Monthly Archives: November 2012

062: Embalmment


embalmment (countable and uncountable; plural embalmments)

The process of embalming.

This post is being written from a live session of Fedora 18 beta. The first surprise of the morning was seeing the beta release announced on Distrowatch – I haven’t been paying attention to the timeline – and so I hurried to download the DVD image (which currently weighs in at a scant sub-800 MB).

The second surprise of the morning was the thirty-second boot; I was up and ready to go in well under forty seconds by my watch. It was a blindingly fast deal – maybe something to do with the fact that I was booting off a USB disk and not an optical disk this time round.

The beta performs very smoothly on this machine – though mounting my encrypted disk didn’t work, and screen brightness is as uncooperative as ever, I think I’ll be very pleased with this.

I’m a little sad that the art isn’t … relevant any more. With “Verne” we had a beautiful submarine that brings back memories of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; and before that, Leonidas, was it? (derp, “Lovelock”) had some themed artwork too. “Beefy Miracle” has some nice fireworks, because we often eat hot dogs on the Fourth of July and so fourth (hurr).

But there’s nothing in the wallpaper of Fedora 18 to suggest a spherical cow.

Ah, I haven’t used Fedora long enough to know – baseless complaints; GNOME 3 runs smoothly and the system seems useable enough – I’ll call it a night.


061: Classical Armenian

Proper noun

Classical Armenian

Another name of the Old Armenian language.

I practiced piano for a long time this morning after escaping from physics section; fired by interviews of Rafal Blechacz, I fanatically played two etudes by Moritz Moszkowski, practicing them harder than I ever remember doing at home. I gave an encore in the evening after dinner, locking myself in the rec room and practicing hard. It was a happiness unequaled to feel my fingers storm the F-major etude more evenly, more smoothly, more rapidly than I have ever played; and the E-flat major – it’s shaping up; it’s not so stiff any more. In the F-major, those runs up and down the keyboard remind me so much of little rockets whizzing shrilly through the air…

I stretch my arms until they hurt, grasping at that crystalline technique of Rafal Blechacz – how can someone who only puts in maybe an hour a day (that’s a lot for me, granted – but nothing at all compared to any proper musician) hope to achieve anything beyond the cheapest of imitations?

Still my polonaise disgusts me, but still I persist – I’ve had it under my wing for years, incubating and weighing and modifying – it’s never turned out right, never. Someday, I hope, when I have more free time to devote to music…

I looked up from my box of waffle fries en route back to the dorm; the moon blushed at me and drew a thin veil of clouds around itself in the semblance of modesty. But that celestial dress could not hide the enormous halo it projected about itself: a luminous corona, many times the size of the petite body it enclosed, just barely visible all the way across from where I stood a ways off from the elevator.

Mmm, it’s true that the moon is ripe material for poetry.


EDIT: I completely forgot to tally up my most important event of the day: an exorbitant expenditure of unprecedented amount: fully $28.10 on four CD’s, which comes to an average of little over $7.00 per CD. These were (in descending order of price) Rafal Blechacz on the complete Chopin preludes (and then some), Rachmaninoff on Chopin, Mikhail Pletnev with the Russian National Orchestra (conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich) on Prokofiev’s and Rachmaninoff’s third piano concertos, and Isaac Stern with the Philadelphia Orchestra (conducted by Eugene Ormandy) on Brahm’s Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77.

Was it an unnecessary chunk of my savings blown for no good reason? Yes. Am I pleased with the music? As it stands, very. I have listened thus far to the Prokofiev (every bit as good as I remember; and better, since I first heard a battered-and-scratched copy from the public library) and am in the middle of the Brahms. I’m liking that quite a lot too – Aneiss was right; Isaac Stern is quite good.

Pletnev’s interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s third concerto is something which I have been after for a while now, and am quite proud to have in my possession; the third movement is pure gold to me.

As for Rachmaninoff himself on Chopin, the reviews I’ve read have been very positive, and I find myself somewhat drawn to the bluntly assertive and very confident playing style of that great pianist. It was NEW, no less – even though the jewel case was almost broken – and fully a dollar cheaper than what I could get on Amazon, which was almost out of stock anyway.

Stern is currently dishing out a cadenza – and Lord, can he play. I think I like this Brahms.

