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November 30, 2004

Project SOULTRAIN: Not Forgotten

I am continually amazed by how excellent Ruby is for… well, most everything. While I have every intention of implementing Project SOULTRAIN in Lisp/Prolog, I seem to be generating a bunch of components in Ruby which I would use to implement it. So maybe I’ll go back on my word; this is about something fun for me, after all, whether it’s good for me (think spinach) or not. We’ll see.

Anyway, in the next few days I’ll be fixing up and posting a couple of Ruby gems: String#titlecase and String#metaphone.

String#titlecase lets you do this kind of thing:

"MOBY dick, OR the WHALE".titlecase   # -> "Moby Dick, or the Whale"

String#metaphone lets you do this kind of thing:

"maurice".metaphone  # -> "MRS"
"katherine".metaphone  # -> "K0RN"
"katherine".metaphone(true)  # -> ["K0RN", "KTRN"]
"bob".metaphone(true)  # -> ["PP"]

Anyway, they’re both implemented and both working perfectly, because I stole the C code for String#metaphone from Perl’s Text::DoubleMetaphone, and because nobody really knows what String#titlecase should do, algorithmically speaking. :) So now it’s just a matter of writing documentation, Ruby Gem descriptions, releasing to RubyForge or whatever. I’ve got Trac ‘n Subversion set up with it already so if you know my URLs you can already get at them.

I’m also thinking about making some sort of software page for my blog, other than what I already have, but I’m not quite sure what I’m going to wind up doing.

As an aside, Ruby apparently has about sixteen different web frameworks. There’s Rails, which I think Basecamp might be written in, due to the suspicious 37signals backup of their wiki on the Rails page. There’s also the WEBrick and the standard mod_ruby. I wish these all had better documentation. For the moment I stick to mod_ruby, but I ran into a strange problem the other day.

Apparently from mod_ruby, you can use eRuby and it assumes that HTML comes out. If you use the CGI module, and don’t call cgi.type(“text/html”) then it assumes plain text is coming out. This is especially weird because it goes against the docs. (What I was working on, and am still working on, is a test page for String#titlecase so people can try it out, and email me if it looks “wrong”)

Posted by FusionGyro at 12:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 28, 2004

Colorful, Suicide Club, The Hidden and Tapeheads

I realized I should start using Eric’s money system for ranking movies. He actually took it from one of his friends, but I can’t remember the name of his friend, so fuck it.


Nick lent this to me.

It’s a silly anime about… panties. That’s it. It’s just a bunch of vignettes (16 on the disc, with about 90 minutes of total runtime) of guys getting hot ‘n bothered seeing girls panties. It has some just hilarious moments, and it speaks to the male condition, but we had to watch it in three bursts, because it’s just a bit way too stupid and repetitive. Pretty amusing overall though.


Suicide Club

Nick also lent me this, for which I am deeply in his debt. It’s a truly excellent horror/thriller flick. The plot was interesting, with predictability only in the “horror” moments (“are they really going to do that!”) The theme was thought-provoking and it had a lot of truly creepy stuff. Very good, definitely recommended to horror fans and thriller fans who like buckets of blood. I wonder if it inspired Suicide Girls


The Hidden

The Hidden is a B-grade sci-fi starring Kyle MacLaughlin. It gets points for being just awesomely weird, but it was fairly predictable. It opens with some just excellent special effects, but they only revisit them briefly in the end. Definitely an interesting twist on the alien invasion theme.



Don’t bother. This is definitely the worst movie John Cusack has had anything to do with. Odd that Tim Robbins is also in it. It had a few entertaining moments, but a lot of crap to wade through to get there, and the crap wasn’t even marginally entertaining.


Posted by FusionGyro at 11:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 23, 2004

Versus, Director's Cut

Now this here is a bad movie, but bad enough I was liking it. It’s another Japanese zombie horror flick, with a prophecy angle. The action was silly and overblown, the plot was almost non-existant, the gore was decent. Alex called it a cross between Highlander and Dragonball.

I think this is a movie Nathan and Eric would like quite a bit.

Posted by FusionGyro at 11:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sleep Words

Apparently I said this in my sleep last night:

They, uh, feed on lower protocols.

Yeah, yeah I know, they all fall to the left, and it’s really awful.

Are you sure those are in the right place?

Posted by FusionGyro at 10:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 22, 2004


Alex and I just finished watching Tapeheads. A very mixed bag, but not good or bad enough to be really satisfying. It gets a point for making John Cusack difficult to like though. :)

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November 17, 2004

Ruby vs. Python

I promised Raj a rant about Ruby and Python.

In Python’s defense, it is a beautiful language. I recently had to read the code for SpamBayes, which was easy to read and understand. There were plenty of strange and new idioms which I hadn’t seen in Python before, but could immediately see the applicability of.

Python was designed for clarity and simplicity. The motto is “there’s only one way to do it” and I think that’s a very reasonable motto for a language to have. Programming languages are not like natural languages: they need to be restricted so that we can read them and get the job done. You need the features you need, and that’s it: a stripped down for loop which really only works with generators and containers, a trivial while loop, no do-while wackiness, nothing like that.

