The Late Unpleasantness

Have a few brief thoughts on this whole Bin Laden kerfluffle that are too long for twitter, so here goes.

  • At the Phillies/Mets game the news broke in the bottom of the 8th, prompting a spontaneous chant of “USA! USA!” that got the crowd excited and utterly confused the players. Why one of the players didn’t turn around and ask someone in the stands is beyond me (unless there’s an MLB rule against it or something).
  • There’s lots of scripture being tossed around twitter right now. Most of it is a variation of God not taking pleasure in the death of the wicked, but there is also the occasional “when the wicked perish there are shouts of joy.”
  • The most balanced take so far is probably Derek Webb’s:

don’t celebrate death, celebrate justice

And now I should get back to work.

File Sharing Rant

I’ve largely taken a back seat on the whole file sharing debate. However, now that I actually have a self-published work I feel it is time for me to make a public stance. Here goes…

I’m going to have to agree with John Gruber’s assessment of Richard Stallman’s latest essay:

I waver between rolling my eyes at Stallman’s kookiness and admiring his singleminded determination.

In my case, however1, Stallman’s kookiness extends to a large portion of the Free Software Foundation’s philosophies. Above all else, the FSF champions the right to modify and redistribute software. I have no problem with this goal as I will often promote a free or open source program (which apparently are not the same) when it is a viable alternative to a commercial program. I use WordPress instead of ExpressionEngine. I use The GIMP instead of Photoshop. But I use Safari instead of Firefox because I find Safari to be faster on my Mac. In my case, I am willing to give up a “freedom” that I don’t really use (the ability to modify the source code) in exchange for a more pleasant computing experience.

It is Richard Stallman’s opinion on creative works that I find unacceptable2. Never mind that because not all Creative Commons licenses are free he refuses to endorse any of them (he, of course, suggests the GPL). What is dangerous is that he equates creative works such as movies and music with information and file sharing with the general term “sharing.” In doing so, Stallman shows his background as a computer scientist. A program is written to solve a problem; the FSF’s arguments that there are more benefits to releasing the source are valid here largely because the program can benefit from the scientific method. Information wants to be free, and the solution to the problem (the program) is simply another form of information.

A creative work, however, is not simply information. It does not consist of simple facts or present a solution to an established problem. It is, when done properly, a reflection of the author or artist’s heart. It can be anything from a commentary on society to a rewrite of a poorly done movie to an attempt to reconcile temporal existence with eternal life. As such, creative works cannot be held to the same standards as computer programs, and vice versa.

Equating creative works to information reduces the author’s creative expression to its digital format, an act of language that cheapens the work even more than the term content. And distributing digital creative works over file sharing is not simply sharing, it is copying. Like anything distributed over the internet, the digital information is copied, not moved, from one computer to another. Loaning a CD or a book to a friend is sharing, since while one is in possession of it the other is not. File sharing creates copies, so that both are in possession at the same time. While not necessarily the same as theft, this cannot, by any reasonable definition, be considered sharing.

This is not to say I am against file sharing as a whole. There are hundreds of out-of-print and hard-to-find works that can benefit from file sharing in order to preserve their value to society. Also, it can be used by lesser known artists to encourage the viral word-of-mouth growth that is essential to growing a fanbase. This is the aim of Creative Commons, and I am disappointed that a man committed to “freedom” refuses to acknowledge the benefits of such a system.

1 John Gruber may agree with me, but I won’t presume to speak for him.

2 Yes, it’s a Wayback Machine link. The post as linked from the original slashdot article no longer exists.

Next To Godliness

I had a job satisfaction crisis earlier in the week. In reality it was more of a life satisfaction crisis, but a crisis of that kind is usually called a “mid-life crisis” and isn’t supposed to come until you’re 32, not 23. Besides, it wasn’t that bad. In fact, it led to a realization that, while not completely positive, is better than the depths of despair.

This particular crisis was instigated by the realization that I’m spending a third of my time on a project that isn’t mine. I knew that going in. That’s what comes with any job where you aren’t self-employed. Duh. I figured I’d make up for it with my spare time projects like I had been doing in college. For a while I did that, and I managed to get my album out the door in the process. And then it stopped.

Normally around this point I’d say something to the effect of ‘I have no idea why I stopped.’ But now I do. See, I’ve finally realized that I work best creatively in a clean environment. And my room is a mess. But logically it makes sense. Why does my room get in a mess? Because I don’t feel like I have the energy to put things in their proper place. In other words, if my life is a mess, my room is a mess. So if my room is a mess, I feel like my life is a mess and therefore cannot focus my creative energy appropriately.

