Monthly Archives: February 2015

131: Look Forward, Not Down

This is such rubbish. Vint Cerf claims to be seeing a general trend whereby old data types or methods of storage become outmoded or obsolete, rendering their contents inaccessible to hopeful curators. This ignores how on a personal level, there will always be some crazy person with a pristine original encoding of that holiday special that was supposed to be consigned to the flame. How many people do you think know how to re-implement so-and-so codec? How many copies of the specification, the exact requirements for decoding some file, do you think exist for any given codec?

… Not a lot, I grant you, but the situation is not nearly as bleak as it Cerf says it is. Given enough attention, a majority of data can be preserved; the real problems are at historical institutes like our University’s Pacific Film Archive, which has reel upon reel of old film lying around, undigitalized, slowly succumbing to decay from old age. While VHS is a legitimate example of something that is almost certainly all but inaccessible now, I cannot imagine there is a long list of movies not released via other mediums (read: available for [il]legal streaming) now imprisoned within the jail of obscurity that is the VHS. Corner cases like Nosferatu (destroyed for legal reasons, salvaged through a serendipitous find of a reel that escaped attention) don’t really count.

Things aren’t that bad. My copy of GIMP (which I know to be in dire developmental straits) can still open Photoshop files made with Photoshop 5 with few problems. Software engineers sharpen their stakes and their wits more and  more with each passing generation. Mozilla is (kinda-sorta) on the brink of reverse-engineering Flash. The GIF standard isn’t going anywhere fast, and you can be sure that there are enough redundant copies of your favorite cat picture saved in various formats anyway.

The question of how data is remixed, recompressed, and reposted from end to end to end of the internet is slightly more valid question that I find worth consideration. But that’s another story for another post.



130: Helsinki

“It sounds like … a sink in hell.”

As always the title is totally irrelevant to the post: but today we celebrate the Rotterdam Philharmonic for its scheduled collaboration with Rafal Blechacz.

Screenshot from 2015-02-13 15:21:37

I already posted about this in the Facebook group, but for posterity I keep a copy here of the record. Ta-dah! As promised, Rafal has worked Brahms’ first piano concerto into his repertoire. As of 13 February 2015 this is the last visible schedule concert on his page, but I expect there are more to come. Akiko (over at the [un]official Rafal Blechacz fanpage) mentioned that Rafal will be on sabbatical come 2016, but I hope we will hear lots of the Brahms before then. I cannot imagine why he would take a break (last I heard, he was aiming to complete his thesis before the Chopin Competition this year), but I hope he enjoys a well-earned rest.


129: Yahweh

“Mmm, it’s done.” Michael drew out the enormous sparkling print, cradling it tenderly. “It’s beautiful, my lord!”

“Don’t show it to me.”

“Don’t…? But my lord, you already know everything here anyway … ?”

“No,” said the Lord sternly, “I conceived of the entire decision tree, every possible thing that could happen, every dichotomy that could ever be collapsed, and every little going-on in my universe. That is more than enough to play God in this creation.”

Michael frowned at the print. “So, you do realize that Eve will still eat the forb- ”

The Lord made an agitated slicing motion and Michael’s print dissolved into stardust. “Michael,” said the Lord patiently, “wait a moment and my children will develop a silly thing called ‘philosophy.’ There will be much debate about ‘free will’ and ‘the problem of evil.’ This will all be immaterial. Omniscient as I am, I will turn a blind eye to the future to which I am not bound. So long as no one pre-observes the outcome of the event, we can agree that the result was reached by free will.”

Michael’s puzzled expression was unchanged. “That seems, with all due respect, vacuous, Lord,” he ventured. “Already we – I – have robbed Eve of free will by observing with certainty that she will be tempted.”

The Lord clicked his tongue and waved his hand dismissively. Michael bowed and disappeared.