furia furialog · New Particles · The War Against Silence · Aedliga (songs) · photography · code · other things
29 January 2009 to 3 November 2008
Lyra was supervising while I cooked dinner tonight, and I gave her a few chickpeas as I was putting them in a salad, mostly because it's so irresistibly cute to hear her call them "bickies".  

"Moh?", she said, with a cartoonish upward lilt as if she read in a guidebook that that's how you ask for something in grownup. This means "more", in this case "more chickpeas?". Never mind how I know this. Parenting skills.  

"I'm making yummy dinner", I pointed out, reasonably. I'm a fairly reasonable person, which I think she appreciates. Or will, by the time she's 36 or so.  

She considered this for a moment, pressing a tiny finger into the dot of bickish water the last chickpea left behind on her tray, then looked up again, a tiny easy-bake-oven light-bulb clicking on above her head.  

"One?"  

"One? You want one chickpea?" I said. I'm assuming that my habit of asking her for clarification will become decreasingly inane as time goes on. She nodded enthusiastically. You might think, from the time-ordering, that she was answering my question, but I've conducted tests, and it turns out that she nods no matter what you say. The nodding is her answer to the implied question "Do you still want whatever you wanted before?" Which is, to be fair, what most of our questions to her amount to.  

"Well, I can hardly deny you one single chickpea." It's OK to indulge children as long as they understand the careful logic behind your actions. I plucked a chickpea off the top of the salad and centered it precisely on the tray in front of her. "One", I explained, pointing to it for helpful pedagogical emphasis.  

She nodded three or seven times, then picked up the chickpea, crammed her whole fist into her mouth, somehow extracted the chickpea from her grip while her hand was inside her mouth, and then pulled her hand out with that great sweeping flourish she's been working on in case she ends up needing a career in rodeo. I turned back to the stove, wondering whether you can say that you've learned to count "to" one. It's kind of "from" one, really.  

Behind me I heard a small finger tap a plastic tray once, moistly.  

"Five?", she said.
I've been calculating voter-centricity in polls for several years now, so I can't believe I only just thought of the way to re-apply voter-centricity to the things being voted on: Retabulate the album (or whatever) ranking, inverse-weighting each vote by the voter's centricity. I.e., the closer the voter was to the consensus, the less their vote is worth. Then take the ratio of weighted scores to vote-counts, and you get a measure not of popularity, but of cultishness. You probably want to get rid of the albums that got very few votes, but in the 30-voter ILM Metal poll I only had to eliminate albums that got fewer than 3 votes before the results started looking interesting. In the 577-voter Pazz & Jop poll I cut off the albums with 5 votes or fewer, but even the 6- and 7-vote albums are distributed across the score-range pretty well.  

The only real metric of idiot statistics tricks like this is whether you find out anything new by looking at them. In this case, you can make up your own mind. I have named this new stat "kvltosis" (in a combined metal/statistics joke for which possibly I am the entire target-audience), and added it to my Pazz & Jop analysis. If the poll's consensus bores you, perhaps this can be another antidote. (If the poll's consensus thrills you, on the other hand, just mentally invert this list and you have consensus squared...)
If you haven't had enough music-poll stats after this, I also helped tabulate the ILM Metal Poll, and posted even more geekery on the ILM thread discussing the Pazz & Jop results.
If you want to make the case for "improved" searching via the wonders of semantic-web technology, as this blog post and this demo attempt to, you need to make your demo demonstrate something compelling.  

In the blog post announcing that demo, Kingsley suggests "Microsoft" as the query example. As of this moment, doing that query on that demo produces a page of unintelligibly elided URLs, misrendered characters, and random blobs of text that contain the word "Microsoft" in them. The UI opens with this stirring invocation:  

Displaying values and text summaries associated with pattern: (NULL)1
(NULL)1 contains "microsoft" in any property value.

And the first search result begins, and I feel like I have to clarify that I am not making this up, with the words "Mac OS X Leopard" (and then some gibberish that I'm guessing used to be Italian).  

If you do the search "Microsoft" on Google right now, you get some news items about Microsoft, followed by the Microsoft site itself.  
 

But maybe that was just an unfortunate example. So I tried looking for Cyndi Lauper. Google's results for this begin with Cyndi's official site, then the Wikipedia page about her, then her MySpace page. OpenLink's begin with "The Parking Lot 03.09.2007 at SmartLemming.com", again in a page-layout that isn't even funny as a parody of good information design.  

If you want to amuse yourself by trying more examples, I've put up an easy form for running a search on both sites side-by-side:  

cyndi lauper
microsoft
(try your own)  

Be patient with the OpenLink side...  
 

To state the obvious caveat, the claim OpenLink is making about this demo is not that it delivers better search-term relevance, therefore the ranking of searching results is not the main criteria on which it is intended to be assessed.  