The Blechacz hovered around almost half the price I could get it for on Amazon, and was in astonishingly good condition (actually, most of the disks I’ve bought from Rasputin music, regardless of price or outward condition, have been in just-about-pristine condition). I look forward to listening to him play!

Oh, but it was worth it!


060: Synchronization Proxy

synchronization proxy (plural synchronization proxies)

(Internet) Alternative form of “synchronisation proxy”.

Well, that was useful.

Today, for posterity I again record the location of the gnome-settings-daemon for whatever GNOME I have now on Fedora 17: it’s at /usr/libexec/gnome-settings-daemon. I have created a local alias (“gsd”) for my own convenience – it comes in handy for display problems, I find.

Two links to consider, the first that would activate i3lock before laptop sleep, and the second which describes basic dealings with service files:

and by the way, just now there’s an interesting section on power management:

Back to school tomorrow, oh Lordie me…

But a long weekend with family and friends (oh! I miss them already) has done me well; my cold’s almost gone away, and I am now the proud owner of a beautiful wicker-work creature which I call my Patronus. I have no idea what it is. I like it.


EDIT: I’ve GOT it! Now I can just close the lid on my laptop and come back to a locked screen automatically! The downside is that the color is set directly in this shell script placed in /usr/lib/systemd/system-sleep/ (directory system-sleep had to be created), which means that if it ever takes my fancy to change the color that i3lock works on, I’ll have to modify this script. Pity! I don’t actually know what the shell script does, I just copied the instructions at .

#! /bin/sh
case “$1” in
i3lock -i 90a5a6
*) exit $NA


EDIT: Tragically, I rescind my previous edit about success. It doesn’t work now. Strange.


EDIT: kludge discovered via Ubuntu documentation; there’s a dispatch script that xfce4-power-manager calls, named xflock4; I simply create a local shell script of that name and have it call i3lock with the appropriate parameters – ET VIOLA, the problem is solved!


059: Plus-size


plus-size (comparative more plus-size, superlative most plus-size)

(of clothing) Designed to fit an overweight person.
(of a person) Overweight.

Over at Christine’s, Joyce’s, and Tina’s house today for a Thanksgiving after-party, we watched Amélie. WOW, but that was a GOOD film.

I’m not a huge fan of the modernist, accordion-heavy film score (Yann Tiersen, hats off to you anyway) but at least it fails to be cliche.

The film itself was sort of a novelty to me – gimmicks that are typical of films of the day, like color shenanagians and beautiful wide-angle camera shots. Very pretty, but I’m not sure if that’s considered substance.

Still, the subject matter – a long-winded love story of the title character and a man who has a funny hobby of collecting photos – is beautifully portrayed and wonderfully executed and just wow. It was a heart-warming story, too; the way they live and love is something delightful to see.


058: loathsomeness

A whirlwind of activity like never before took my schedule by force: I was up until a quarter to five this morning. I would have been in bed before then if not for a long conversation with The Nice Pencil-Selling guy and Alwin; that only kept me (along with math homework) ’till quarter past four.

But no, I glanced at my watch when I next crawled out of bed to light my lamp: it was a quarter to five when I began notating the first bars of my “Vulgarity no. 1 in G major for two cellos.” The work is as meaningless as anything else I have composed; the major form of musical development is a meekly simple rhythm in 2/4 held by the first cello which is slowed and phase-shifted enormously for the second cello to state as a theme.

I refuse to pull out the pathos stops and resort to the usual predictable cycle of fourths that characterize beautiful music. I lack enough experience to deal in chromatic bass lines (that’s not saying much) but I will plow ahead with the simplest model I have developed for myself.

And this work WILL be developed PROPERLY, not abandoned like the rest of my FJH Variations (which are always on my mind anyway, since the thematic material is not completely worthless).

I fell through my bed into dream country with ease, and dreamt strongly – that all disappeared, though, when I crawled out scarcely a few seconds later when Michael’s half-past-seven alarm (the first of a medley) rang.

After office hours and a late lunch, I found myself reading some of Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin works – they’re wonderful!


EDIT: careless of me to forget my word of the second!

loathsomeness (uncountable) – The property or nature that gives rise to revulsion, that inspires loathing.

057: Diamondback Rattlesnake

diamondback rattlesnake (plural diamondback rattlesnakes):

Either of two venomous rattlesnakes, of the genus Crotalus, from southern United States and Mexico, that have diamond-shaped markings on their backs: Crotalus adamanteus and Crotalus atrox.

