brad sucks writes I post my songs to Somesongs to get rated and my feelings hurt. Now there's Somesongs radio and it's pretty awesome. i first heard about somesongs through brad, and posted some songs there last week to get rated and my feelings hurt. actually, the music itself was better recieved than i had expected. mostly just the recording quality was criticized, so i'm learning how to use a more complicated audio recording application now, and hopefully i'll have some better recordings to show for it soon. anyway, i'm not sure if the music i submitted is on somesongs radio, but it's good (and free to download) music in any case.

update: i just heard one of my songs on the stream. it's almost as exciting as being on analog radio.

 

if you find tiny URLs annoying, you'll be doubly annoyed when everyone starts using huge URLs. not only do they not tell you where you're going, but they also take up ridiculous amounts of space for no reason. what a wonderful place this internet is where even the worst ideas can thrive.

 

a friend of mine who visited europe was telling some americans about the trip and was asked: "are there a lot of african americans in europe?" if the ridiculousness of that question isn't imediately apparent (and it took me a while), you're likely a fellow american. i was remembering this question as i read a CNN article about a school punishing a south african student for campaigning for the school's "distinguished african american student award." (via metafilter)

 

a few weeks ago, i wrote in "vote in your own country": do whatever else you want to push your political agenda. the world votes is a new website that is taking a non-binding international vote on the upcoming US election. i think this is a fine idea, because it's only an indirect influence on the actual election. however, i don't expect this will do a very good job of representing the world's opinion on the US election, as it is limited to those with internet access (which most people don't have). judging by the registration numbers, it would be better titled "europe votes".

 

knife to the chest (mp3 and lyrics) is my reaction to reactions to elliott smith's suicide, and probably also, though less directly, johnny cash's death. both musicians fell under the musical category i've labeled "good at being sad".

 

my political leanings are summed up nicely by postel's law: Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send. i'm generally liberal in what i accept of others, but conservative in my own actions. this seems to disqualify me from belonging to either the "conservative" or the "progressive" political camps. conservatives are by definition not liberal in what they accept, but neither are progressives, in my experience.

i know a lot of self-labeled "progressive" people, but i'm not one of them. i probably would consider myself progressive, and not think much about it, if i didn't feel such a consistent rejection from progressives when it becomes clear to them that i don't trust democrats any more than republicans (though i do agree with dru that democrats are more efficient), i don't drink coffee (much less smoke pot), i'm not gay, i have no tattoos or piercings, and i didn't take the opportunity to go to graduate school. i don't have a lot more in common with progressives than the inclination to criticize conservative ideology. this allows me to pass as "progressive" sometimes, but inevitably the truth comes out when i start to criticize standard progressive ideology, stating beliefs such as "smoking pot does have harmful effects", "abortion ends something important, if not life itself", and "educated people do bad things just like uneducated people". as i say these things, i am repeatedly kicked out of the "progressive" club. so i call myself "liberal" instead.

but i believe in progress. jonathon delacour wrote a long essay a few weeks ago that i found myself mostly agreeing with until he stated quite plainly: Progress is an illusion. jonathon is, by american standards, liberal (though rather moderate by australian standards). and that's just the beginning of the long list of what we have in common. so why do i believe in progress while he does not? i'm still not sure.

jonathon's essay focuses on the difference between "constrained" and "unconstrained" visions of human nature - beliefs as to whether or not human immorality is part of human nature. immediately after reading the essay, i thought my belief in progress stemmed from holding an "unconstrained" vision of human nature. but i think immorality is part of human nature, which would suggest i have the "constrained" vision along with jonathon. my constrained vision leads me to an entirely different conclusion than jonathon's regarding progress.

jonathon cited the following passage from cold mountain just before he stated that progress is an illusion:

A song went around from fiddler to fiddler and each one added something and took something away so that in time the song became a different thing from what it had been, barely recognizable in either tune or lyric. But you could not say the song had been improved, for as was true of all human effort, there was never advancement. Everything added meant something lost, and about as often as not the thing lost was preferable to the thing gained, so that over time we?d be lucky if we just broke even. Any thought otherwise was empty pride.

jonathon then wrote:

As I wrote back in March, 2002, that passage floored me, crystallizing beliefs I’d held unconsciously for years:

  • Everything has a cost.
  • Our gains rarely, if ever, outweigh our losses.
  • The past is precious.
  • Progress is an illusion.

i agree with the first and third points here. i've already mentioned i disagree with the last, and it seems to me the last is dependent on the second, which i would only change slightly. my beliefs are:

  • everything has a cost.
  • our gains slightly outweigh our losses.
  • the past is precious.
  • progress is slow.

