Musings @musicandmeaning.com

All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Saturday, 31 March 2007

DP, LV and CC*

It’s hard to believe April is almost here. It’s been a busy three months. Aside from spending most of my time on the usual websites+work formula, I’ve been volunteering at Distributed Proofreaders. DP corrects errors and typesets and formats texts for the free electronic library Project Gutenberg.

DP was on my To Do list since the holidays; I signed up and, just as I figured, I really enjoy helping out there. It’s a great project for people with compulsive copyediting habits, and some of the works (I can’t say all) are quite interesting and worthwhile (or at least amusing) to read and an honor to proof. I’ve had a chance to read some poetry, some W. Somerset Maugham and some of the Aeneid, among many other examples.

Although OCR seems to have come a long way since I first used OmniPage ten years ago, it still has the usual trouble distinguishing 1 from l (that’s the number one and the lowercase letter L) and 0 and O (zero and uppercase letter O). I wish I’d had DP’s custom font back then — it’s very useful in deciphering similar characters. I also learned a fantastic term for a bad OCR result: it’s called a “scanno.” It sounds so much more fun than “typo.”

The DP website is very comprehensive and it takes a little bit of time to become familiar with the navigation, but after a few days it’s not that bad. The community is extremely active and from the looks of it, very friendly and forgiving towards DP newbies. I haven’t had to ask any questions in the forums, though, because the online help resources have answered them all. It is quite refreshing to see such excellent documentation (a very good sign) on a project website, let alone a volunteer-driven project website. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, but DP’s proofing summary sheet [PDF] is truly a work of art and utility that covers most major DP issues, and should be a model for style references.

Since I’m still pretty much a newbie, I’m currently restricted to the first proofing stage, which has a pretty fast workflow (at least, the English books do — I don’t monitor the books in other languages). On average I can work on a few pages (usually fewer than 10) of a particular book before it moves on to the next proofing stage. If it’s a particularly difficult book (e.g. it has a lot of scannos, uses older dialect or requires special instructions to be carried out), then it takes a little longer to move on and I’ll get to work on it more. DP is pretty good about publicizing its goals for the day/month and seems to exceed every single goal — or so I’ve noticed since I started paying attention to such things. The stats aren’t surprising; DP has been around for five years and just celebrated completing its 10,000th unique title, which gives an idea of the hefty volunteer power behind the site.

Another interesting volunteer-powered literary site, LibriVox, is relatively young at 1+ years old, but it seems to be doing pretty well. The folks at LibriVox read and record public domain books to digital audio and provide the audiobooks/individual chapters or poems for free download. They encourage anyone to read, but also are in need of volunteers to help with other aspects of the project. At some point, I hope to join the effort. I’ve enjoyed a bunch of the audio selections so far; you can subscribe to the podcast to stay updated on new releases. They’re also available at Internet Archive.

One of the other items on my To Do list was to play more chess. I like chess — I learned the basic rules during my elementary school days, but didn’t play much over the years. I only play recreationally (translation: I have no idea what I’m doing). I’ve won vs. chess computers on their “beginner/intermediate” (a.k.a. “just beat me now”) modes a few times, but I have yet to beat a computer at a moderate level.

At the beginning of the year, I started playing correspondence chess. For the most part, it works well because I only have to move once every three to seven days, so it doesn’t take up nearly as much time as a typical over-the-board game would (in one sitting). On the other hand, I’ve discovered that the longer I’m away from a game, the harder it is to remember all of the possible moves/counter-moves I’d considered. Even with the aid of a notebook, there does seem to be a certain “chess momentum” that’s easy to interrupt. In any case, the point is to have fun, but I’m planning to look through game openings and work on improving my middlegame.

While researching correspondence chess sites, I found Wulegbr’s reviews and comparison chart helpful in narrowing them down. There’s also a review page for live, OTB-style chess sites.

*In this case, CC stands for correspondence chess, not Carcassonne, of which I am also a fan.