On the other hand, one of the things they are bragging about is that their server will automatically cut off long-running queries. So how do you like your first page of results?  

And on the other other hand, the big claim OpenLink is making about this demo is that the aggregate experience of using it is better than the aggregate experience of using "traditional" search. So go ahead, use it. If you can.  

Now, did your opinion of the potential of the "semantic web" go up or down during your experience?  
 

[Update: Kingsley responds here, and suggests that "glenn mcdonald" would actually be a better example query. So here you go: glenn mcdonald. Did your opinion change?  

Just to be clear, I think Kingsley is exactly right that we need a universal data browser, and quite possibly right that Virtuoso's underlying technology is capable of being an engine for such a thing. But this thing he's showing isn't a data browser, it's a data-representation browser. It's as if the first web-browser only did View Source. We will no more sell the new web by showing people URIs than we sold the old web by showing them hrefs. Exactly the opposite: we sold the old web by not showing people UL and OLs and TD/TD/TD/TD and CELLPADDING=0. And we'll sell this new web by not showing them meta-schema and triples and reification and inverse-link entailment.]
Described: Excuses for Our Natures to Change (The War Against Silence #510)  

Zipped: 1-43, 44-75  

Playlisted:  

1. In This Moment: Endless Days And Nights (Forever) (4:21)
2. In This Moment: The Underworld (Her Kiss) (4:30)
3. Enslaved: To The Coast (6:25)
4. Trinacria: Part III: Make No Mistake (6:20)
5. Everon: North (5:03)
6. Everon: South of London (4:04)
7. Eluveitie: Inis Mona (4:09)
8. Leviathan: VI-XI-VI (7:09)
9. Septicflesh: Anubis (4:17)
10. Dir en grey: Dozing Green (4:06)
11. Cynic: Evolutionary Sleeper (3:35)
12. Gyöngyvér: Halhatatlan ámok (3:30)
13. In Flames: The Mirror's Truth (2:58)
14. Frightened Rabbit: Head Rolls Off (3:44)
15. Frightened Rabbit: The Twist (3:30)
16. Puressence: Drop Down to Earth (3:11)
17. Sigur Rós: Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur (4:05)
18. M83: Graveyard Girl (4:51)
19. Katy Perry: Waking Up In Vegas (3:19)
20. Delays: Love Made Visible (3:58)
21. Ida: The Killers, 1964 (5:18)
22. Bob Mould: The Silence Between Us (3:34)
23. Shearwater: The Snow Leopard (5:08)
24. Asian Kung-Fu Generation: Night Diving (3:01)
25. Deathspell Omega: Chaining the Katechon (22:12)
26. Nightwish: The Escapist (4:59)
27. Frightened Rabbit: It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop (5:27)
28. Mountain Goats: Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident (3:21)
29. Wetnurse: Life At Stake (7:13)
30. Pink: It's All Your Fault (3:52)
31. OLIVIA: Rain (4:27)
32. Uh Huh Her: Wait Another Day (4:01)
33. Mia: Mausen (4:53)
34. Retribution Gospel Choir: What She Turned Into (2:22)
35. Zapruder Point: An Arm & a Leg (1:56)
36. L'Arc~en~Ciel: NEXUS 4 (3:51)
37. Ihsahn: Emancipation (5:27)
38. DragonForce: A Flame for Freedom (5:20)
39. Bob Catley: We Are Immortal (5:44)
40. I Nine: Seven Days of Lonely (3:36)
41. Jewel: Two Become One (3:44)
42. Týr: Gatu Rima (5:38)
43. Grand Magus: Like The Oar Strikes The Water (3:13)
44. Dark Tranquillity: Below the Radiance (3:25)
45. Equilibrium: Blut Im Auge (4:44)
46. Jesu: Blind And Faithless (3:33)
47. Boris: My Neighbor Satan (5:17)
48. Airborne Toxic Event: Sometime Around Midnight (5:03)
49. Gaslight Anthem: The '59 Sound (3:09)
50. Alanis Morissette: Underneath (4:07)
51. Rick Springfield: Saint Sahara (3:58)
52. Cradle of Filth: Stay (4:55)
53. Zapruder Point: Artificial Light (2:47)
54. Puressence: April In July (3:57)
55. Puressence: 3rd Degree (3:21)
56. Belle & Sebastian: (My Girl's Got) Miraculous Technique (4:28)
57. Lucksmiths: Anyone's Guess (2:19)
58. Hundred Reasons: No Way Back (3:35)
59. Trembling Blue Stars: This Once Was An Island (4:10)
60. Hypocrisy: Hatred (4:46)
61. Moonspell: Dreamless (Lucifer and Lilith) (5:16)
62. Candlemass: Lucifer Rising (4:06)
63. Poisonblack: Left Behind (4:45)
64. Monolith Deathcult: Master of the Bryansk Forests (7:13)
65. Metsatöll: Iivakivi (4:19)
66. Dalriada: A Szikla legendája (4:21)
67. Okkervil River: Pop Lie (3:12)
68. Manic Street Preachers: Umbrella (3:34)
69. Wilderness: Silver Gene (4:12)
70. Parts & Labor: Nowheres Nigh (4:36)
71. Magnetic Fields: Drive On, Driver (2:51)
72. Killers: Human (4:05)
73. Niyaz: Feraghi-Song of Exile (5:45)
74. Soweto Gospel Choir: Pride (In the Name of Love) (2:36)
75. Garry Schyman: Praan (4:29)
Here's a quick, simple test for your "news" source: Is their presentation of an abject historical humanitarian crisis with mounting casualties any different from their treatment of a guy hanging upside down from a ski-left by his pants?  