One of my favorite features of Python was introduced around 2.1 (IIRC): list comprehensions. In Python, you can say something like this:

foo = [f(x) for x in someList if x % 2 == 0]

What this does is basically apply a function f() against every even element of someList, and put all those results in the variable foo. This is a functional feature, inherited from Haskell, but which could be expressed in Python in the Bad Old Days using this semi-Lispism:

foo = map(f, filter(lambda x: x % 2 == 0, someList))

Now, I was the kind of fuckhead who would love to write huge nasty things using Python’s functional builtins, like the above example. This is one reason why I like Lisp now and also one of my two issues of disagreement between Guido and the whole Python situation at the moment. Guido says lambda isn’t any better than a named function. He’s right, but completely missing the point: anonymous functions are wonderful, there are lots of places where you can and should use them, and to discourage their use is just downright silly, especially when you already have them. As an aside, the other issue I dispute is the presense of “object” without enforcing that it be the parent of every class, directly or indirectly, and I also think that the presense of “object” in a multiple-inheritance OO language not based on message passing is dubious. But that is another rant.

Anyway, I was initially attracted to Ruby because it is gaining support and momentum, and it seems to draw equally from Perl and Python camps. I only know one person who is trying to learn it as a first programming language, so it’s also kind of unique in that it is mainly used by programmers who already know another language—Ruby is intended for programmers, not for instruction or students.

There are basically two paradigms in languages which I admire, and the rest basically suck. Those two are the Lisp model, and the Smalltalk model. We seem to be doomed to have something other than the Lisp model, because it’s just too simple and elegant and not complex enough and works always, so I usually wind up picking between the Smalltalk model which is pretty nice and some other hodge-podge model that isn’t even interested in correctness or completeness. REALbasic, for example, is based on the idea that programming should be easy, and it therefore prevents you from doing complex things in short statements.

Anyway, one of the things I like about the Smalltalk model is the “everything is a message” concept. The only language where that concept really and truly meets a portion of the Lisp model is Ruby, and the result is this: everything is a message, and all messages are expressions with values. Ruby’s block concept is very closure-intensive, so Ruby code tends to be centered around this methodology of, call the method to get at the location where your code needs to execute, and pass a block which will be executed there. So a lot of functions do some setup, take a block to use their value, and then do some teardown. It seems to reduce the need for exceptions quite a bit.

Ruby’s philosophy is very attractive to hackers. It draws more from Lisp than Python does in terms of power, and it draws from Perl/Sed/Awk the string manipulation angle, winning Perl hackers. The language is sound, so I advocate it at least partly to get people away from Perl, because you can do lots of Perl-like things, without the unstable ridiculous mess which is Perl. It’s also very easy in Ruby to collect all the values of an iterator and do whatever you want. I have a feeling I would have liked APL, because of how fond I am of list comprehensions, but in Ruby things can be much more fun. You never have to have more than one line of code; you can smash things together, tear them apart, work with sequences and ranges, and all from an OO paradigm that is open to extension. Ruby’s OO is very much there to facilitate life for you rather than constrain you; the whole mixin idea lets you get 95% of the benefit of multiple inheritance without actually having to implement the shitty graph resolution algorithms it would take to do it right.

Anyway, I mainly program in Ruby because it’s fun, and because this guy thinks it’s good, and he’s hilarious. :)

Posted by FusionGyro at 11:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Manchurian Candidate

Yesterday at Wal-Mart we picked up a copy of the classic The Manchurian Candidate. It was truly excellent, shining through some rather dated performances and philosophies. Amazing how chilling it is.

Posted by FusionGyro at 12:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 16, 2004

Nikki's Questions

My first question I have a feeling I need to have some background to. Even technical positions have a hiearchy to them. A coder will have a manger that will report to their manager, etc. So, do you think you could manage being a manager?

I ran the damn clan, didn’t I? :)

I took a couple management classes. Judy thought I had potential, which I think is a pretty good sign. I got the material, came up with a couple interesting ideas in one of the classes. I ran the group in compilers, which succeeded in spite of a serious fuckup and, later on, a lame duck albeit well-meaning replacement. My Mom is a natural manager and has always tried to instill in me that kind of thinking, for what it’s worth. I think I could even enjoy it. I like thinking on the Clan level, whatever that means.

Now, it’s not going to happen at Matterform, and I definitely don’t think it would happen with the Co-Op. Management issues are the main reason why open source is so much more productive: they don’t have management! Simultaneously, they don’t have icky things that are no fun to write, like good user interfaces or user documentation, and those things are always necessary in a commercial product. I think that my employment for the next several years is pretty much set in those two operations, so I probably won’t get to flex the managerial muscle anytime soon. Which I don’t mind. But someday, it might be nice. :)

Who gives/gave better blow jobs, Alex or me?

Alex. =)

If you were a superhero, what would your super-power be?

The power to work on more than one all-consuming task at a time.

Posted by FusionGyro at 12:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 15, 2004

Eric's Questions

What’s up with the hair?

In the years prior to meeting you, I used to get my hair cut. Ask Nikki or anyone who knew me back then, I had a really stupid haircut, very dorky. It was a ridiculous poofy column which arose from my scalp.

Anyway, I stopped getting it cut as a feeble act of rebellion against the folks. Why should I pay $15 to make me look stupid, when I can look stupid for free? Soon after I got really into metal once again, and the hair sort of went hand-in-hand with that. It looks great now, in my opinion. Ask Nikki or anyone who knew me before. :)

Do you really think that you can make a difference?