Right now, my room is a mess. That’s about to change. Brittany, hold me to that.

2008: Time To Grow Up

If I had to sum up 2008 in one word, it would be “woah.” If you could give me an extra word, though, it would be “growing up.” In my personal life (and in some ways the world around me) this year has been about growing up.

2008 was the year I finally had to come to grips with the fact that not everyone I meet or spend time with will like me. And even when I’ve apologized as much as I can (or even farther), other people may still decide not to forgive me (despite what they say to my face). And in the end, what I’m responsible for is forgiving them; anything past that is in God’s hands.

2008 was when I was hit in the face with the fact that the best laid plans of mice and men will quickly come to ruin, especially if God has anything to say about it. Case in point: this time last year I was hoping to get a web development job in Greenville. Between February and April, I shifted focus and ended up taking a .NET programming job in Charleston after being offered my ideal position in Greenville. Crazy, huh?

2008 was when we as a nation finally realized that placing most of our investments in funds and bonds that were so complicated even the best economists didn’t know exactly how they worked was a bad idea. Those funds? They were backed by shaky mortgages. Maybe easy access to credit isn’t such a great idea after all…

2008 was also when we as a nation took another giant step forward in moving past racism. It already says something when people in my generation have to be reminded that racism exists. I know that it is far from eradicated–and this election doesn’t change that–but as a symbolic gesture, the fact that we have elected a president whose skin tone is different from the majority of the population says that it is far less of a stumbling block than it once was.

2008 was when I realized that maybe I had skills other people might want. I thought it would be much more of a struggle than it was to find a job. Yes, I interviewed several places that said I wasn’t experienced enough, but I still received more than one job offer. I still ended up talking to organizations that I never thought would consider me.

And that spilled over into other areas too. See, 2008 was the year I finally got tired of being the odd-numbered wheel. But since I wasn’t willing to try my luck with anyone around me, I signed up for an online dating service. And said so on facebook. And was promptly chewed out by someone I was kinda interested in. See, there were people around me that I was afraid to notice. But when I finally decided to allow myself to think in that direction…

2008 will always be the year I graduated. The year I got my first job. Moved out. Finished my CD. But I will always remember this year as the year I fell in love.

Maybe growing up isn’t so bad after all…

Scientific Voting

Comments like this chicken-or-crap essay pointed out by John Gruber notwithstanding, I’m still on the fence to a certain degree about this election. I’ve appreciated John McCain’s willingness to go against the party establishment the past few years, a reason I’ll be voting for our current senator as well. On the other hand, Barack Obama appears to have a solid technology platform and it’s undoubtable that he’s inspired a lot of people to take interest in politics.

At the end of the day, I want to make an informed decision and choose the candidate that aligns most closely with what I believe. Now, my most closely held beliefs may or may not be held by the candidates; in today’s political environment it’s almost impossible to tell what beliefs are genuine. (Not completely impossible, mind you, but those guys don’t typically win, endorsements or not.) As far as political beliefs go, it’s sometimes hard for me to tell just what I believe. Less government spending is good, abortion is bad, morals in general are kinda… not sure. After this policy and that boycott, I’m wondering how right the “Christian right” really is.

Sounds like a job for… a political quiz! Or rather, several. First stop is The Compass, a several-part quiz that shows where you are on a two-dimensional graph that compares social and financial issues. The postmodernist in me is actually quite proud of my position, but other people are not impressed. And it doesn’t help me pick a candidate.

Enter Glassbooth (found via TechCrunch). They’re supposedly nonpartisan and nonbiased, and I’m inclined to believe it. You first pick your most important issues and then rate your position. What I like most about it is that you have the option of remaining neutral on an issue if you so choose. It then compares how you feel about the issues with how the candidates feel about the same issues, and it gives you quotes and voting records to back it up.

So who am I voting for? Should I really have wondered in the first place? Actually, I’ve got more in common with Obama than the Libertarian candidate. Wonder how I would have compared with Ron Paul…

We Are Hiring… O RLY?

In the spirit of John Gruber I am going to bring the smack to this unsolicited e-mail I was just sent because some company is trolling a popular job search website.

Hi, my name is Andrew W. King and I am the President of United American’s Branch Office Division.

I believe we have a winner for the “Most Obscure Yet Oddly Professionally Sounding Name Of A Company” award!

I found your resume online and wanted to contact you.

If this wasn’t an obvious form letter, I’d appreciate that. But it is, so I don’t.

We are now hiring applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds and we believe you are an outstanding match.

In other words, I have a pulse.

We have immediate openings for motivated individuals like you.

You could tell I was motivated just by my resume? Then you obviously didn’t catch that I’m living at my parents’ house.