to further clarify, i don't agree with the passage jonathon quoted, starting with But you could not say the song had been improved, for as was true of all human effort, there was never advancement. when i play a song someone else has played, my performance is different, but the original performance is still there, either in recordings or in the minds of those who listened to it. so the difference means something is added, but little or nothing is lost. and this is true of all human effort. all effort creates new experience from which we can all learn, and we do so often enough to create progress.

the immorality in human nature is tempered by memory. when we remember we've made a mistake, we won't make it again. social conformity, an aspect of human nature recently cited well by paul graham, amplifies one person's memory into cultural memory. soldiers come back from wars and recall how horrible war is. when the next war comes along, these memories have pervaded the culture, and things are a little better. despite what many progressives tell me, i believe iraq is not analogous to vietnam - it's a little better. this is one place where i see progress. it's constrained progress, but it's progress.

 

paul graham takes a careful look behind taboos in "what you can't say."

i find graham's points thought provoking, especially this passage:

No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.

i don't have to look far to find examples of these fear-induced taboos, and neither does tom engelhardt of tomdispatch.com (a national institute project). engelhardt intersects with paul graham's article concerning the need to repress dangerously different conversation using carefully devised bits of language, especially in times of war.

he has written on the topic of new, often orwellian rhetoric entering the english language. in his post, "'extraordinary rendition' and other terms of our times," engelhardt takes up terms created by the bush administration and other elements of what he calls "bushworld" that seep into daily use of a much wider population. his follow up to this is a post titled "the opposite of pax americana is..." in which he includes many of the "bushworld" rhetoric eagerly submitted by tomdispatch readers.

"bushworld" rhetoric is certainly a timely and public example of this tactic, but by no means the only one. i have been virtually silenced in conversation after being labeled "alarmist," and i have thrown many "ist" stones myself. practically everyone uses these devices at some point, no matter what their arguments. what i hope of engelhardt and graham readers is that we begin to observe such rhetoric so that we may question the motives behind its use, regardless of whom the speaker is.

 

i did my senior thesis on suicide (PDF), motivately largely by reading what i thought was a rather flippant reasoning given for suicide. people don't kill themselves casually. they have serious reasons, even if we fail to take those reasons seriously. i feel like the following quote from this reuters story on suicide indicates a lack of understanding of these reasons:

"Fighting this kind of war is clearly going to be stressful for some people," Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder told reporters in an interview.

how are they going to do anything about it, if "stress" is the best description they can come up with for the cause?

 

sigh...there was a time when i couldn't have come up with an example of mark pilgrim being wrong about a technical issue. but either the times or i have changed. mark wants to do a "thought experiment", but without comments. lucky for me, i have my own weblog, in which i can point out how wrong mark's thoughts are.

mark's article starts by suggesting that the people who are calling for strict parsing of atom feeds don't themselves have valid markup. but this is entirely confusing the issue (and either it's intentional, or mark isn't as bright as i had thought). tim bray specifically stated: This [strict parsing] works because Atom doesn?t have an installed base. RSS and HTML have installed bases of invalid markup, so strict parsing doesn't work for these formats. mark ignores this part of what tim is saying and goes on to point out that the (X)HTML of people who are promoting strict parsing is invalid. but no one is arguing here for strict HTML parsing. the other factor mark is conveniently ignoring is that HTML is primarily produced by people whereas atom markup would be primarily produced by computer programs, which we can reasonably hold to a higher standard of strictness than people. RSS is much more like atom than HTML, and all but one of the people mark points to have valid RSS (and the one only has one minor error). mark seems to have made a better argument for strict parsing of RSS than for liberal parsing of atom.

but mark goes on, imagining that the comparison between atom and HTML is at all valid: But imagine that all browsers worked this way, regardless of MIME type. even pretending that is a valid comparison, this hypothetical situation is still ridiculous. to see why, just look at how long it has taken the web standards project (which mark is a part of) to get all modern browsers to properly display standards, which doesn't even involve enforcing standards. all atom browsers are never going to be equally strict.

if mark is so horrified by the idea of a strictly parsing atom format browser, why doesn't he write his own browser? he is an experienced developer, after all. and if he's right about this, there's a market waiting to be taken. but if he's wrong about this, then brent simmons, someone who actually makes a popular RSS browser, is right when he emphasizes:

Every minute I spend making my Atom parser more forgiving of not-well-formed XML is a minute taken away from working on features people are asking for, things like searching and synching and everything else.

and nick bradbury, another developer of another popular RSS browser writes:

Rather than wasting our time working around validation issues, aggregator authors such as myself can spend our time coding the features our users really want.

to me, this is the most compelling argument for strict parsing of atom, and mark doesn't even address it. there are two possible outcomes to this situation: mark is either wrong and we'll have his detractors to thank for a generally valid XML format, or he's right and we'll have him to thank for . . . well . . . being right. to paraphrase camus: it's better to be wrong by strictly parsing than to be right by invalid markup.

