The Day the Music Died

No, it wasn't February 3rd, 1959 but a day far more recent.

It's.... just.... SO BAD.


Face, meet Palm

I'm going to be talking about one crazy man, so if you're still riding high from the inauguration you might want to skip this one. It's really that stupid.

Let's start with his thesis statement:

"Many American Christians believe, as an article of faith, that we are to pray for the success of our leaders."


Every church I have attended has never prayed for the "success" of the president or other world leaders, but that they might have wisdom, mercy, and justice in their governance.

But we're missing out on what's really ridiculous:

"...I do not hesitate today in calling on godly Americans to pray that Barack Hussein Obama fail in his efforts to change our country from one anchored on self-governance and constitutional republicanism to one based on the raw and unlimited power of the central state."

Read that again and mull it over a bit. It took me a few moments to recover from disbelief before I could digest it. This, my friends, is 100% fail from concentrate.

First we have a strange assumption: Obama wants to replace self-governance with central authority. I'm not sure how someone gets that from the first candidate in history who refused public funding because he was getting hundreds of millions of sub-$100 donations from voters across the country.

Second, we have a hidden, implicit statement: Self-governance and "constitutional republicanism" is more godly than an uncontrolled, infinitely powerful central authority.

Third, I have an obvious remark: What is God if not an uncontrolled, infinitely powerful central authority? I'm being facetious, but I found the implication hilarious.

More seriously he speaks as though to say that our former president was a bastion of self-governance and constitutionalism. This is the same president that skirted habeas corpus, expanded the authority and size of the executive branch, and nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That's about as diametrically opposed to "self-governance and constitutional republicanism" as it gets without degrading into a complete despot.

Obama has already signed an executive order forcing Guantanimo Bay to close within a year. The news has already aired people saying, effectively, that (constitutional) human rights be damned, this is a national security issue! I want to know if these people have hot daughters, and if they'd allow me to install cameras in their home (and showers) were I to tell them it would help me fight terrorists.

But of course, this insanity wouldn't be complete without insinuating the Obama is a blight against all that is good and right.

"I want Obama to fail because his agenda is 100 percent at odds with God's. Pretending it is not simply makes a mockery of God's straightforward Commandments."

The sheer hubris of this statement is staggering. Beyond the obvious fact that Obama hasn't been writing bills which require children to dishonor their parents or laws which give tax breaks to people who use the name of the Lord in vain. Beyond the fact that Romans 11:34 asks the pointed question, "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became his counselor?" Beyond the subtle implications of "I want". Beyond all of that is this:"

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."

Romans 13:1, quoted by he, himself in his very argument.

I'm not suggesting, as he works hard to contest before anyone can bring it up, that this verse or series of verses tells us to strictly obey our leaders. But this verse is the poster child for the commonly held belief and theology that God, being in control, appoints leaders according to his will.

The obvious conclusion is that it is impossible to claim that Barack's agenda is 100% at odd with God's unless you wish to assert that God has no control over the authorities of the world. Barack Obama is a part of God's agenda, his master plan. He may be, from some perspectives, a modern day pharaoh but messiah or antichrist he is a tool for God's will.

The diatribe ends as it begins, concluding with the strange notion that we pray for the success of our leaders however evil or unchristian they may be. From start to finish the argument presented was flawed, and only became tangled the further it went.

But more than anything else, I am saddened that in a time of great worry and woe that the most urgent suggestion given is for us to pray for the damnation of others rather than for grace.


Of Cabbages and Kings

The more I think about, the more there was one inarguable black mark on today's inauguration. Boiling, oily it oozed its way through the brilliant day. Yet as soon as its hideous existence was proclaimed the mar burbled away from the effulgence of the occasion, leaving only momentary confusion as the celebration continued without pause.

The moment was not the failure of the chief justice to remember the proper words to the oath of office, or the questionable content of the benediction. What I speak of is one of the worst poems I have heard since leaving college. I may color this discussion by saying so, but try as I might the more I review the poem the more failures I find. It is wholly unremarkable and unworthy of the honor it was granted today.

How foreboding do the words of the Fox News anchors now seem. As the orator approached the podium they noted that but a handful of inaugurations had featured a poet. By the time the poem had ended, the reason for this was painfully clear. Here is the offending script itself:

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

This is not a quality poem. I saw many like it during college from my peers and from myself. It has all the marks of attempted poetry, but none of the discipline of good poetry. It is less a poem and more a speech with some small measure of eloquence and a few poetic moments. I shall explain in detail, subjective as such things are.