First year earnings can range as high as $100,000 for new representatives and management positions are awarded for excellence, regardless of prior experience.

So, if I “award” you the award mentioned above, will you “award” me a management position?

If you are goal-oriented with good communication skills and have a desire to succeed within a company that has a well-known industry reputation for financial stability, quality products and streamlined services, then I would like to speak with you at your earliest convenience.

Rule Number One for Evan: NO SALES POSITIONS I’m sorry, but this is not negotiable. Unless you’re Apple.

We are a part of the Torchmark Corporation.

Found them. Do not want. I mean… really do not want.

Moral of the story: don’t spam. You’re wasting the time I could have spent trolling craigslist.

Maybe

I may or may not have attempted to grill pork on the stove.

I may or may not have set off the smoke alarm.

The local fire department may or may not have been called.

This may or may not show up on my student account.

Maybe.

Update: I did. I did. I did. It won’t.

Limericks Galore

So the genius behind xkcd just opened up LimerickDB. Be warned, many (if not most) are definitely NSFW, but I find many of them quite clever, which I have repeated below.

#286

There once was a buggy AI

Who decided her subject should die.

When the plot was uncovered,

The subjected discovered

That sadly the cake was a lie.

#34

A woman in liquor production

Owns a still of exquisite construction.

The alcohol boils

Through magnetic coils.

She says that it’s “proof by induction.”

#292

A preoccupied vegan named Hugh

picked up the wrong sandwich to chew.

He took a big bite

before spitting, in fright,

“OMG, WTF, BBQ!”

#257

There once was a small juicy orange,

…f–k.

#107

See that lighthouse beam in the sky

That guides yonder ships going by?

My friend shines that beam;

She’s living her dream.

I’m in grad school. I still don’t know why.

#21

There was a young woman named Bright

Whose speed was much faster than light.

She set out one day

In a relative way,

And returned on the previous night.

#282

A programmer started to cuss

Because getting to sleep was a fuss

As he lay there in bed

Looping ’round in his head

was: while(!asleep()) sheep++;

#119

The limerick’s structure somewhat

necessitates eloquent smut.

If you haven’t the time

to learn meter and rhyme,

then don’t write them, you ignorant s–t.

#177

There once was a girl named Lenore

And a bird and a bust and a door

And a guy with depression

And a whole lot of questions

And the bird always says “Nevermore.”

#11

There once was a man from Japan

whose limericks just wouldn’t scan.

When asked why this was,

he answered, “Because

I always cram as many syllables into the last line as I possibly can.”

#22

There once was a maid from Madras

Who had a magnificent ass.

Not rounded and pink,

as you’d possibly think;

It was gray, had long ears, and ate grass.

#12

There once was a gal from Peru

whose limericks stopped on line two.

#189

There was a zookeep from Nantucket

Who was struck by a fish — couldn’t duck it

He was thrown from the cage

By a pinniped’s rage.

Quoth the walrus, “You can’t has mah bukkit!”

#109

A newspaper poet for Hearst

Deprived of his reason

By uncontrolled sneezing

Was by phantasmal demons coerced

To write all of his limericks reversed.

#2

The limerick packs laughs astronomical

in a space that is most economical.

But of the ones that I’ve seen,

so few have been clean,

and the clean ones are seldom so comical.

#77

A dozen, a gross, and a score

plus three times the square root of four

divided by seven

plus five times eleven

is nine squared, and not a bit more!

#111

There once was a fellow from Xiangling

Whose greatest delight was in mangling

Poems. He would drop

Words between lines and lop

Their ends off, and leave readers dang

#333

There was a limerick I heard,

With stressed syllables quite awkward.

Rhythm was somewhat

Still present in it, but

It forced mispronouncing every word.

#290

To the skeptics I say, oh come off it.

Your aluminum hat? You can doff it.

To me it’s a riddle

Just what’s in the middle

But I’m sure that the last step is profit.

#127

There once was a girl named Jude,

Who’s skirt by the wind was strewed.

A man came along,

And unless im quite wrong,

You expected this last line to be lewd.

#271

Ther once was an old man of Esser,

Whose knowledge grew lesser and lesser,

It at last grew so small

He knew nothing at all,

And now he’s a college professor.

#145

A student as smart as could be

Had to integrate x to the 3

He said “x to the 4

over 4, I am sure”

But was off by a constant of C.

#355

Since your poems are clumsy and s–te,

No longer can I be polite:

Come on you f–ktard,

It’s really not hard,

to get the d–n syllables right.