WordPress roundup

  • I did upgrade to the 2.1 branch and I have to say, I’d recommend waiting if you use a lot of plugins and/or you use the WordPress Links Manager (specifically get_links()) creatively. If you have a lot of links, be prepared to do some editing wherever you use the tag with a specific integer — the ID numbers will change after you upgrade.
  • In case you didn’t hear, the official WP 2.1.1 download was hacked at some point. If you are running 2.1.1 or have the archive lying around on your hard drive, and you’re not sure if it’s the legit version, just delete it for safety and upgrade to 2.1.2. The latest version for the 2.0 branch is 2.0.9, which is a “low-to-medium priority” security release.
  • Did you know that there are WordPress shirts? There used to be navy ones but they appear to be sold out. Bummer. I’m still hoping to snag a few WordPress stickers someday. They are much better for staying on guitar cases than shirts.
  • Photo Matt met Jeff Bezos. (via Photo Matt)
Posted at 2:14 am | Filed under WordPress |  

Monday, 22 January 2007

WordPress 2.1: ‘Ella’

WordPress 2.1 (“Ella”) has arrived.

Just reading its features overview, I have to admit that this version looks pretty drool-worthy, especially from an admin perspective. Usually I wait at least a couple of weeks after such a major release in case there are any quickly-reported issues, but I think I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. I’ll start upgrading some of my smaller WordPress sites to get an initial idea of the new engine, and we’ll see how that goes before I decide to switch over the other sites.

[Update] In case you didn’t know or haven’t checked out the link above, do check out the WordPress Ideas page, where you can propose and vote on features for upcoming releases. If you’ve always wanted a feature or been bugged by something, now’s your chance.

Posted at 3:42 pm | Filed under WordPress |  

Saturday, 20 January 2007

WordPress Upgrade Month

It’s starting to look that way. Since I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the WordPress 2.0.6 upgrade, WordPress 2.0.7 was released on Monday. It’s not labeled as a mandatory update, but it’s recommended (and it’s a piece of cake if you’ve already installed 2.0.6). The next major release (2.1) is supposed to be just around the corner (22nd of January).

Last time, I mentioned that 2.0.6 required a little more upgrading work than usual, but that’s only for folks who use Steve Smith’s FeedBurner Plugin and have WordPress installations on Apache servers running mod_php. Mark Jaquith described the issue and offered a fix. WordPress 2.0.7 includes the fix, so if you’re using the latest version of FeedBurner Plugin (2.2) and upgrade to WP 2.0.7, then there shouldn’t be a problem.

If you’re not using FeedBurner Plugin 2.2 but an older release, it’s a good idea to upgrade. It has a number of advantages over previous versions, and also makes it easier to burn your blog’s comments feed. Also, the new version does not create/maintain a special RSS feed, but simply uses the standard WordPress feed links. If you use “pretty” permalinks, the standard feed might be http://yoursite.com/feed/ or http://yoursite.com/subdirectory/feed/, for example. Upgrading to 2.2, you’ll also have to update the .htaccess to remove the old FeedBurner redirects.

Once that’s done, log into your account at FeedBurner.com and change your feed’s source from the old, special random-number feed to the standard RSS feed of your blog. To check that everything’s working, just browse the URI of your standard feed, and it should redirect to the FeedBurner output.

Posted at 11:14 pm | Filed under WordPress |  

Sunday, 7 January 2007

WordPress 2.0.6 security release

WordPress 2.0.6 was released Friday. It’s being called a “mandatory” release, so get thee to an SSH client. This upgrade has turned out to require a little more involvement for the blogs I manage. And aside from being an announcement, this post is doubling as a test of my new Feedburner setup. It’s very multi-tasky that way.

I’ll update again with more details when everything is up and running again.

Posted at 9:28 pm | Filed under WordPress |  

Friday, 22 December 2006

Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin’ strong

I never thought I’d see the day when I’d post a YouTube video, but this is one of my favorite discoveries from this year (by way of Brad Sucks and MetaFilter): Stevie Wonder performing “Superstition” on Sesame Street in 1973. Safe for work, unless you’re not supposed to rock out at your desk. (This version is from YT user shukowinz RSLweblog.) [Update, 10 March 2008: Thanks to Peggy for pointing out that the video link was broken. Replaced it with new one.]

(Alternate link in case you can’t watch it from this page.)

Of course I’d heard Stevie Wonder’s poppiest of pop songs while growing up, but I didn’t hear this song until after I graduated from high school, when my friend Esteban introduced me to Wonder’s album Talking Book [Amazon link] and to “Superstition” in particular (thanks, Esteban).

It’s an excellent, fun performance that you’d never see on Sesame Street today (kids rockin’ out to six-plus minutes of really good, live, groovin’ music; what a concept!), which makes it all the more remarkable.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Not-so-random tidbits

I know it’s been a while since I wrote something here that’s not about WordPress, so here are a few tidbits — some more random than others — covering the past few months.