Let us begin with the first line. I will state the obvious thought of every proletariat and bourgeois out there, "What the heck?" The grammar of this sentence is nothing short of awkward. The inherent problem is that while the sentence follows such a standard structure as "give thanks for the day" the first two words are very poorly chosen. "Praise song" can be read either as a noun adjunct or a verb-noun pair, with the latter falling in line with the aforementioned grammer structure. However, it is the former that will be first assumed by the majority of American listeners, particularly those of a protestant background. This confusion is an interesting grammatical exercise, but starts the poem off by tripping up anyone reading or especially listening.

Moving on, we come across a sentence that is bland and uninteresting until its end. The first, second, and third sections are almost entirely mundane save for "or not". One can argue that this might be intentional given the subject matter, which is the mundane itself. The following sentence is mildly less plain, but is repeated twice before we finally arrive at something one might truly find interesting. Here, finally at "bramble, thorn and din" we have poetry, imagery that leaps to mind. Yet immediately the concision, the picture begins to collapse again. "Each one of" is what my poetry professor would have called "excessive language". The image here is not enhanced by these words, but delayed.

The final sentence of the second paragraph begins a trend I find unfortunate. One of the basic concepts drilled into me by professors and teachers alike was the importance of avoiding "junk" words, that is words that are vague and undescriptive. "Things", "someone", "something", "stuff" and many other words offer no image, no palpable product. They simple are, taking up space and muddying the waters. These are not forbidden words, they have their place, but it is tempting to place them where they do not belong. Here we begin with "someone", though we quickly move into more precise languish, and end with "the things in need of repair". Despite the attempt to elicit mending, "things" squarely hinders the attempt to evoke a clear thought.

This leads into a terribly vague sentence fragment, "Someone is trying to make music somewhere..." There are a million words one could replace "someone" with, and "somewhere" is completely unnecessary, though if it felt right there are certainly a thousand locations one could describe in three words or less. The second half of the sentence could have been interesting, but the stage has been set as this vague nullity, a non-entity with attributes thrown into the void. The listener or reader is working against the poet to form images, which is the antithesis of poetry.

We have a brief reprieve of three sentences that are actually descriptive. They might have made decent prose, but we have just come from a fairly vague place, one filled with attempts at similar sentences. The constant repetition of the someone does something structure dilutes their impact.

Following this we recede. This is now the third time in one poem that we have encountered "someone". In fact, this sentence brings the grand total of junk words up to five (six if you count the vagueness of "others" in this context) and we're only halfway done. I remember my professor once refused a similar effort of mine, immediately handing it back to me. I had until he finished collecting my peers' efforts to replace the offending words.

This next sentence, employing a semi-colon, is not bad, but it highlights the extremely simplistic sentence structure the author employs. We have now repeated the same subject four times consecutively. We have repeated a subject, verb phrase, object structure nine times. Quite simply, this poem is repetitive.

Repetition is broken by this paragraph and it was perfect until the author couldn't stop at "edifices". "They would then" is an awkward segway into an even more awkward phrase. This isn't a Churchill moment; we don't need to radically alter the sentence structure to rid ourselves of "of".

And at last, we have come full circle. By the time the author has repeated "praise song" for the third time one might, at last, be able to clear the hurdle it throws down. Of course, then it beans you with "The figuring it out at kitchen tables". Figuring what out, the sign? *bonk*

The next two sentences are somehow meant to bridge the confusion we just crossed and lead into the an exposition on love. The author has the transition backwards. She starts with a well known statement on love, and moves away from the word in the next sentence before grabbing us by the collar and pulling us back to it.

And here, at last, we have something resembling poetry. These last sentences, up until everything is once again crushed under the confusing grammar of "praise song" we have a glimpse of the art we so love. I say a glimpse and "something resembling" because up until this point we've been enjoying a speech. Looking over this a hundred times, reading it to write this critique, I can't help but realize that this isn't a poem spoken publicly but public speaking with poetic tendencies. If you pulled me off the street and asked me to speak eloquently I might, if flustered, orate in this fashion.

"Praise song for walking forward in that light." Here at the end I can't help but wonder, what the heck did song ever do to warrant such praise?

I'm being very harsh, ridiculously so. I have no authority by which I make these statements, and I'm certain the author is determined enough that they would easily shrug off my criticism as plebeian. In my haste to write this I certainly didn't go into such detail as I could have. Yet, gracious though I may attempt to be toward the work I can not help but think of how talentless it seems. This wasn't an effort worthy of the honor of the day, it was at best an entry-level college homework assignment. It would not get full marks.