Last night, we were evacuated from building six (yes, all of us) so the police could shoot a wounded skunk.

Michael and I had a great view from our window – we saw the blue and red lights and we saw the little furball in the middle of the road. An officer shooed it to the curbside; it climbed laboriously into the safety of the brush but didn’t go much further. After half an hour of deliberation, an RA stuck her head into our suite and asked that we move to the TV lounge.

Of course, Michael and I immediately raced to get cameras pointed out our window. Michael had a nice wide angle view, I had a clean strip of brush, trees, and the place where the skunk was.

Twenty minutes of hangman later, we were given the all-clear. Alfred was spotted heading outside with a camera (the rest of the suite spied on him and his girlfriend from our room – they were taking FLASH pictures of the place where the skunk had been shot). Michael and I played back the 20-minute-ish videos. I found the crucial point first, and Michael followed soon after.



The highly unpopular Euphrates Dam, which has long stifled the food supply of the peninsula downstream, was destroyed today. The demolition was neither planned, announced, or accidental; it was blown up in a fiery blossom of gunpowder by persons unknown.

The Euphrates Dam was constructed under orders of the Assyrian ruler Michael Yano in a political move to strangle his enemies down the peninsula. It was highly effective throughout its short existence; the damage caused was immeasurable, and Yano’s karma fell drastically.

Suspicions abound about who may have sponsored the attack. The questions of who reaps what benefits is clearly answered (see B10, REAP), and the finger-pointing has already begun at the national level.


056: Waddingtonian

Waddingtonian (comparative more Waddingtonian, superlative most Waddingtonian)

Of or relating to Conrad Hal Waddington (1905–1975), biologist, paleontologist, geneticist, embryologist and philosopher who laid the foundations for systems biology.

I have written three clunky shell scripts (they’re not even scripts, really, just shortcuts) that do a number of things. Running “amuseme” will open a random Wikipedia article and a random xkcd comic. Triggering “whether” will call up the current conditions and the day’s forecast for 94720. Calling “wots” will request a random word from Wiktionary.

Well. “Waddingtonian” isn’t very interesting.

Inflammability: (noun) (countable and uncountable)

1. The condition of being inflammable

2. The extent to which something is inflammable

A little better. You can never be careful enough about understanding fire hazards.

Roaring success of the day: running a brute-force gauntlet of matrices, derivatives, and chain rules without error.

An overheard: “Michael, do we just have to brute-force this…?”
“Uhh. Yeah, I think so…”

I even went so far as to number my terms as I crossed them off to make sure each was properly paired.

It was only a piddly practice problem, but little things like this are really worth some short-term happiness.



Dad gave me a DVD of his friend’s documentary film – one that had been made with government money. “Music would really make it better,” he said – and like the effects of a magic spell, my eyeballs were transmuted into dull gemstones. This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to score something, and I’m still kind of fired up over programmatic music.

That’s not to say I’m going the easy way out; I haven’t committed squat (work is going heavily into the cello quartet version of “When You Wish Upon a Star”), but the other day at the piano a marvelous idea came to me for a cello piece. It was a ridiculously simple motif but I was almost certain I could develop it in a way that was not overly rip-off-ish of my favorite artists.

But I don’t want to spoil it. This is the best idea that’s come to me in a while; even if it is still stuck in G minor (I want to think in different keys, but I’m just handicapped at doing so). I’ll consider attacking it next semester when I’m taking Music 25A – four-part writing!




Somebody in the Linux News sphere has recently done an article about “Yellow Journalism” in said sphere. I couldn’t agree more – to the uninitiated (and even to me, sometimes) we look like a bunch of maniacs who don’t want to listen to critique.

One myth I want to knock down right now that nobody seems to be addressing properly: the idea that Linux (this word will herein be used to denote “all operating systems based on the Linux kernel”)  doesn’t get malware because it’s actually just more secure.

Whether or not Linux-based OS’s are more secure than the big alternative on the market is entirely beside the point; I like to think they tend to be more secure, but they’re only as tight as you, the administrator, make them.

The common argument is that “nobody writes malware for Linux because its market share is tiny;” the nit-picky fanatics fire back “that’s not true, Linux is a high-risk target because it powers so many servers; get a few viruses on some and you have a darn virtual tank.”