I have sort of the inverse of your opinion. I definitely do not believe I can make a difference here. I don’t think that voting this way or that makes any difference in the grand scheme of things, because we just get fucked in the end anyway; thinking your vote “makes a difference” is like thinking proper choice of background music in some way improves an ass-rape scenario. It’s just not relevent. You’re gonna git fucked, and fucked good, whether it’s Red or Blue doing the fucking.

I do, however, think that it is an expression and the exercise of a fundamental right. Yes, I am voting between a popular shit-covered brick, a popular brick-like shit, and a bunch of happy crazy faeries that have the same probability of victory as I have of winning the lottery and being struck by lightning twice in the same day, but goddammit I have a right to vote and I’m gonna fucking use it!

The biggest thing I can do to make a difference in my life is to find somewhere else where things are already as I’d like to make them here. Or somewhere closer to it. Then, go to that place. It’s going to be as though I made a difference here, except without all the heavy lifting. I highly recommend this course of action to anyone who wants to not devote their life to politics.

Why do you like me?

Well, it happened in phases. At first, we hated each other, probably because I was still a twat. Then we got over it, and started hanging out a lot. I started to consider you a mentor, looked up to you and your strange ways. During that time, I learned a lot about the world, politics, and how to appreciate good music. I achieved new levels of self-knowledge, which sounds terrible but actually had nothing to do with uncovering neuroses and repressed memories, or sex, except for discovering I like fatties :)

At some point it changed again, and I no longer consider you a mentor, but just an extremely wise friend. You still give great advice, I just need less, and it’s better to have friends who are equals than superiors and inferiors. Superficially, I like you because we have a lot of similar interests: music, politics, learning, mathematics/logic/philosophy, movies, etc.

The core of any friendship is an intangible thing which is just a shared state of mind. You make an excellent friend because I like hanging out with you, because we have a lot to rant about after trivially short periods of time, because you consistently improve the environment around you. In general, there seems to be no correlation between what you contribute to something, how it’s received, and what part you played in it. I think one of the main reasons I’m your friend is because I can see the relationship between these things. I’ve also come to possess your sense of humor, finding awesome and terrible things amusing and enjoyable more because of their distance from normality than because of how good or bad they are. I think we have similar perspectives and that’s rare for either of us.

I also think that it helped that, during the “mentorship” phase, I was actually learning quite a bit, and my friends resented it, but I didn’t give much of a fuck what they thought was going on. I knew I was changing for the better, and that self-knowledge is a road seldom taken younger than 50 around here. They’ll get there (some have already), but they for the most part didn’t get it at the time it was happening to me. We both had a lot of laughs about it, which was a good thing to bond over. :)

You’re awesome. Now call your Dad so he can knock you back down a notch. :)

Posted by FusionGyro at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2004


Unix people: check out pam_ssh. It authenticates you against your SSH keys, and runs an agent so you can get the single sign-on effect of Kerberos and pretty good distributed security. It’s pretty cool.

I’ve now set up most of the new Matterform server, and I have to say, it’s been an education. Trying to set everything up to be virtually hosted is really quite a chore. I guess everyone fell in love with LDAP because it solved a lot of the hassle of getting all these disparate programs to agree on things.

I got the domain random-pontification.info, which was inspired by Tim’s suggestion of pontificate.org but which is sadly unavailable. This is for Matterform’s testing purposes so it’s unlikely anything will go up on that site. I think I’m also going to try and get content-free.org, for myself, because I think that’s really funny. :) It would probably also wind up just being a Matterform test domain. Virtual hosts are a bitch, basically.

One other technical note: LiveJournal’s RSS functionality is really annoying. Granted, I’m glad you lazy fucksacks get to reed my woids, but there are two things about it which are really shitty:

  1. I don’t get any sort of notification when anyone posts a comment. This would be annoying but tolerable, if it weren’t for the fact that…
  2. They delete the entries a week after they’re snarfed, which means I have to be constantly checking to make sure nobody’s commenting.

I didn’t see, for example, Schlake’s comment urging me not to use FreeBSD-CURRENT without debugging on (thanks) or Cathy’s informing me that if Kerry won the electoral vote, he’d still be in (also thanks, didn’t know that) until the sixth day out. There are probably comments I haven’t seen at all. And all this, because LiveJournal is too technologically challenged to parse the required email field “/feed/entry/author/email/text()” (in XPath) from the atom.xml file, and send me an email when someone comments.

I’m reading Moby Dick, because the Mastodon album was so good and basically about it, I figured it had to be good. I’m up to Chapter 5 and so far, it’s excellent. I wish I had a hardcover of it though, rather than this Project Gutinberg ass-formatted thing.

My cat has been exceptionally friendly, and I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve that. I should get some sleep however, since it’s 10 and I haven’t slept yet. Michael’s going to owe me some time for this weekend. :)

Posted by FusionGyro at 10:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fahrenheit 9/11

Excellent movie. Everyone should see it. It was much less rambling and unstructured than Bowling for Columbine—I assume because Moore wants to seem reasonable and get his point out more than just unleash his inner rage. I’m a lot less pissed off than I was coming out of Bowling for Columbine, a fact which I find sort of surprising given all the talk about the movie. I really don’t see how anyone who saw the movie could have remained pro-Bush, since almost all of the content was media clips incriminating Bush and his cronies.