I'm certain that someone can argue over the minutiae that I went into, but I don't think any amount of nitpicking will be able to salvage this wreck. Perhaps I am an elitist.


Barack Obama is now President of the United States of America. This is strange.

8 years is a long time, a very long time in fact. Just as moving from home or college elicits strange feelings of otherworldliness, so too has it not sunk in that Bush is no longer the leader of our nation. It will be months before it makes sense that Obama is in charge.

But today is history nonetheless. 60 years from now my grandchildren (God willing), grand nieces and nephews, and neighborhood children I ramble to from my rocket powered rocking chair will look at me in bewilderment when I reminisce. What's so strange about a president such as he? 60 years from now thinking that he was any different than any other man is silly talk. Such is the innocent mind of children.



24 is a television series I don't watch. It is also a greater number of hours than Bush has left in his presidency. This brings joy to many people who are ready to shove him out the door and welcome our new president. Having voted for both men, I regret the callous nature of the public though I easily understand the mood.

There aren't many measures by which Bush was a successful president, and though I would argue he wasn't as terrible as some might say it would distract me from discussing the most important factor in his failings and worldwide perception. I personally think this to be the most important consideration of any leader and one that many people overlook.

The most important attribute of any president is his ability to communicate. I'm not speaking of eloquence or wit, but of the basic ability to convey ideas, excitement, purpose and character. This is an attribute Bush sorely lacked, and one that Obama obviously has in spades.

This affected not only the president but his entire administration through both ignorance and willful obfuscation Bush's presidency has been one of the least communicative in history. From explaining 9/11, to the justification for the war on Iraq, to standard press conferences he and his staff failed to make themselves understandable. This, unsurprisingly, turned America against them.

I say this not because I'm a particular expert on being president but because my experience as part of a leadership staff has shown me this first hand. The principle applies even in a group as small as a guild of fifty people playing a video game. When the leadership fails in communicating their intent, reasoning, and hope the relationship between them and those they lead crumbles at a staggering rate. Communication is as difficult as rock climbing, letting go is to commit to a freefall.

Freefall is a good word to describe our domestic, international and economic standings. Under a good presidency there would be some confidence that the president and the government cared, even if there were grave concerns about how such matters could come about in the first place. Under this presidency it was clear Bush and all who supported him were afraid of recession, and because they were afraid so were we. Bush missed his cue after Obama clearly stated "There is only one president at a time." He could have seized the moment, put on a brace countenance and showed us that he could lead, inspire, and bring about a better economy. Instead he faded into the shadows, leaving his most important job of instilling confidence to the president-elect months in advance.

Obama is beloved and adored not because he brainwashes his supporters, but because he communicates to them. That his ideas are large, hopeful, and inspiring unto themselves is helpful, but they are only ingredients, materials for him to cook and craft. It is his ability to communicate these ideas and how he thinks that has us so eager to see him inaugurated tomorrow. It is this ability that defeated more established politicians, and it is this ability that we will count on to make this a better nation.

But today I do not revel in the passing of Bush's presidency. Terrible as it may have been we are not blameless. A vote for Gore or Kerry is not a free pass, nor is a vote for Bush a damning mark. If, in the space between, you were a political non-entity there is no excuse. I look at today and think not only of the better job Bush might have done, but of what I too might have ventured and gained by seeking to participate more in a process designed to benefit those who would stand up for what their believe in, rather than sit down and watch it pass by on the television.


Case Study in Miscommunication

I spend a fair amount of time arguing with people over the internet. It's a fun intellectual exercise much of the time, and I avoid it when it is not. However, there is no better place to see the wonders of miscommunication than on the internet. Quite simply, reading comprehension is not what it used to be.

The following is something of a case study using a conversation I recently had regarding fundamental economic issues within World of Warcraft.

Before diving into the case study several terms need to be defined and clarified.

"AH" stands for "Auction House". Auction Houses are an ebay-like interface through which players may place auctions for their goods and wares.

"Enchanters" are a profession within the game. Enchanters can increase the power of an item or set of gear by creating an "enchant". Enchanting requires materials (often abbreviated "mats") in order to do this, which are consumed in the creation of the "enchant". In order to increase one's professional skill one must craft many "enchants", which can be a very expensive process.

World of Warcraft is divided into "servers". Each server represents an identical but separate version of the same universe, differentiated only by the players present there. Each server has its own population and economy emergent from these players. Players can change which server they play on, but only at cost. As such, players tend to play on a single server and take a possessive stance on them (referring to them as "me server", "your server" or "their server").