#65

A poet ran out of ideas;

Because he had no more ideas;

He repeated himself,

By repeating himself,

Because he ran out of ideas;

#277

Two eager and dashing young beaux

Were held up and robbed of their cleaux

In summer it’s warm –

They’ll come to no harm

But what will they do if it sneaux?

#131

There was a young man who said “God

Must find it exceedingly odd

To think that the tree

Should continue to be

When there’s no one about in the quad.”

“Dear Sir: Your astonishment’s odd;

I am always about in the quad.

And that’s why the tree

Will continue to be

Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.”

#264

There once was a poet named Gunderson

Whose rhyme schemes were all very cumbersome.

With each botched refrain,

he’d be heard to exclaim,

“Oh, how do I get myself into these situations?!

The Screw Is Driven

Thoughts while recovering from my first self-made screwdriver:

  • I can’t tell if I made it stronger or weaker; the lack of ice ruined my frame of reference. Don’t worry, both the OJ and the vodka were chilled.
  • Drinking it from a coffee mug is so much more college kid than a high ball glass.
  • Buying from Total Wine is a pain if you’re exactly 21 (like I am). They have to xerox your drivers license and get you to fill out a form. Every. Freaking. Time.
  • You need the drink to get though the first two thirds of Hot Fuzz, after that, the explosions kick in.
  • Despite the hassle, I’ll probably go back to Total Wine. Four shots worth of vodka there is cheaper than one screwdriver at our usual hangout.

Next on the list: Black Cherry Vodka and… what? Give me some suggestions!

Slick Roads + Evan Driving = Not Fun

Sometimes God throws a curveball and it’s fun. Sometimes it’s not. I had a not-so-fun curveball this past weekend in the form of a car wreck.

Setup: I’m in Charleston for the weekend to catch up with friends and family. The incident in question is on Saturday.

Scenario: slick roads, wet Evan. The guy in front of me was going too slow for my tastes (turns out he was the smart one), so I went around him and tried to pull back into the lane and turn onto the freeway. I pulled into the lane, but I went into the curve so fast the car drifted and I ended up hitting the wall at about… oh, 15 MPH.

Initial assessment: bent rim on tire (could be bad), missing hubcap (who cares?), missing cover on turn signal (again, who cares?), and punctured windshield washer fluid tank (never worked anyway). I managed to limp home and discovered the bent rim was indeed bad. Very bad. I limped over to the tire place only to have them tell me I needed a new rim. It’s Saturday afternoon; all the wheel places are closed until Monday.

I had planned to get back to Greenville Sunday night. So much for that…

By that evening I had pretty much resigned myself to the fate. There was some talk about me hitching a ride back to Greenville with someone, but that never materialized. The overwhelming consensus of those who had seen the car was that the wheel was pretty much the only thing wrong. All I needed to do was get a new rim, get the tire installed on it, and get out!

Monday morning, the phone calls begin. Place number one doesn’t have the rim. Place number two isn’t answering the phone. Honda dealership number one doesn’t have it. Honda dealership number two doesn’t have it. They offer to order it for $140. My response. The Boss (my dad) suggests calling salvage yards. Before I do, though, place number two calls me back. They’ve got it, and it’s only $46. Score.

Here’s where things get a little frustrating. Mom suggests that since Unnamed Tire Company referred us to Place Number Two, we should let them install the tire and do the alignment. They end up charging me twice as much as the (Christian!) business down the street. When asked why, they claimed the place down the street only does “part of the alignment.” Bulls–t. It ended up being just shy of $100 there to have the tire installed, the old wheel disposed of (I wanted to hang it on my wall, dangit!), and the alignment done.

And it’s not over yet. I ended up having to drive it back to the place because of some noise coming from the wheel in question. They gave it the twice-over and concluded that the car was safe to drive; I should get my brakes checked before too long, though.

I end up not being ready to leave until 6pm. But my good buddy the rain had returned, and apparently I’m not the only person in Charleston that doesn’t know how to drive in the rain. There were several accidents that tied up traffic until I was well out of Charleston. Finally made it back to Greenville around 10:30, too tired to even go grab some Smirnoff.

I’m still recovering emotionally. I’m still trying to decide if it’s resignation I feel, or if it’s just a refusal to stay put, or if it’s anger/resentment toward God. Honestly, I don’t know. Obviously, there’s a reason it happened. (For one thing, I was able to sell my old camcorder to some podcaster for $150, so that covers everything. If I had left Sunday, I couldn’t have made the sale.) The problem is, I don’t know what the reason is, and every reason I come up with isn’t good enough. Unless, of course, God’s trying to teach me something about myself — and by extension, Him.

Lesson: God is God, and I’m not. This is the one thing that I know.