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Dress rehearsal tonight, been practising like a mad fool.  We have a full line up. Starting with Rheinberger’s lovely Stabat Mater:

Then a Schubert Mass :

Some Mendelssohn:

And some Mozart :

It is going to be a great concert. :)

   I’ve written more than my fair share of five paragraph essays.  Graded a few in my time as well.  It would be nice if we could spend the time and teach people different ways of grappling with thoughts and ideas in their writing.  The online Aeon Magazine has some surprisingly good and thoughtful articles, this one by Sam Dresser is a fine example:

 

“Carrying out this kind of teaching calls for concentrating effort at two levels. One is teaching students how to make meaning at the sentence level, using syntax to organise words to say what you want them to say. Books on writing at the sentence level – my favourites are Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (1981) by Joseph Bizup and Joseph M Williams, now in its 11th edition; and Fish’s How to Write a Sentence – lay out a series of useful rules of thumb: be clear, be concise, be direct, focus on actors and actions, play with language, listen for the music. The other is teaching students how to make meaning across an entire text, using rhetorical moves that help them structure a compelling argument from beginning to end. My favourite book in this genre is Graff and Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say. I use all three in a graduate class I teach on academic writing.

I’ve also developed my own set of questions that writers need to answer when constructing an analytical text:

1. What’s the point? This is the analysis issue: what is your angle?
2. Who says? This is the validity issue: on what (data, literature) are you basing your claims?
3. What’s new? This is the value-added issue: what do you contribute that we don’t already know?
4. Who cares? This is the significance issue, the most important issue of all, the one that subsumes all the others. Is this work worth doing? Is the text worth reading?But, you ask, aren’t these just alternative sets of rules, much like the Rule of Five? I say no. One difference is that these are clearly labelled not as rules but rules of thumb. They are things to keep in mind as you write (and especially as you edit your writing), many of which might be in tension with each other, and which you must draw upon or ignore as needed. Another difference is that they resist the temptation to provide a rigid structure for a text of the kind that I have been discussing here. Deal with issues in the literature where it helps to frame and support your argument rather than confining it to the lit-review ghetto. And don’t make the reader wait until the conclusion to find out what gives the text significance; most people would stop long before this point.

Rules of thumb call for the writer to exercise judgment rather than follow the format. Of course, it takes more time and effort to develop writerly judgment than it does to follow the shortcut of the five-paragraph essay. Form is harder than formalism. But the result is a text that does more than just look like a piece of writing; it makes meaning.”

I like his guidelines and suggestions for writing, although I’m not sure I’m quite ready to give up my 5 paragraphs quite yet.

Hard hitting social commentary to resume soon on DWR. Today, I have a bit of personal fluff that I hope will bring a smile to your day. TL;DR version provided at the end if you’re pressed for time. Just scroll all the way down.

I do not do well with real world objects or processes. My skill with a hammer was once likened to lightning. I never strike the same place twice. With supportive feed back like that (thanks, Dad), it should be no surprise that I do most of my tinkering in the virtual world. In the synthetic land of 1s and 0s, mistakes are a Ctrl-Z away from being completely erased from history.

Recently I’ve had two such interests cross paths: photoshop and web coding. I have spent a great deal of time looking up manuals and tutorials online on these two subjects. In both fields, there are usually a thousand and one ways to get a particular result. The trick is finding a method that is effective, efficient, and caters to your style of doing things. So while I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at either photoshop or coding, what I have gotten fairly good at is finding the bits and pieces I need on the internet, then combining them to achieve my tinkering goals. My Google-Fu is strong (if I do say so myself).

Throughout my many photoshopping adventures, I have, from time to time, played with geometric shapes, patterns, and psuedo-fractals (check my profile photo). As these shapes are not representing anything, the choice for colours is wide open. This makes things quite difficult for me, as I’m horrible at deriving colour schemes.