Nov(el) in Nov(ember). One thing or another has kept me from writing more often. I’ve been busy with projects; also I recently sustained a finger sprain, but it’s healing and I’m thankful that it’s not as painful now. If you’ve visited this site in the past few days, you may have noticed the image in the sidebar; I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, where individual writers aim to draft a novel, written from the first of November until the end of the 30th. Although I’ve known about the “event” for a while, this is my first year as a participant. And although the official goal to “win” is 50,000 words, I’ll be happy if I reach 35,000. I’m looking at this as a good opportunity (i.e. excuse) to sit down and just write as much as I can, and then use it as a basis to extend and revise.

I still think of it as WBE. For the first time in what seems like a very long time, I got to hear most of Weekend Becomes Eclectic The A Track live today (Anne Litt even played from Richard Buckner‘s new album again). A belated congrats to Anne Litt and Howard Franklin on the birth of their first child this summer. (I was going to mention it in the last post along with the “first WordPress baby” news, but decided to save it until now.) If you tuned in during in the summer, you know that Tricia Halloran filled in during Litt’s maternity leave. If you tuned in recently, you know that The A Track has been cut down from three to two hours (3 p.m. to 5 p.m. PT, still on Saturdays and Sundays), while New Ground and Cafe L.A. have been expanded to three hours (IIRC, Cafe L.A. used to be a three-hour show years ago). I wasn’t around to hear the on-air announcements of the slot change, so I’m not sure what (if any) reasons were given, but I’m going to guess it had something to do with her new duties as programming director for KCRWmusic.com (I searched for press releases but there are absolutely none listed now). In any case, I was very disappointed by the news of two fewer hours of her show on the weekends, but I’ll definitely take four hours as opposed to zero. Much success to Litt in her new endeavors.

New and improved, sort of. As for KCRW’s new site, I can’t say I see a whole lot of front-end design improvements. I certainly prefer the new menus, which make it easier to navigate compared to the older site. Finding the right page was sometimes a little difficult and it wasn’t until I really familiarized myself with the (older) site that I figured out where to go for certain things. However, the new color scheme is a bit confusing at first, especially the inconsistent link colors (maybe it’s just my eyes, but the green footer link color on the purpley background is very unexpected after reading elsewhere on the site, and has a rather negative contrast effect that forces my eyes to look away). The site is still in the proverbial construction stage, but it’s a little frustrating to look for information such as the latest press releases and not find anything. Anyway, I’ve always had qualms about KCRW’s site, whatever the version, over the years. A long time ago, I participated in a survey to provide feedback and opinions about the site (the version that was just replaced) and I had a lot to say. Obviously, I still have a lot to say (for another example, why are the playlists no longer searchable?), but since the new site is not quite “finished” yet, I’ll wait and see what happens.

Not so spudly. Television-wise, I haven’t seen a lot of new shows, but I did catch the first three or four episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Perhaps my standards for Aaron Sorkin are just too high, but I wasn’t that impressed. His other shows were just so good right out of the gate (excluding the laugh track on early Sports Night); this one seems to be weighed down by too much of a self-conscious, editorializing, in-joke atmosphere in dialogue and story, and so far, a lack of focus with all of the characters it has to handle. It may be a case of a slow start and bad marketing; the promos always bill the show as a sitcom by featuring one-liners and banter, and it is so not a comedy in the traditional TV sense (remind you of ABC’s trouble marketing the aforementioned Sports Night?). Being that it’s Sorkin and Schlamme, though, and because I like Sarah Paulson‘s character, I will probably watch again to see if the show warms up and if the writers actually give Brad Whitford something to do besides stand around wearing reading glasses.

As far as the rest of TV, there aren’t any shows that have really hooked me. I saw NBC’s other behind-the-scenes-of-a-comedy, 30 Rock (which really is a comedy show); it looked promising, but I haven’t made it a point to watch. I didn’t really get into the first couple of Heroes, I stopped watching Gilmore Girls sometime last season (or was it the one before that), there’s no more West Wing, I never really got into Lost or Veronica Mars after their first years, and I stopped watching Law & Order sometime after the last-last ADA change. I don’t really enjoy any of the other cop/procedural shows: none of the other Law & Order brands or any of the CSI incarnations (I used to watch CSI original, but that was a long time ago), and sometimes I’ve seen Without a Trace or Cold Case, but very rarely. Is there some show that I’m missing but shouldn’t be? Should I give Grey’s Anatomy another try? I’ve seen maybe two or three episodes of that, but didn’t get invested. And before someone suggests Battlestar Galactica: I don’t have cable. I watch cable shows once a lot of their seasons are out on DVD.