 

ariel sharon has long acted as the spokesperson for israel's failed policy with regards to basically all of its neighbors, leading to the inevitable comparisons to hitler. (note: i'm not making that comparison here. i just thought this was a good opportunity to use the link.) i won't claim to be knowledgable about internal israeli politics, but as israel is a democracy (with the exception of its ruling over disputed lands full of people who aren't allowed to vote) i'm assuming sharon's policies are prompted by internal israeli politics.

and something about these politics seems to have changed recently, as sharon is now taking positions in contrast to his previous positions (by which i mean that i would now consider his positions reasonable whereas before i considered them unreasonable). specifically, sharon recognized that israel's neighbors are primarily bothered by israeli settlements outside of israel's established borders, and that the only way to end israel's conflicts short of killing every single citizen of a neighboring arab country is to end these settlements. which of course was met by protest from israelis who would apparently prefer the only alternate course i see (kill them all).

and then sharon offered to meet with syria to restart peace talks. and, of course, syria refused, saying "We need a serious response..." implying that sharon's statement, "I invite President Assad to come to Jerusalem to seriously negotiate", was not "serious" enough, but - like the israeli protestors - not offering any alternative course forward.

i point all of this out because it's not often that i have an opportunity to say that i think ariel sharon is right. now i need to find an instance in which i think george bush is right. then maybe i can finally make some conservative friends.

 

i'm spending the weekend in burlington, iowa. i'll leave tomorrow with new friends i've made via bloomington-normal meetup for dean. we're going to help create a "perfect storm" to encourage iowa voters to attend the january 19 caucus (and vote dean!!)

we'll walk around in the cold and knock on strangers' doors along with thousands of other americans. and we'll say why howard dean is appealing enough as a candidate to drag us out into cold on a weekend.

 

brent simmons asked What new web services would you like to see? rogers cadenhead answered one Web service I'd like to see in every newsreader is the ability to filter an incoming feed. i've been doing this locally through a PHP script for a few months. now that i realize someone else might be interested in doing this, i've posted my RSS filter for all to use. if you've ever thought 'i wish i could filter my RSS', you'll find this handy. if you've never thought that, you'll probably wonder what i'm talking about.

 

brad sucks: This elbow is (c) 1976-2004 brad, all rights completely reserved.

 

a few weeks ago, bitpass introduced a new terms of service agreement and asked all users to agree to it. it's eighteen pages long and entirely filled with legal protections for bitpass. this is okay with me, but in exchange i wanted an agreement from bitpass to not use my contact information to spam me. there's no mention of this in the terms of service, so i emailed bitpass and told them i wouldn't agree to it until i had this protection. they promptly wrote back and pointed out that the terms of service includes by reference all policies on the bitpass website, including their privacy policy. "that's great," i thought to myself as i went to look at the privacy policy, only to find the following passage:

Marketing Purposes. We may disclose your personal information to third parties so they can inform you about their products or services. If you do not wish to receive these types of third party communications, you can click here and complete a form to tell us your preferences. While you may choose not to receive direct marketing information from third parties, you will continue to receive invoices, service impacting notifications and other similar information from us, electronically or otherwise, as well as general advertisements through our site (if any).

that's not an ideal privacy policy, as the default allows bitpass to sell my email address to spammers. but at least i can opt out. of course, if you follow the opt out link, you'll find an 'under construction' page. so i wrote back to bitpass and said this agreement was unacceptable so long as it is impossible for me to prevent my contact information from being sold to others for marketing. they promptly replied that this was completely understandable and that they would create the opt out form soon. it's now a few weeks later and nothing has changed.

i wouldn't be in any hurry, but bitpass warns me every time i log in that if i don't accept the user agreement by january 15, i'm going to lose my account. so bitpass has 12 days left to allow me to opt out from spam, or lose me. i hope they'll meet this deadline. i also hope they'll develop a bit more interest in customer service.

 

we quite drinking is A blog by and about people who have chosen to not drink alcohol. i'm not quite one of these people, but i'm close. i don't drink alcohol around anyone i don't know. i've read enough about alcoholism, and i'm paranoid enough about the unintended consequences of my own behaviour on others, that i worry drinking in public may enable some alcoholic near me to relapse while i sit there entirely unaware of that happening. i mention this not so much to suggest others might do the same, but rather to point out how strange i am. i'd also like to point out that i'm fully aware of how conveniently my position on drinking aligns with my discomfort with being in bars, the health risks drinking poses to a diabetic, and several other factors. but when i talk to myself about why i'm not drinking (mentally, of course - i'm not that strange), i do so in terms of unintended consequences.