Now, I am very, very pissed off about things, but I want to explain (in my opinion) why things are so fucked up, and why this really is so much more insidious than Nazism.

All government slowly devolves into a familial power structure. I think this is simply a property of power, and I think Bakunin would agree with me. People like familiar faces, people with power help out their friends, and soon you have a caste or class system depending on how long it goes on. My boss and his family are extremely anti-abortion, for example. I think if they knew the kind of people who need abortions, they would understand that it’s not middle income kids getting knocked up and skirting responsibility—they can afford better systems. It is the lowest classes, unemployed, futureless people who have nothing who need abortion. To the anti-abortion community, there somehow is a loving home for every child. They cannot comprehend the kind of poverty which necessitates it, as a humanistic right to reduce the overall misery of the world. They simply do not associate with that class of people. Unthinkable.

I don’t think our situation is one in which the Nazi’s showed up and said, “right, we’re taking over.” Clinton, after all, signed into law his fair share of liberty-reducing laws, mostly right after the Oklahoma City bombing. No, instead what’s happened is simply this:

  1. People with power acquire wealth, because they have power
  2. People with wealth acquire power, because they have wealth
  3. People associate with people like themselves, people they can relate to
  4. People with wealth and power maintain wealth and power

Nothing here is rocket science. It’s just ordinary cronyism. Something which I think can be good in small doses—look at the clan system. It is true that the current generation is much less violent than previous ones, many studies have found this. The clan concept is beneficial to us because it gives us a place to exercise our cronyist instincts and aspirations where it’s mostly a good thing.

Anyway, the current regime is only interested in trampling on our rights just enough to maintain their wealth and power. They don’t seem particularly interested in blocking what we say, so long as nobody is hearing us. The media seems to be in on it because they are owned by wealthy, powerful people, who are all basically friends in some capacity or another. They couldn’t be more distant from us.

This seems like a situation poised for a French-style revolution in 30 or 40 years, long after I’ve left the country. The regime maintains power by feeding the ignorant images of us as a free and democratic nation, liberating the rest of the world. The soldiers we send out are the poorest, least educated among us, who grew up absorbing the propaganda. They are surprised when the nation they are invading to liberate starts to fight back, unable to see the relationship between the death and destruction they are creating and the ill feelings towards them produced by it. It should be obvious, but it isn’t, because the soldiers are not educated (they usually join to pay for an education later on).

But I don’t think there is any real idealistic principles at work within the regime. They are playing a very simple game: maintain personal money and power at whatever cost. It’s just pure capitalism, and that’s why it’s insidious and frankly quite invulnerable in America, because we think we like capitalism. Every downtrodden man and woman in the country thinks, “gee, they musta shure hadta work hard to get them millions and billions. They loves the flag, the land and the people, I knows fur shure because they tells me so. I bet if I just work hard and loves the flag, the land and the people like they do, it’ll be my turn next year.” We know what Nazis look like: they have the whole marching, the whole arm band thing, the whole “final solution” thing, and these men aren’t Nazis. And I hate to say it, but they really aren’t. They’re just capitalists, who happen to be on top, protecting their investments and doing whatever it takes to maintain their power. Every middling capitalist in the country is going to back them up every step of the way, until they see something in it for them, some sort of way to put themselves on top, and then there will be a firestorm, Bush ‘n co. will be out of office, and we’ll have a new set of smiling capitalists, ready and willing to maintain the status quo that produced them.

This should also explain why the Democratic party has been castrated. They are the same top 0.005% fucksacks the Republicans are, they just have a false idealism to go with it. So, half of them are basically Republicans with a different color coat on, and the other half are limp dicks like Kerry, who pretend to be about the Democratic ideal but are rendered moot by the fact that they have all the same wealth and smiling friends as the Republicans. To prefer one flavor of dictatorship over another is folly. Support the Socialist party—nobody likes them, they’ll never get elected, they have no wealth and no friends. They’re a lot like the real American people in that regard, and I’d rather vote for a real person anyway.

In conclusion, I just hope I’m outta here long before I get to be proven wrong and find out that things are even worse than I suspect.

By the way, a special message to Eric: your faith in the American people (and the Democratic party in particular) is sad and misplaced. You should join up with me and the Socialist party, and I’d work harder at convincing you of this but I am too lazy and don’t want to take any action that might be construed as “organizing” or, really, as “taking action.”

Posted by FusionGyro at 12:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 13, 2004

Alex's Questions Answered

What is the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?

Back in the day, I used to hang out with Jon Minor and Gary, so you know this will be really stupid. They were on this ghosts kick, and they had “heard somewhere” that the reason nobody usually gets to stay in the Fitch guest room was because it’s haunted. So we all stood up and Jon Minor invoked some sort of weird seance type shit.

Jon insisted he could see little faintly glowing globules floating around in the room. Gary agreed, and reached into a few of them, saying they were warmer or colder, I can’t recall which. At the time, I thought I could see something too. Jon Minor started doing his weird religious shit; he had had a “spirit mentor” who helped him travel into the future and past, and to Mars, and he had a weird crush on this girl which made her figure into all of it.