(Note: The answer should be "yes".)
My daughter has just discovered indefinite articles. For the past couple days, every "Mommy" and "Daddy" and "Kitty" has turned into "A mommy!", "A daddy!", "A kitty!" I think it's probably overanalyzing to think that she has just grasped either existential quantification or classification, but clearly she means something. She has been meaning things for a while, too, of course, but it's possible that this is her first communicated abstract idea. And even if this isn't, yet, it makes me realize that something soon will be.  

It's easy enough to see that a baby is a small person, taxonomically, because that's what they basically look like. But it's quite another leap to comprehend that an individual baby is actually inexorably becoming an individual person.

I got mine. Get yours.
Thanks to the collapse of the imaginary-asset industry in the US in the months just before the 2008 presidential election, we have had an unusual opportunity to observe both major candidates actually dealing with a perceived national crisis as presumptive leaders. And thus we have learned, clearly and unequivocally, this: when faced with a complex problem with economic, philosophical and public-policy ramifications, neither one of them had any real clue what happened, why and whether it matters, or what to do about it.  

But they differ dramatically in the way they dealt with their ignorance. Obama participated in the process, made some fairly noncommittal comments about the logistics, and patiently reiterated his socio-philosophical agenda. McCain lurched around spastically, spewing hurriedly half-baked ideas and trying to find somebody to yell at.  

There is your 2008 presidential decision in a single indicative reduction: do you want the guy who wants the world to be a better place, or the one who would just as soon headbutt you if he thought he could blame you for anything.  

Will Barack Obama really bring Change and Hope, with those grand Pooh-like capital letters? Can he really, as president, alter the emotional tone of American social discourse? Can he, by sheer persistence of talking about principles as if they actually inform the operation and effects of government and culture, actually bring an American social discourse (back?) into meaningful existence?  

I don't know. Maybe. I'm not exactly counting on it. My distrust of the two-party political protection-racket system far outweighs any personal warmth I feel for this particular guy. He wasn't even my candidate of choice, and I wasn't all that enthusiastic about that guy, either. Government is a very big machine optimized for nothing I need or care about.  

But there's no way anybody who is bothering to vote tomorrow, and I will be one of those bothering, can justify not voting for Barack Obama. As presidential qualifications go, calm principles are no Nobel Peace Prize, but at least they're something. Scamming cut-rate health-insurance from Utah and refusing to stand up for even the mildest forms of social equity are not anything. McCain and Palin are the nihilist ticket: they stand for nothing. Or, more precisely, they stand for not standing for things, for politics as cynical process, and for methodically undermining the idea that we could believe in each other. They stand, as George Bush stood before them, for small-mindedness. They stand only when we're watching, and only because they're afraid we'll see them wince when they sit down.  

A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for ourselves as an idea, for a novel idea that is transformative precisely because it ought to be so mundane. It is a vote for consideration over greed, for resolve over fear, and for the stubborn belief in the possibility of progress over an eager resignation to invisible curses. Barack Obama will not single-handedly solve our problems, and may not even get to preside over the solutions in the time he has, but he will stand with us while we face them, and he will help keep us going while we collectively try to think of things to try. He will stand with us, and as we stand with him we will believe an us into existence. A vote for Barack Obama is not just a vote for this country, and not even just a vote for a country, it is a vote for society itself as a virtue, and for the idea that it can be better.  

A vote for Barack Obama is not a vote for a great man, it is a vote for a decent man who has what ought to be the rudimentary sense to believe that there is a greatness bigger than himself that he himself can, and thus must, participate in creating. It is a vote for the bigger greatnesses to which we too have the capacity to aspire, and in which we thus have the responsibility to play a part. This vote, then, is part of our task. It is, if we have not begun already, where we start. It is the beginning of a long and necessary collective project of reclamation and redesign. It is a vote forward.  

I vote forward. I believe in us, and I take my part of our responsibility for our future. I stand for us and with us, and I accept the project of our society and its potential as my own. I am voting for Barack Obama.
Site contents published by glenn mcdonald under a Creative Commons BY/NC/ND License except where otherwise noted.