I won’t contest the idea that daisy-chaining a few corporate servers could be a formidable power. However, I still sided with the common argument (“tiny market share”) because of the dynamics of the malware writers: the greatest portion of malware out there is aimed at consumers. Why? Because consumers often aren’t capable of removing their own malware. Many consumers, confronted with flashing lights and annoying sound effects from their antivirus software, ignore all the warnings and take no action whatsoever to remove malware.

If you’re an administrator of a corporate server, you better darn well be on the watch for malware (and worse) day and night. So even if a particularly crafty malware writer managed to sneak something in (less likely considering the attack vectors of generic malware), the behavior would be picked up and stamped out in little time.

So it’s moot! Consumers are the easiest target for malware writers. That said, the hugest demographic among consumers has to be Windows. One of the smallest would be Linux.

QED, malware writers simply don’t bother targetting Linux because there’s no payout.



Yulianna Avdeeva is lightyears ahead of me in all fields of piano playing. But if you ask me, Rafal Blechacz is still the better of the two – there’s a reason why there wasn’t a second place awarded in his time.

I watched the video of her final round concerto performance – like Blechacz and Li, she played the E-minor concerto (op. 11). She made decidedly more mistakes than Blechacz (I think) but that’s just my inner bigot acting up. Interpretation-wise, she romanticized it a bit more; you could call Blechacz’s playing “stiff” by comparison – I like to say “tasteful,” but many will disagree.

I borrowed the two-piano arrangement of the E-minor concerto from the music library (along with the conductor score for the 1928 version of Rachmaninoff’s fourth piano concerto – there was no alternative) and followed (starting from the middle of the first movement) along with her playing while I listened. It’s really something else to have all the formulae and blueprints and plans and schemes in front of you while you watch the builder or the engineer at work; you SEE and you ANTICIPATE – and most importantly, you FOLLOW.

The counting surprised me sometimes. It’s novel how the time signatures for the three movements go 3/4, 4/4, and 2/4, respectively.

To treat my recurring post-midterm blues (they’ve come back with a vengeance), I took the score with me to the piano room and read a bit of it. In maybe the space of an hour, I went through 39 bars (and then some for those not fully grasped). By comparison, I have 96 bars (with breaks and some extra for those not fully grasped) of Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto read and maybe half a bar for the fourth. The Chopin is surprisingly playable – he really was a unique composer in knowing exactly how to make the pianist’s life as miserable or as easy as could be. The flourishes he uses aren’t exactly cliche, but they can sound quite impressive without actually being terribly difficult to play. The Rachmaninoff is the most complex work I’ve attacked to date – the sheer volume of notes rather terrifies me, but it’s a good terror.

I salute these two wonderful composers and consign myself again to the void of being me.



I’m still completely enamoured with “When You Wish Upon a Star.” It won’t get out of my head; I dream up different arrangements for it through lecture, pry apart its chords through section … it won’t leave me alone.

Yes, I even went so far as to set my background to a line from the French version.

The version I’m currently most obsessed with is the French version performed by the voice actor for Monsieur Geppetto. He has a pleasant bass voice and the piece has been re-arranged for him, I think; it’s delivered in E-flat major.

The shabby background was mashed-up from two things: a public domain NASA picture of M45 and a shot of the mountains I took myself on a hike with Dad. I used to be better at GIMP; I’m pretty sure I was.

The funniest thing about this song, now that I think about it, is that it romanticizes this hilarious act: looking up into the night sky, picking a random pinprick of light that’s uncountably behind time (and maybe dead, according to one sarcastic Redditor) and begging it inaudibly (and if you voice it aloud, inefficiently – sound travels slower than light) to grant some wish of yours. For heaven’s sake, our SUN is a star too. If you’re going to wish upon a star, may as well wish upon the closest one in the neighborhood than an old geezer that can’t hear you from that many light-years away.




“Perhaps we are truly ourselves w/ in bathroom stalls … ”

And then, an arrow which pointed to the above:

“These inscriptions are so much more frank & honest than those on Facebook’s walls.”

I refine these two lines a little and add (yes, I had to double back after class) my own crude free verse:

“Perhaps we are truly ourselves within the confines of the bathroom stalls;

Indeed these posts ring more frank and honest than those we write on Facebook walls.

How shrewdly do you two observe of our modern interactions – meaningless, one and all.”