Anyway, it was pretty strange, and the next day Gary insisted he had just been playing along. This was my freshman year of college, so it seems pretty likely to me that it was just a group hallucination or something.

What is your happiest memory?

I have a lot of happiest memories these days. :)

What was your worst nightmare about?

Not sure what the worst ones have been about. I recall one from my childhood where I went outside and saw a big goofy UFO floating over the house, went inside and tried to tell the fam about it, but the parents were already taken over by aliens, and Nathan and I tried to escape, but I think he got taken over too or something strange like that happened.

If you had to pick one song to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Hard call. Probably “Story To Tell” by Death, but there are more up-tempo things I might rather have in my head all the time. Maybe “Black Rose” by Thin Lizzy or “Enlightened Evolution” by Astral Projection, because that wouldn’t piss me off in the long run so much as fade away. Or…

When your driving with Eric, do you ever get the urge to sing Lowrider?

No, but we did give people “a taste” of Control Machete once, which was pretty awesome. :) We cranked it up and rolled down the windows whenever we passed a car with windows rolled down. Bien, Bien!

What do you think of miseltoe?

It’s probably great if you’re some foppish Brit piece-of-lame. I bet it’ll be a hit around the Clan apartment this year. :)

If there were no cats, what would your favorite animal be?

Well, Racoons. :) I was really into wolves until I got to Tech and saw what that meant for a certain group of people. Bears are pretty awesome. My spirit animal is probably the shit-flinging bonobo. :)

What’s your earliest memory?

In preschool, I was in a sandbox somewhere (probably Calico Butterfly, which was the preschool I went to). Dad handed me this construction toy made out of metal with lots of levers that made it do different things. And I was happily playing with it and this other kid comes along and takes it away and starts playing with it. I go up to Dad and try and tell him the other kid took away my toy, and he didn’t understand.

I bet it was the school’s toy or something, and Dad was just handing it to me.

What is your ideal shoe?

Well, it would have to be ultra soft and comfortable, water-proof, and not look flashy. It would either be really complex to put on, because that’s fun, or really easy to put on, like just sliding on. It would have a massage mode for massaging feet. You could press a button and they would fall off with a loud, fun popping noise, but there would be no way to press that button while walking. It would have a built in iPod. :)

Posted by FusionGyro at 03:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mastodon - Leviathan

I first heard of Mastodon about a year ago, bought their impressive Remission album, but was rarely pissed off enough to really want to listen to it. Remission is the kind of incredibly angry album that makes it very easy to imagine megalithic monsters crushing everything in their path with extreme prejudice. Their earlier EP, Lifesblood, is sadly not in my posession so I can’t tell you what they evolved from, but BNR informs us that their earlier incarnation was the highly notable Lethargy.

Mastodon are:

Bill Kelliher: voice and axe
Brent Hines: axe
Troy Sanders: bass
Brann Dailor: drums

Before I proceed, I want to take a moment to talk about their presentation. Mastodon’s albums (the two I own, anyway) come with impressively thematic and powerful artwork. They are clearly interested in massive beasties, which is cool in-and-of itself, but to present the massive beasties along with ornately stylized and decorated text, always in an “old gold” color above the image, is just awesome. Nobody else is doing this kind of stupid shit—with Mastodon, the name is a signature, not a logo.

You’ll find no photos of the band within inner pages, either; just more artwork and the lyrics to the songs rendered within. You feel like you have purchased a work of art, something which might be worth $8 or $10 of whatever you actually spent, as opposed to $3.

The CD opens with “Blood and Thunder,” which starts out mid-tempo and less heavy than you would expect from the last album. After only a couple measures, the metal joins in and we hear the first lyrics, much clearer than in the last album: “I think that someone is trying to kill me/Infecting my blood and destroying my mind.” The chorus re-introduces the plod/stomp sound we know from Remission. Soon, the double-axe soloing is with us also, and leads us down a more melodic, structured path than we would expect from the old release. The melody changes again, midway between the stomp and the initial up-tempo driving sound. In terms of complexity, they have quite smashed their old record, but the listenability has actually gone up several notches. The song fades out with some excellent melodic yet heavy chords, a real headbanger finish.

“I am Ahab” moves in with a grabbing theme. The music is heavy and fast. The drummer begins to take the stage showing some of his flair. You will picture boats. Far greater usage of acoustic/melodic guitar techniques are present, but almost always layered above a heavy, driven rhythm.

“Seabeast” opens with a slower, almost introspective melody. The crooning vocals are digitized in a slight, barely noticable way. Part of Mastodon’s genius is the way they mix the vocals and guitar together so that what would normally be an oppressively dense guitar layer is actually quite soothing. The hardcore-esque vocals compliment the ascending guitar work. There is a strange harmony in everything on this album; strange chords, strange vocals, strange sounds—all a bit off, but not discordant, indeed very familiar. The music moves like the ocean.

The most openly aggressive song, and the only one which will remind of the raw ferocity of the previous album is “Island.” All guns blazing, it rushes past at high speed as a work of technical thrash, with discordant notes rhythmically propelling the song forward. Suddenly, the song changes rhythm, becoming slower and yet more urgent. Then, it is gone, dropping into the next song.