Terms defined, our miscommunication begins with the following message board post.

I'm curious if any other enchanters are having the following problem on their server. A number of enchanters, probably unaware of the upcoming changes, have been advertising that they'll pay gold to anyone bringing their own mats for an enchant if they skill up in the process. Typical "tips" are going between 10-25g.

This doesn't prevent enchanters from selling materials on the AH, which is obviously the most lucrative part of the profession, but it severely undermines attempts to sell vellums/enchants on the AH or to make gold by doing in-person enchants.

The player making this post has observed what they see as a new phenomenon in their local economy. Enchanters seeking to increase their skill have taken to offering money in order to increase the amount of business. The player has also observed an effect this has on the economy, the raw materials for enchanting are now more expensive than the finished product.

The crux of the post, however, is the very first sentence. The author wishes to know the magnitude of the phenomenon.

The response proves interesting.

Does it? I got a couple of enchants off the AH yesterday because they were cheaper than the mats cost, not to mention the convenience factor of finding someone to get the enchant done. If anything, it's a clever marketing ploy( although if they don't get a skillup, you're left paying full mats price, which may not be a bargin), but I don't think it has an affect on the overall market.

There are several puzzling aspects to this response. First, the information the origination post seeks is not mentioned. Second, the first sentences appear to be a rebuttal of the idea that the described phenomenon has the stated effect on the economy, yet instead provides supporting evidence. For someone looking to verify the magnitude of a new phenomenon this response seems, at best, to be wholly confused and fallacious.

However, a second look at the response reveals the miscommunication. The responder has latched onto the word "problem" and identified the problem as the second paragraph. From this perspective the issue isn't the specific practice. As such, he responds by explaining why there isn't a problem!

This isn't immediately obvious, and thus is born the following reply from the original author.

You effectively proved my point. Selling something for less than the cost of materials is selling at cost. You saved money, but the enchanter didn't. If one must sell at cost in order to reliably move auctions there's little incentive to go that route, hence an undermined market.

Offering money to bring in enchant business may be a marketing ploy, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it clever. Clever marketing ploys increase profits; this ploy decreases profits sharply. It doesn't matter if you whiff a skillup and don't have to pay, few people tip someone who was paying for business and there's no guarantee that people are bringing you materials from your own auctions. Additionally it sets expectations that put you out of business once you max out your skill. You can't keep competing with the people still offering money if they skill up, and the AH now reflects the fact that everyone expects enchants to be cheaper than their materials cost. In short, you were better off not leveling beyond the point where you could DE everything.

Again, the biggest profit is, was, and likely will always be the materials themselves. The point is that the incidental income and branching options for an enchanter attempting to maximize their profit have been cut off by lazy/stupid marketing ploys, and I wondered if this was a problem unique to my server or if it was widespread.

A resounding rebuttal, but the energy was wholly misdirected. From the author's perspective he's clearing up a fallacious argument to make room for the point of his curiosity, but in fact is only stoking the flames of confusion. His peer will see this as an attempt to reassert that this is, in fact, a problem.

There is actually a growing problem in this conversation. The original author is increasingly focused on the specifics, while the responder is diverging into greater and greater generality. What started as a simple misconception as to what was the crucial point is now diverging into a true chasm.

I think you're missing the point. You're treating the entire profession as a profit-driven venture, when for many, many people it's entirely not. I'm leveling my main's blacksmithing because I enjoy wearing the gear, not because it's going to be making me a profit( it's entirely the opposite of making a profit actually). Similarly, I'm not leveling my alt's enchanting, because it's far more profitable to sell _all_ the enchanting mats I get - and I don't care whether he's an uber-enchanter.

As for the giving gold for the privilege of doing the enchant, it's a "clever" ploy in that you're assuming no risk, you're offering a "cash-back" incentive, and your alternative in leveling is trying to sell the glut of enchants you're doing at below-cost anyway.

Notice immediately that what interests the original author has been relegated to a tertiary importance by the responder. Not only is it separated from the responder's most focused point, but it's subservient to the issue of its own cleverness! The responder himself remains focused on "the problem" and identifies the original author's viewpoint as a potential source of his inability to understand that "the problem" isn't a problem, or at least isn't new and interesting. Well-meaning as he may be, this will only open the chasm even wider.

The original author responds.

I'm treating the profession entirely as a profit driven venture because this is largely the goal of this thread and those posting here. Competing with the noted categories of people is an implicit part of doing so and not something that is likely to surprise anyone familiar with WoW's economy.