“You better marry someone who can dress you, because you don’t know a thing about colour”
-My first web design instructor

While I have many techniques for checking my colour choices, there is one relevant today. I will put a hue adjustment layer on top of my project and slide it slowly around the 360 degrees of the colour wheel until I find a spot I like. On numerous occasions I’ve thought that the shifting colour was more impressive than any one spot on the wheel. I will just play with slider, going back and forth, watching the colours shift into each other. Depending on the project, these colour shifts can be very exciting or quite soothing.

Previously, I played with the idea of taking a number of stills at incremental hue settings and then making an animated GIF out of them. However, GIF files only have 256 colours and the results were less than impressive. On top of that, the process was painfully slow and arduous. After three or four attempts, I gave up on the notion and it disappeared in the lonely wasteland that is the graveyard for broken dreams and abandoned whims. Two recent discoveries brought it back.

First, I learned that it is possible to write scripts for photoshop. While the program comes with a number of actions and the ability to create your own, sometimes a project needs a more custom-fit solution. It turns out that one of the languages you can use for this is javascript, a language I am familiar with because of the web work I’ve done. Further, there is a script reader you can attach to photoshop that will log the script involved in every PS action you take. You can then use that log to inform your scripts. The potential is immense.

Second, I learned about APNGs. I was reading up on reducing web site load times and this article said that you should compress all images, as any file made in photoshop is unnecessarily large. I tested a few online compressors out and indeed, the there was a lot of file shrinking possible. One of these compressors had a new feature. They compressed not just JPGs and PNGs, but also APNGs. Their example blew my mind. It was animated PNG of a panda waving, smoother and clearer than any gif I had ever seen.

It just so happened that these new-to-me things were fresh in my mind when I was using my colour wheel check on a project and it all clicked together. After a little trial and error, I had written a script that would adjust the hue by 5 degrees, save a numbered PNG to a folder on my desktop, then repeat until it went all the way around the colour wheel. I found a couple online APNG assemblers, uploaded my stills, downloaded the animation, and put it through the compressor. Now, I’m not about to pay for the pro service, so I was only able to use one quarter of my stills. This makes the result not nearly as smooth as I’d like, but I’m still pretty happy with it.

So now, after much too much ado, I present a fractal colour morph built on script and Google-Fu, created by yours truly.

For the adventurous among you, I have a second example. With some images, this shifting colour can give the illusion of movement. Warning: The linked animation is big (5MB) and is not recommended for viewers who aren’t comfortable with flashing lights. If you’re cool with that, enjoy some psychedelic splendour.

TL;DR Lookie! Colours!

Always trust Mum’s to fix things up in a jiff.

dp1 dp2 dp3 dp4 dp5

 

There was a time when religion commissioned great and wondrous art. Awe-inspiring cathedrals were built by the most grand and innovative architects. Beautiful music for masses were composed by the greatest musical minds in history. Religious paintings were created with skills and passion that have yet to be matched, even hundreds of years later. Art was the bright silver lining to the otherwise horrifying and cataclysmic storm cloud of religion. However, that was long ago and that silver lining has since been swallowed up by the black abyss. All that is left is a shit-storm of horribly lame, morally reprehensible, and just plain awful media that is christian pop culture.

The religious will rip off and bastardize anything in order to push their message, with no regard for or understanding of the source material. Whether it be a nauseatingly horrendous christian rock band or an offensively clueless rally video, only one thing is clear. There is no limit to how objectively bad something is, as long as a church can get behind the message.

For your consideration I present two new low points. Be warned. These are so very terrible that I was convinced they were fake at first. Please do not eat for 30 minutes before or after watching these. Your stomach may not be able to handle it.

First we have a trailer for an upcoming Romantic Comedy. The trailer shows neither comedy nor romance, instead it focuses on a cameo by Mike Huckabee  talking about legislating anti-abortion laws. The Friendly Atheist has written up a few more details if you’re interested.