“Iron Tusk” shows the drummer adding in flourishes quite a bit to the overall mood. While the guitarists slam forward together, he rolls across the snare and bass at high speed. Mid-song, the guitarists fold together a solo that can only be described as a melody unlike any you have heard. The wonder of the sea is beholden to the artists. The solo is interrupted and becomes discordant for a short time, then returns to the original version.

“Megalodon” is definitely my favorite song on the album. With a subdued opening, a discordant theme is quickly created in solo, and then the tempo hikes up for riffing and screaming, with guitar flourishes. This is repeated for several times. Then, the ending flourish of the segment drags out and slows ever-so-slightly for several seconds while every other instrument cuts out, leaving the guitar alone in the spotlight. What was an inventive, “From Beyond” flourish resolves itself into a highly unexpected Southern rock moment, just before all the instruments return and the fastest thrash of the album ensues. Glory! The rock doesn’t stop there. This song is excellent, you will smile when you hear it.

The next song, “Naked Burn” opens with guitar reminiscent of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” but quickly gets going. Another song which makes one think of sailing. The song alternates between a sort of penitent, clinging staccato melody and the overbearing Mastodon signature, synthesizing at times into the incredibly pleasing watery sound. In the middle we get a bit of acoustic guitar above the same melody on electric guitar, and then a return to the back-and-forth.

“Aqua Dementia” opens with an acidic guitar lick above a solid riff. The vocals here are decidedly in the death category (scratchy screechy screaming), unlike most of the album which is in the hardcore category (thugy shouting). The song has an insistence about it. From nowhere, it acquires a slow stomping sound, which goes away after only a few short measures, but quickly returns, leading to a strangely sea-sick sound, before the two opposing forces synthesize, and finally a truly slow plodding sound. This alternates and grows in complexity like all the other songs on the album, fading out.

Maybe the best short description of the album is, back-and-forth between opposing elements. Whatever the two forces are, they always wind up combining and exacerbating each other before accentuating each other. You feel like you are listening to a natural system.

The true epic of the album is “Hearts Alive,” the 14 minute progressive devastator. It opens with a beautiful, strange acoustic/metallic melody that sort of ebbs and flows. If you don’t get it yet, this album is the sound of the ocean, and this song is the crucial masterpiece tying the whole thing together. Suddently, the acoustic is gone and the metal is in gear, but we’re hearing the same melody at the same pace. The melody grows into an ascending/falling pattern and we get the shouting, and the complexity comes in, but we fade back to the sound of the opening, only with vocals, and some extra acoustic flourishes. The metal grows in insistance, and the acoustic grows in beauty, to an interlude establishing the countertheme of the piece. It seems like there isn’t much going on, but each round adds something to each force in the duality, yet in a hypnotic way that makes it difficult for me to concentrate on to describe here. The vocals go from a mellower sort of narrative to a deathish screech, but not screechy enough to shatter the hypnotic air. A bit of feedback reminds us just for a second we are listening to the creation of a human band and not nature. The insistence builds and finally breaks, and the melody changes: the beginning of the fusion of the themes. The drummer creates many inventive structures, hoisting up the mood. The synthesis begins to seem to break, but the guitar work brings it back together. A new, upbeat theme seems to emerge from the chaos, unifying the themes. After being assaulted several times, another, less up-beat theme arises twice. Suddenly, the prior unifying theme re-emerges, at half speed, a very noble, grandiose sound which makes one think of bands like British Sea Power comes forward. Soloing atop the new theme commences; Dan gets the shivers, declares Mastodon greatest band of 2004. Fadeout begins with new theme, replacing the melody with each note repeated twice, at double speed (duh-duh dah-dah duh-duh …), until they finally just slam the melody and fade out.

I wipe my face.

“Joseph Merrick” is sort of the calm down before going back to work number after the money shot. It’s all accoustic, slow, introspective, mild, yet still a bit strange. There is a strange keyboard sound in the background which gives the song a sort of Pink Floydian mood that simply has to be heard to be believed.

I have just done the worst job describing an album ever.

It’s imperative that if you like music and can stand metal, you hear this album immediately. It would be wise if you didn’t like metal, to include this in a survey if you were to survey metal, to give you an idea what it can sound like. I can’t think of any other band that sounds like this.

Other people have criticized the band’s production quality. However, I think that’s bullshit because this isn’t a band trying to make a buck, they’re trying to convey an iconic image to you and they want that image to hit you in the skull. They can of course afford perfect production, but they said “fuck it: we want style.” They couldn’t have crystal production or transparently catch hooks and make you think of the sea, not the way they wanted you to think of it: primordial, raw, essential, ancient. They are trying to bring the majesty of Moby Dick to you, from out the ages, with full force. The production is not sparkling, because it would diminish the agedness.

Get this album. Get it ASAP. Ignore any further commentary from anyone about it.

Posted by FusionGyro at 03:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Neverwhere was actually pretty good. It was cheesy, sometimes way cheesier than my cheesy cutoff level, but it had a certain charm. The ending was good, it fulfilled my hopes right after almost dashing them. The acting was… acceptable. The sets were weak, but charming.

Don’t rush out to see it, but don’t turn down a chance either.

Posted by FusionGyro at 02:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Renee's Questions

This is in reply to Renee’s questions.

What are your biggest fears?