My three part point is simply this: There are people on my server paying to enchant other people's gear for skillups if they bring their own materials, this effectively undermines the profitability of anything but selling raw enchanting materials, is this a localized or widespread phenomenon?

What motivates these people isn't relevant to my question and concern.

The original author has identified that this discussion has veered wildly off the track he was wishing to discuss and attempts to reground the discussion with the second paragraph. Unfortunately the conversation is too far gone at this point. The second paragraph will be completely misunderstood, diluted as it is by the first paragraph and the concluding sentence.

The responder's reply:

In response to your single-pointed question: This hasn't changed, well...ever in my experience. So not only is it widespread, but it's hardly worth noting. The only interesting part is that it's a new and clever way of subsidizing the painful leveling process - much better than coming up with the mats and selling those same enchants on the AH below-cost. Since I've started playing, it's never been hard to find people willing to( and often advertising ) provide leveling enchants for free. The "tip" in these situations is the opportunity to get a leveling point. Sometimes you'll even find folks willing to give you the enchant with their mats, just so it doesn't go to waste. Less common now with the vellums, but not out of the ordinary either.

The miscommunication is complete. "The problem" has now absorbed the original author's point of interest. The responder will continue to discuss the general notion of undercutting while the original author continues to express his interest in a new, unique case thereof. Until one or the other identifies this issue no understanding can be reached.

This case study may be applied practically in either resolving communications issues on in causing them. Skilled trolls likely make use of these slight misunderstandings to perpetuate conversations that might otherwise end. By being only one step out of sync with their target they create a dissonance which any human naturally wishes to resolve.

This concludes the study. Though it should be noted that the original author did manage to identify the source of the conflict and, after a few attempts, managed to resolve the confusion.


Brave New World

I don't see the point in a technological future where tutorials crash and critical updates blue screen a computer.

I can see it now.

PICARD: Data, report on the anomaly.
DATA: I'm sorry captain, but our sensors have experience a critical error. A ticket has automatically been opened with FedSoft and they will be responding in the next 24 hours.
PICARD: A critical error? What was the cause?
DATA: The precise cause is unknown sir, but it appears that our sensor software was attempting to self-update when the error occurred.
RIKER: Captain! The anomaly appears to be growing, we're being sucked in!
PICARD: Full reverse!
CRUSHER: The engines aren't responding sir!
PICARD: Explain ensign!
CRUSHER: They were automatically shutdown thirty minutes ago by FedSoft Warpcheck. I can't override without rebooting the entire system.
PICARD: How long will that take?
CRUSHER: It claims 5 minutes, but in practice it always takes 15.
PICARD: And before we are absorbed into the anomaly?
DATA: Judging by our acceleration and the growing size of the anomaly, 12 minutes an 42 seconds.
WORF: Perhaps a controlled torpedo spread could contain the anomaly, buying us time.
PICARD: Make it so Mr. Worf, and I want those warp engines rebooted and online in 10 minutes, no more.
WORF: Captain, the torpedo systems haven't been fire since our last update and are asking if we would like to reconfigure them now.
PICARD: Ignore it.
WORF: Captain, it is giving a warning that firing without reconfiguring may yield suboptimal results-
RIKER: Just fire the damn torpedos.
WORF: I am entering in my account name and password to confirm now.
PICARD: Pray that this works.
WORF: My password has expired, I must choose a new password before I can continue.
PICARD: Could this get any worse?
DATA: Judging from past events it seem highly-
PICARD: That was a rhetorical question Data.
WORF: I have successfully changed my password, firing torpedoes now.
The Enterprise rocks violently. A random console explodes sending its operator flying across the bridge.
PICARD: Report!
RIKER: The torpedoes detonated before being fired!
WORF: Todsah! The configuration of the torpedoes reset when I changed my password!
DATA: Captain, shields are failing. We are being absorbed into the anomaly.
PICARD: Status on the engines?
CRUSHER: There was an error on shutdown, FedSoft is running a mandatory check before bringing them online.
The Enterprise is absorbed into the anomaly.

Q: Can I offer you an enterprise level solution with omnipresent help support?


Crayons and Physics

Sometimes, I just can't help but be impressed by the awesome some people have wrought. This puzzle game comes out tomorrow, and it's something I think even my Dad might consider a worthy investment.

Crayon Physics Deluxe from Petri Purho on Vimeo.

Doesn't hurt that the music makes you want to be a peace with anything and everything.

Religion and Programming

Are they really so different? Some think not.