Now, Voyager. Instead of current shows, I’ve been watching favorite series of years past: recently I watched/rewatched a bunch of old Star Trek: Voyager episodes. Voyager is the second of Star Trek’s stepchild series (i.e. not created by Gene Roddenberry); it was less sci-fi/Trek than the uniforms made you believe, and had its share of forgettable and/or recycled writing, lack of character development (Tuvok and Chakotay really got short shrift), and way too many time travel resets (count me as one of the many people disappointed by the direction of the final season and the series finale. Grrr, Berman and Braga). However, (surprisingly?) I still find myself rather fond of the show overall. I suppose it’s because I don’t think of it as Roddenberry Trek, but as a spin-off that happens to use Trek as a vehicle. My favorite character is the Doctor, who, of all the characters, had the best writing to support him over the course of the series. And I may be in the minority, but I think Seven, Naomi Wildman and Icheb brought an interesting sensibility to the show (although I could have done without “Collective,” and the writers featured Seven too often when they didn’t know how to write for the other characters). With that in mind, it won’t be a surprise to learn that I’m prone to enjoy Voyager‘s better character-driven stories, whether they are thoughtful, fun, or amusing (or unintentionally amusing). Give me those over the Q episodes or the pointless Borg fights, any day.

And what can I say, I love Jerry Goldsmith‘s theme for Voyager. I remember when I first saw the series premiere back in 1995 (hard to believe it was over a decade ago!), I felt lukewarm toward the actual episode but was captivated and moved by the theme music. The magic lies in the wonderful arrangement and strong performances — it’s engaging all the way through. I particularly enjoy hearing the splendid trumpet solos, the timpani, and the lovely accompaniment to the melody, including the the lower strings in the B theme. I’ve heard the music I-don’t-know-how-many times, and I have not tired of it yet. Sometimes I fast-forward through the opening title sequence, but more often than not, I listen to, if not watch, the whole thing; and I always listen to the version of the theme over the end credits. (I’m not sure what orchestra Goldsmith conducted for the sync recordings; I’ll have to pick up the appropriate CD and find out, because the performances are really quite good, especially the brass. I recently heard a rendition by a different orchestra; the tempo was slower and most dishearteningly, there were no cymbals! Completely unacceptable. There’s also an “extended” version of the theme on one of the soundtrack CDs; unfortunately, I think the additional measures interrupt rather than enhance the original theme.)

Well, this update should tide you over until the next one, which may be after NaNoWriMo is over. Until then, stay well. If you’re in the U.S., don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. I mailed in my ballot early, and I’m hoping for big changes from the midterms; on another note, I’m also looking forward to the cease of campaign calls. Don’t people know that calling about some candidate or measure during dinner hours doesn’t make a good impression?

Sunday, 29 October 2006

WordPress 2.0.5

This past Friday’s release of WordPress 2.0.5 (designated “Ronan” — named after the “first WP baby”) is a recommended upgrade that includes a number of security fixes. I’ve begun upgrading the blogs I manage and so far (fingers crossed), the process has been painless as usual.

Congrats also to Ryan Boren and clan on the birth of baby Ronan.

Posted at 2:07 pm | Filed under WordPress |  

Saturday, 29 July 2006

WordPress 2.0.4 released (just in time for Camp d’WordPress)

WordPress 2.0.4 is a recommended version that includes security and bug fixes. It’s an easy upgrade from 2.0.3.

If you’re still reading this post, then you probably know about WordCamp, a free, daylong WordPress conference next week in San Francisco. It’ll take place at Swedish American Hall. (Normally I wouldn’t have mentioned the venue, but I thought it interesting because I know Richard Buckner’s played shows there.) Although I’m not so crazy about the name “WordCamp,” it sounds like a great event and I’m sorry that I’ll have to miss it. If you happen to go (free BBQ and swag! meet Matt, Podz and Donncha!), and there are WordPress stickers, well, I wouldn’t say no to one for my guitar case…