Just in case you still have your lunch down, I’ve saved the worst for last. Imagine the most awkward, desperate to be considered ‘cool’ by the kiddies, palm-through-the-face-into-the-back-of-your-skull bad PSA you’ve ever seen. Increase the uncomfortable embarrassment by a couple orders of magnitude. Multiply it by some unbelievable cultural insensitivity, then again by a massive helping of asinine theistic delusion. It should give you something wrong on so many levels, that it may have gone fractally wrong. Something like this:

 

 

I think the worst part is I want to have hope. I’d like to think that, given the right circumstances, people could see their religion for the hoax that it is. That their blinders could be removed and the atrocities in the name of religion would stop. But if they are so far gone as to think putrid ass gravy like this can pass as entertainment, I don’t think that hope has a chance.

Hey…heeeeey… JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier…frack you and your paywalls.

This is from Sci-Hub’s main page.

“We fight inequality in knowledge access across the world. The scientific knowledge should be available for every person regardless of their income, social status, geographical location and etc.

Our mission is to remove any barrier which impeding the widest possible distribution of knowledge in human society!

We advocate for cancellation of intellectual property, or copyright laws, for scientific and educational resources.

Copyright laws render the operation of most online libraries illegal. Hence many people are deprived from knowledge, while at the same time allowing rightholders to have a huge benefits from this. The copyright fosters increase of both informational and economical inequality.

The Sci-Hub project supports Open Access movement in science. Research should be published in open access, i.e. be free to read.

The Open Access is a new and advanced form of scientific communication, which is going to replace outdated subscription models. We stand against unfair gain that publishers collect by creating limits to knowledge distribution.”

Knowledge, available to the plebs?  What is heresy is this??

Of course the fascists are up in arms

“That’s all well and good for us users, but understandably, the big publishers are pissed off. Last year, a New York court delivered an injunction against Sci-Hub, making its domain unavailable (something Elbakyan dodged by switching to a new location), and the site is also being sued by Elsevier for “irreparable harm” – a case that experts are predicting will win Elsevier around $750 to $150,000 for each pirated article. Even at the lowest estimations, that would quickly add up to millions in damages.

But Elbakyan is not only standing her ground, she’s come out swinging, claiming that it’s Elsevier that have the illegal business model.

“I think Elsevier’s business model is itself illegal,” she told Torrent Freak, referring to article 27 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”.

She also explains that the academic publishing situation is different to the music or film industry, where pirating is ripping off creators. “All papers on their website are written by researchers, and researchers do not receive money from what Elsevier collects. That is very different from the music or movie industry, where creators receive money from each copy sold,” she said.

Elbakyan hopes that the lawsuit will set a precedent, and make it very clear to the scientific world either way who owns their ideas.

“If Elsevier manages to shut down our projects or force them into the darknet, that will demonstrate an important idea: that the public does not have the right to knowledge,” she said. “We have to win over Elsevier and other publishers and show that what these commercial companies are doing is fundamentally wrong.”

To be fair, Elbakyan is somewhat protected by the fact that she’s in Russia and doesn’t have any US assets, so even if Elsevier wins their lawsuit, it’s going to be pretty hard for them to get the money.”

[Sci-Hub]

When it comes to musical taste, I guess you could say Arb and I are a little… odd?  We’ve shared our love of classical and choral music quite a bit, but then we also like the hard stuff.  Here is a whole group of young people who seem to feel the same way:

Viva Vox Choir from Belgrade was formed almost ten years ago by a group of high school graduates who, together with their music teacher and conductor, Jasmina Lorin, wanted to continue the wonderful musical cooperation they had in their high school choir. The choir got its current name in 2005, and in 2009 they introduced beatboxing in their performance, which, along with song arrangements written by the members of the choir, formed the unique sound that made them known throughout the globe. The sound  of Viva Vox choir has undergone a number of transformations, and today it is characterised by authentic a cappella (voices only) interpretations of pop-rock and alternative music, accompanied by beatbox.

And for the goth in me:

And finally – this doesn’t work quite as well because they have cultured voices and sing very much in tune, but for sheer audacity it takes the cake:

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