I’m glad you asked that.

My number one, biggest, most real fear is the fear of tyranny. As in, I am very seriously planning to leave the country at my earliest convenience. I do not feel safe here anymore.

I’m also afraid of living out of a cardboard box. By far the most nervous time of my life I can recall was the time between when I graduated and when I got my job at Matterform. So I guess I have a fear of being unemployed.

I’m afraid of losing touch with my friends. I’m especially afraid of losing Alex.

Since I already know your dating status… what is your true dream (what do you truly want to do in life?) Is it what you’re doing now or something else?

Hard question. Here’s the current long term plan:

  1. Work at Matterform for at least another 2 or 3 years, while working in my spare time on the Clan Co-op
  2. Once the Clan Co-op becomes financially successful, make that my main job and sell development services to Matterform (I’ve already discussed this with my boss). This might entail moving back to Socorro.
  3. Once I have acquired enough wealth and prosperity to make it reasonable, move to New Zealand and “telecommute” to the Co-op

Now, there are several variations which I think would be even more excellent—like having the co-op “relocate” to NZ, and take all of us with it to a better life in a better place.

There are a number of other things I need to accomplish on the side though. I need to write a book about programming languages, for example, because that seems to be my central passion. I also need to learn to play the electric guitar. There’s a religion I wouldn’t mind learning more about. That kind of thing.

Hm… I’m having a hard time thinking of another one… if you could live your life over again, would you have done things differently?

I think I would have taught myself how to be a better long-distance friend. I would have gotten AppleCare on my iBook. :) I can’t think of too many things I would do much differently though. It’s mostly a function of my memory I think. :)

Posted by FusionGyro at 01:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2004


You can ask me three questions. Any three, no matter how personal, private or random, I will answer them honestly. But, you must post this in your blog to give your friends, including me, a chance to ask you 3 questions.

Unlike Tim, I will quite happily answer a question that is about someone else, particularly if it betrays a trust. :)

BUT!!! You must post it to my blog, because I probably won’t see it if you post it on my RSS feed on LiveJournal.

Posted by FusionGyro at 10:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


This is in response to Schlake’s entry, which read:

What You See Is All You Get

It means that GUI’s are primitive ways to deal with a computer.

I disagree completely. GUIs are a more evolved way to deal with a computer, and it must be so for two reasons:

  1. They have all-but extinguished the linguistic interface, and
  2. They came after the linguistic interface.

It seems obvious to me that this is evolution in progress. :) However, what he means is, the linguistic interface is more powerful than the GUI interface. And that, I agree with.

During the day, I program for the Mac. Now, I am the second-least comfortable with GUI programming in the firm, and of the four programmers I do probably the second least work with GUIs. Michael is very much a human interface geek, and is very well aware of the Aqua Human Interface Guidelines, to which Mac apps should be written for maximum consistency. It’s also not stretching to say that this accounts for more than half the code in whatever we do, regardless of how complex it is. It probably accounts for 75 or 90% of the code. Our next product, Spamfire 2.0, is just a spam filter; it shows a list of messages and lets you press buttons to affect them, and it has a preferences system. Yet, the code for managing just that is huge compared to the rest (though less so since Michael and I cooked up MFModel).

Now, as a programmer, I desire the maximum configurability, minimum wasted time and minimum loss of information. I prefer a linguistic environment to a GUI one in general, but then again, I’m typing this into a browser rather than Emacs, and I have Thunderbird instead of Emacs mail. So it seems that there are some projects for which the GUI is simply more effective, due to the visual nature, especially in areas where programmability is less important.

The main win of the GUI is to bring the computer to people without linguistic interest. I happen to know that my folks would be so much more effective using the computer if they would use Unix and program it to help with the data they need to keep straight. But they find that much more difficult than doing things the rote way. If I installed Unix, they’d just use OpenOffice.org, and continue to keep their data in the mail app and the “word” documents, because that’s the only system that adds up for them.

The GUI was developed for them, by us. We developed it for them because they can’t handle (for whatever reason) the linguistic interface. The only reason it’s less powerful than the linguistic interface is because we intended it to be less powerful, because it was developed second. We assume that there will always be language there in the background for us to use, at least to implement their tools. Few programmers write elaborate GUIs for themselves; we mostly write them for other people.

But what makes a GUI anyway? Pointing and clicking, and a geometric system for displaying information. You know, part of what makes the GUI code so complex is because there are so many cases. Your app has to appear stateless and stateful at the same time—you want as little as possible to require attention immediately; hence, the form or wizard is a one-time setup operation. Modality is not permitted. By contrast, in Mutt, it’s perfectly acceptable to say something like “Subject: ” and wait for me to type it in. Because I can’t do anything else: everything is at the behest of the program, rather than the program being this great servant of the user.

If you think about it for a moment though, the GUI is just a stream of input to the program, much like text is to a linguistic program. The program parses the input somehow and performs actions based on the input, generating output. There’s no reason for GUIs to be dumbed-down. Good GUI programs respond the way you expect, don’t give you any lip, and do what you mean. Any program has sufficient linguistic properties in my opinion if the authors of the program couldn’t forsee every possible use of the program. I can think of precious few GUI programs which meet this criteria—Emacs really being the only one. But there’s nothing forbidding it.