Speaking of WordPress, let’s talk about anti-spam plugins for a bit. When I finally upgraded musings from 1.5.2 to 2.0.3 last month (I’d already converted the 1.5 branch to 2.0 for some other blogs, and didn’t really see the need to mess with this blog until 2.0 became a little more streamlined), I ended up letting go of Elliott Back’s WP-Hashcash and activating Michael Hampton’s Bad Behavior and Matt’s Akismet. WP-Hashcash proved to be a stringent spam blocker, and I used it for well over a year. However, spammers increasingly found ways around it; the latest incarnation was pretty effective but it didn’t seem to play well with 2.0.3. My WP anti-spam arsenal now includes the triumvirate of Bad Behavior, Akismet and Dr Dave’s Referrer Karma, which I’ve also been using for over a year. Admittedly, Referrer Karma doesn’t seem to have much to do these days since I installed Bad Behavior (e.g. BB apparently has blocked 650 access attempts here in the past week), but since RK requires little maintenance, I’ve let it stand as a backup.

Based on my WordPress experiences in general, I’d recommend Bad Behavior and/or Referrer Karma, and Akismet. They’re easy to maintain (RK may require a bit more time to carry out admin functions — scanning logs and altering blacklists — but you can decide how often you need to check in). Akismet by itself works very well, but it’s basically a spam filter after the fact, so it helps to block spambots before they eat up your bandwidth allowance.

Posted at 1:53 am | Filed under WordPress |  

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Unsolicited definition of ‘unsolicited’

I may have to start using another word instead of “unsolicited.”

Recently, someone decided to call and tell me about “special” subscription rates for a well-known newspaper with a high readership, and wouldn’t I like to sign up? My number is in the so-called National Do Not Call Registry and I can typically spot telemarketers by looking at the caller ID, but this one got through.

“No, thanks. I’m sorry, but I don’t accept unsolicited calls,” I said, which is my default reply to a telemarketer. I was about to ask him to stop calling me when he interrupted.

“This isn’t an unsolicited call,” I heard him say matter-of-factly, and he relaunched into reading his spiel.

I certainly had not asked him to call me. I considered pointing out what “unsolicited” actually meant, but during his next pause I said, “I’m sorry, I’m not interested. Please put this number on your Do Not Call list,” and then hung up.

Now, take what happened this past weekend. Someone decided to offer a free estimate — he didn’t even ask if I’d be interested in one. His sales pitch was more along the lines of: “We’ll look at your place and give you a free estimate for our cleaning service. When can we come by?”

I said that I wasn’t interested and that I didn’t accept unsolicited offers.

“Excuse me?!” he said, raising his voice. He was clearly surprised, and from the tone of his voice, he even sounded offended. “I’m not soliciting anything!” he said.

Irony aside, that’s clearly not what I said (and we’ll ponder the definition of “solicit” another time), but he sounded genuinely caught off-guard by what I had said. I tried to explain that he was offering something I didn’t ask for. He didn’t seem to get it. Perhaps it was then that he realized that he still had my attention, though, because he went right back into his pitch. I calmly repeated that I wasn’t interested, and ended the conversation.

After this latest incident, I looked up “unsolicited” to confirm what it meant, because those guys obviously did not define the word the same way I did. Here’s its definition according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (via Dictionary.com):

unsolicited
adj.
Not looked for or requested; unsought: an unsolicited manuscript; unsolicited opinions.

Okay, so I know I used the word correctly. But now I’m thinking about substitutes, in case more people don’t think of “unsolicited” in the way it’s defined above. Way back, my seventh-grade science teacher once described how he handled telemarketers politely but firmly. He asked them, “Did I ask you to call me?” — then he’d wait for the “no” and said, “Please don’t call me again,” and hung up. That’s one way to do it. I’m also considering saying, “Sorry, but I don’t accept phone spam.” But in that case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the caller said, “Excuse me?! I’m not phone-spamming you!”

Posted at 9:07 pm | Filed under Musings & everything else |  

Saturday, 24 June 2006

Hi FanAppers

If you made it this far from a link on the new Fanatical Apathy — thanks. It’s been an interesting experience re-reinventing the site. Overall there were many more things to juggle compared to last year. Man, do I have some coding stories to tell!

Seriously though, for three weeks I’ve pretty much been living and breathing The New FA, so I hope you like it.

I’d write more, but since I stayed up for the site launch, it’ll have to wait until I recharge my batteries. Thanks for dropping by, and please save me a spot in the Lurkers’ Lounge.

P.S. I know the post title css does not look right in IE. I’m working on it.

Posted at 11:25 am | Filed under Radio, NPR, etc., WordPress | 5 replies »