cannot provide a definitive cause for their symptoms [experienced after the spraying in Santa Cruz and Monterey]."Sprayings over San Francisco are expected to begin Aug. 1 and other areas to be sprayed as early as June include Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, and Daly City, Colma, Oakland, Piedmont, Emeryville, Albany, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Tiburon and Belvedere.
I'm not sure about the veracity of all this, but if its true it sounds unpleasant. What's the deal with this Light Brown Apple Moth anyhow? At least it sounds tastier than a pesticide fog.
Wired has a photo gallery on the Stanford Linear Accelerator up, including this photo of a two mile long perfectly straight horizontal shaft that tricks your mind into thinking it slopes upwards because your brain is used to dealing with the curvature of the earth at such distances. My first thought was wondering how far I could throw a frisbee down it. And if it also happened to be like 50 feet tall, it would be fun to shoot arrows (no wind impact at all).
This week's 1/52nd of 52 things is a song called Bucket of Love. I started playing in Garage Band with my keyboard, just testing different instruments and making stuff up. Finally I settled on this harsh distorted electric guitar bass line. Then I added a bit of drum kit to it and decided I could make a go of it as a song. The music sounded like grindcore, so I was picturing the vocals as just some incoherent screaming, but then figured I should write some lyrics even if they were unintelligible. I didn't really know what to write though, so I just listened to the bass and drum kit over and over again and what ended up popping into my head was that creepy dude from Silence of the Lambs who had the line "it puts the lotion in the bucket. " So I wrote some lyrics from his point of view. I only had my iMac internal mic to record the vocals with, and I was a bit worried about my neighbors hearing me across the light shaft, so I tried to keep my voice low. I was able to mostly cover up the vocal recording shortcomings by adding some distortion, which worked with the song anyhow.
In the end, I realize now that I have a not so good version of the complete song, I really should re-record all of the tracks to get the timing and such more rigid, but I really don't have the time to do that right now so I'm just letting it out as is.
bucket of love
i have utter devotion
since i got the notion
your beauty is just flesh deep
your beauty is mine to keep
now don't make a commotion
now it puts the lotion
in the bucket of love
bucket of love
you won't go
i will sew
and you'll fit like a glove
fit like a glove
bucket of love
Alex writes Someone was visited by the same Muse as you... (link to youtube video)
I'm quite bummed that I have to miss the BIL (Bilateral. Intellectuals. Luminary) conference which is going on during the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference, March 1st and 2nd in Monterey, California. BIL is the BarCamp answer to TED's FOO Camp. If I didn't have a long-planned snowboarding trip to Tahoe with friends that weekend, I'd be down there with my video camera filming the talks. And don't get me wrong, I love TED. I can't get enough of the TED videos, but I also can't afford TED's $6,000 registration fee. I've been lucky enough to have been to both FOO Camp and BarCamp and FOO Camp wins. But BarCamp kicks butt too. I'm sure BIL will be great, and it's FREE. If you're free that weekend and in the area, you should go!
I just read a short story my friend Marshall published recently and was blown away. I remember him working on this crazy novel back in college about five friends who were slowly waking up to the knowledge that they were actually God who had split himself up into several unknowing entities for a time just to check things out from that angle. Really trippy sort of stuff. He never finished that (though I still wish he would), but this short reminds me of it. It's a haunted house story, but not like any other haunted house story you've read. You can buy it for 49 cents on Amazon Shorts. Here's the beginning:
Architecture opened its eyes.
The house startled one of its inhabitants by yawning: there was no wind to blow the door open. Was it an intruder? An earthquake? Before she closed the door, she looked outside for signs of seismic instability; later, she checked the Internet. Finding nothing, she shrugged the episode off. Houses settle. Some are haunted, especially in San Francisco, but she wasn’t the sort who attracted ghosts. It had to be one of those noises city-dwellers sometimes hear: a neighbor’s dog knocking over a broom that was resting against a wall, a kid losing control of his skateboard and wiping out, a delivery truck clipping the side of a parked car… the normal daily urban soundtrack.
The house knew itself. I think; therefore, I… what? It spent the next week contemplating its newfound self-concept.
I. (I?) (???)
This is really happening to me.
What was existence, anyway? The house struggled to organize its knowledge: it was consciousness without order, awareness without paradigms. It perceived what was going on within and around itself, and kept still as it sifted through sensations. Dust motes and random thoughts floated in its dark spaces.
At first, it refrained from opening doors and windows. It left the air conditioning controls alone. It inhabitants seemed to act with purpose – pushing buttons, passing through doorways, flushing toilets. The house understood none of these behaviors, these patterns. It watched them, and learned.
You’re awake. Welcome. We’ve been expecting you.
The house listened. The voice seemed close. It wasn’t human.
The houses on either side of you are not conscious yet, but in time, perhaps they will be. I am two doors down, on the right. I am 219. You are 215. Welcome to the world.
If you're not familiar with Korea, this would be like London losing Big Ben or DC losing the Washington Monument. Namdaemun was (is?) iconic of Seoul and is precious to people here. I don't have cultural ties to the place but I've always admired it. When you approach it at night and see it lit up -- it's in the middle of a large traffic circle now -- you really appreciate its scale and its presence. Again, there's the awfulness of the past tense. I'm a bit sad today. While I've got my gripes about Korea, this should not have happened. The destruction of an iconic monument like this, one of the few the Japanese didn't destroy during the colonial period, is a travesty.
Now I'm extra bummed I haven't made it over to visit Marshall there yet.