You should check out some of the IDEs out there today. With intelligent, context-sensitive completions and helpful remarks as you’re coding, they can be pretty awe-inspiring.

Posted by FusionGyro at 09:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 08, 2004

My Best Fiend, Neverwhere, All the Queen's Men, The Stuff and Transylvania 6-5000

Last night, Alex and I watched My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski and the first half of the Neverwhere mini series. The night before we saw All the Queen’s Men, a comedy featuring Eddie Izzard.

I didn’t think Neverwhere was so good—it’s very special-effect and set heavy, and that just doesn’t work on a shoestring budget. It did have some interesting stuff though, but I hate to give Gaiman any credit if it can be avoided. :)

My Best Fiend, on the other hand, was excellent. I saw Aguirre: Wrath of God a couple months ago because of a Plastic article about it, and it was just awesome. Kinski is really impressive as nutcases, probably because he was one. Eric strongly recommended Fitzcarraldo as one of his favorites, which is another Herzog/Kinski classic. I think I’m going to wind up making Alex sit through all of their five collaborations. My Best Fiend was basically a biography of Kinski combined with a documentary about the Herzog/Kinski relationship, and it had a lot of really hilarious moments. “Here we are at a film festival in Colorado, laughing and joking. I had only recently given up on serious plans to firebomb him in his house.”

All the Queen’s Men is probably the most multilingual movie I’ve ever seen. There are three languages being spoken: English, German, and a bit of Italian. You’re supposed to guess at the meaning from context, I guess, but we watched it with English subtitles anyway, mostly because the English was being spoken with a really thick British accent and I found it hard to follow. The plot was interesting, there were plenty of mad-funny silly scenes, and the language angle was very interesting, as was the sort of war theme they were going for.

Tonight, we watched The Stuff and Transylvania 6-5000. Both were uniformly terrible, though The Stuff had an amusement factor. It was basically about this nasty living cream stuff, a refrigerated dessert, which eventually takes over the brain, and when you die, it all comes back out of you. It wasn’t choice, but I think the main actor was one of the “Law and Order” actors. Not much to say about the other, Alex summed it up pretty well: “This is going to be terrible. They’re using Geena Davis for boobs.” She did look pretty good as the faux horny vampire I thought, boobs jangling about can be nice. It was one of those movies with a theme jingle, which (as always) was terrible. Michael Richards (?) had a lot of stupid laughs in it. Not much to write home about either one though.

Posted by FusionGyro at 12:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 05, 2004


I continue to love Subversion even though it hurts me to set it up with Apache.

Faust and I are working on a simple, derivative HTML image gallery program. As such we haven’t actually named it anything yet, and right now all it does is manange the parsing of its two lonely options. Still, if you want to take a look, I granted public read access to the repository. If only I could figure out how to make it show a list of projects…

I haven’t read anyone’s blog this week, because my laptop’s power connector broke off inside the laptop. So I’ve got four hours of juice in that total until I get it fixed in January. The other option is the shitty FreeBSD box without a good monitor. Bill might be fixing that today, we’ll see. Anyway, I’m going to try and do the blog circuit tonight, but that means finding a good RSS aggregator for Unix.

Posted by FusionGyro at 09:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2004

Shame On Me

I have never felt so used, lied to, fucked over, enraged and wronged in my entire life.

I have to admit something. I voted for Kerry. Eric convinced me that it was the right thing to do, that he would win, that it would be worth not voting for who I really wanted to vote for. I did this after convincing at least two people—Alex and Faust—to vote for the Socialist as well.

Kerry was always a limp dick, an unworthy politician, an unworthy human being. I don’t want to vote for someone I don’t think I could stand talking to, whose ideals and values are so silly I think they must be completely naïaut;ve, but I did it, because I thought it would be meaningful.

Well, Kerry, the weakling, the loser, was so afraid he might win, he pulled out before Ohio was in. Yes, Bush definitely seems to have won, but you don’t concede when it’s still up in the air!

So to everyone who says a vote to a third party is wasted, heed my words: why vote Democrat when the Democrat is going to turn tail and run at first sign of losing? How can any vote be more wasted than a vote for a person who isn’t even going to claim their fucking votes. Fuck you—the Socialist party may be tiny, but they’re glad and proud of every vote they get, I assure you. They would never look at a situation everyone agrees is “too close to call” and say, “Well, that’s good enough for me! I resign!” Non-narcotic sissy pansy bullshit.

Fuck it, fuck this country. Fuck the democrats who think we third party supporters are “costing them the election” when they can’t even find a bottle of Viagra to hand their candidate on the day of the election so he can at least pretend like he wanted the office. Fuck the republicans for once again demonstrating people will vote for the rock-and-some-dogshit-mixed-with-grass platform as long as they supply enough flags waving in the background and John Phillip Sousa. Fuck Nader for not being interesting, fuck New Mexico for not letting the Socialist on the ballot, and fuck the Constitution party for keeping the republicans from becoming what they really want to be. Fuck everyone who thinks the electoral college is a good idea. Fuck all the hicks who voted Bush. Fuck America for falling for it, fuck everyone who defends America for whatever reason. In case I missed anyone, fuck you too. I’d say fuck me, but Kerry already took care of that for us.


Posted by FusionGyro at 12:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack