Sunday, October 31, 2010

Please Don't Make Me Read This Book!

A friend of mine, knowing that William Labov is the closest I come to having a hero, lent me this book, Language Is Power, which, he told me, includes a critique of Labov's work on Black English/African-American Vernacular English/Ebonics. I started looking over the book as soon as I boarded the subway home and by the time I'd gotten to my stop I had a bad feeling...

The book seems not to be available in the United States (and may never have been available in the U.S.) so you may have to take my word for the citations...

When I got home I wrote an email to my friend:

I haven't read the whole book (and I have the feeling that I'd find it painful to do so).  I have, however, read everything he has to say about William Labov and have dipped into other passages just to get a feel for what he's all about.  I also discovered an essay on "Sociophonology" on my own bookshelf, in The Handbook of Sociolinguistics.  I can't find any actual sociolinguistic research this guy has done (or citations of such);  all I find are reviews, critiques and arguments.  He addresses these to one issue: whether some forms of language are better than others.  He is attempting to find a scientific basis for language snobbery, to say that language snobbery isn't language snobbery but merely the proper recognition of an inherently superior form of language.  He takes exception to the linguists (who are virtually ALL the linguists doing respectable theoretical work over the past fifty years).  It is as if he is a biologist who wants to study corn by identifying the sweetest-tasting corn and declaring it to be the only true, fully-realized corn -- and classifying all corn in terms of its closeness to that variety.  You do not do good science that way.  As an aesthetic philosophy, it is like arguing that the music of Louis Armstrong simply can't "measure up" to "classical music" because it does not conform to the standards and conventions of European classical music. 

So, okay, I doubt he could convince me...but he could at least mount a respectable effort by following certain rules:  He would have to earnestly undertake to accurately represent the work he is critiquing.  He certainly does not do that with Labov's work in his book Language Is Power.  His entire argument is directed against ONE paper, The Logic of Nonstandard English, on the grounds that it does not present scientific proofs of the claims it makes.  This point is true...because the paper wasn't being presented as a contribution to the scientific literature.  As evidenced by the fact that Labov adapted it for publication in The Atlantic Monthly, it was intended as broad characterization of some of the findings in his two-volume work A Study of the Non-Standard English of Negro and Puerto Rican Speakers in New York City which, itself, was merely an excerpt of a larger account of the speech of New York City (later released, in a distilled form, as The Social Stratification of English In New York City -- a 500-page work of its own).  Just to give you an idea of the extent of research Labov did, here is a link to his full bibliography (PDF).  Disregard everything since 1997, the year Honey published his book. 

Before Labov tackled it, the speech of New York City was regarded as an uncharacterizable hodgepodge, simply a mess.  Labov came up with brilliant measures (which are, however, too complicated to go into here) that brought order to the English speech of New York -- it demonstrated regular, systematic features...EXCEPT FOR BLACK AND PUERTO RICAN SPEAKERS.  So Labov studied these exceptions and found that their speech was ALSO regular and systematic -- but that it was a separate English system within the surrounding system of New York City speech.  Labov talked about "speech communities"...and he had found a separate speech community within the larger community of NYC speech.  The main reports contain statistics, charts, elaborate methodological discussions.  Labov conducted five-hour interviews with hundreds of New Yorkers and developed techniques to sample (less extensively) the speech of thousands more (my favorite is the department store study).  It is magnificent work. 

Labov could not rely on policy-makers and educators to plow through the hundreds of pages of data, technical analysis and methodological discussion in which he painstakingly made his case.  The Logic of Nonstandard English was fashioned to communicate the gist of that work for what amounted to a lay audience.

Honey could have read all or part of the actual research to understand what Labov was doing and why he had reached the conclusions he had reached.  Instead, he chose to ignore it and to, instead, mis-characterize a work that was NOT research as if it was the SOLE basis for judging Labov's claims.

If Honey had been a journalist this would have simply amounted to a case of bad reporting.  He was,however, a linguist (albeit one with a bug up his ass...there, I said it!) and his failure to look at the real work is either incompetence or disingenuousness.

When I sent this email to my friend, who had not read the book recently, asked if Honey " is actually claiming that some forms of language are 'superior' or merely that some forms are more suited for... access to power in a society like
ours, which requires language with certain characteristics."

By this time, I'd taken more of a look at the Honey book and I was, shall we say, bothered by his approach.  Since we were friends I decided I could throw caution (not to mention circumlocution) to the winds.  I responded:

In the sense of this definition of superior: "of higher rank, quality, or importance" I would say that Honey is, in fact, claiming inherent superiority for Received Pronunciation.

I confess that I am a little afraid of getting sucked into a timesink, here, so let me take some cheap shots. 

Let me here interrupt myself to say that If anyone who reads this ever feels the need to destroy my reputation you need only quote me in whole or in part from this post.  On with my response:

Here are the titles of  Honey's chapters, along with the epigraphs:

  1. Introduction - "Linguistics is a notoriously schismatic subject" -- Sir Kenneth Dover (no, I don't know who Sir Kenneth Dover is)
  2. The Language Myth - "What I tell you three times is true" -- Lewis Carroll
  3. The Dialect Trap - "There is no merit in equality, unless it be equality with the best" -- John Lancaster Spalding (no idea who he is, either)
  4. Some Enemies of Standard English -- "There is nothing so absurd or incredible that it has not been asserted by one philosopher or another" Descartes (I believe he was some French guy)
  5. Re-Writing History -- "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words...Don't you see that the whole aim of NewSpeak is to narrow the range of thought?" George Orwell (...wrote about pigs, didn't he?)
  6. Authority In Language: Anagogy and Prescription -- "Vigilance in language is worth preserving, lest, in slipping, others should think you careless in language matters" -- Lord Chesterfield (inventor of the cigarette)
  7. Safeguarding English -- "When the language in common use in an country becomes irregular and depraved, it is followed by their ruin and their degradation"  -- John Milton (Inventor of the "Learn Latin by Reading English" method of language instruction)
  8. Language in School: The Lost Generation -- "No serious damage is done to national tradition if a boy is taught to say 'I'll hit him' instead of 'Us'll hit he" -- George Sampson (no idea...)
  9. The Language Trap Debate -- "If I have anything to boast of it is that I sincerely love and speak truth with indifferency whom it pleases and displeases" -- John Locke (THE John Locke, not the character from Lost)
  10. A National and International Language -- "The root function of language is to control the universe by describing it" James Baldwin (n.b., with this final quote, Honey means to demonstrate that some of his best friends are black people...)

From the introduction:

"The first defining characteristic of standard English, then, is its generality  or commonality -- the widespread nature of its use.  The second is its relative uniformity...the third defining characteristic [is] the fact that standard English is subject to standards of correctness which are, for the most part 'codified', i.e., embodied in dictionaries and in a set of rules taught in schools..."
...This book...maintains...that Standard English is not merely one variety among many, but instead is a specially important  and valuable variety which derives its value from a set of qualities which are not share by other, non-standard dialects...
It must be recognized squarely, however, that there exists an almost insuperable obstacle to my contention about the special qualities of Standard English.  This obstacle is the consensus that has ... existed among linguists...for at least three decades now, around the hypothesis that I will call 'linguistic equality', the notion that all languages, and all dialects of any language, are equally good."

Honey really, REALLY does not like "the notion that all languages, and all dialects of any language, are equally good."  He believes that standard English has prevailed because of it possesses a goodness that other dialects and other languages do not possess.  Conquest had nothing to do with it.  Imperialism had nothing to do with it.  Sending missionaries around the world to ram British ways of life down the throats of various peoples had nothing to do with it.  Nope, standard English prevailed because it is so damned good.

There is a reasoned, detailed argument to be made against this book.  That, however, would require that I read it and I really don't want to read this book.
I just opened the book to a random page and found this:

"Of the many strands involved in the process of language standardisation, it is this one which hard-nosed empirical linguists find it especially difficult to handle -- the set of values which are commonly and popularly attached to the standard dialect and are an important part of its prestige, and by which the sanctity of the rules of correctness in spoken or written language are treated as comparable  with a set of moral precepts: for a language user to break these rules is to be treated almost as 'immoral'.  This we have the American language maven John Simon: "There is, I believe, a morality of language: an obligation to preserve and nurture the niceties, the fine distinctions, that have been handed down to us."  To claim a connexion between correct language and morality is, of course, easy to ridicule -- as if it implies that the acquisition of correct grammar will cure a man of wife-beating or cheating on his income tax -- but [wait for it...- BS.] the persistence of this 'moral' element forces forces us to explore the whole notion more deeply.

Are you ready for a story about...coal miners?

"Around 1750, the coal -miers of Kingswood in gloucestershire were notorious for their barbarous and savag behaviour, especially when they invaded the nearby city of Bristol; and their dialect was described as "the roughest and rudest in the nation".  But, half a century later could comment that thanks to the effort of the Methodist pioneers George Whitefield and John Wesley in establishing among them a church, meetings houses, Sunday schools and days schools, they were "now much more civilised and improved in principles, morals and pronunciation [emphasis Honey's -- or whoever's he's quoting]

End of story.  In the next paragraph Honey talks about something else.  This is the man who wants to lecture William Labov on logic.  A little later he goes on to lament the abandonment of the Book of Common Prayer because it is more important to hear the majestic language of a previous era's translation of the Gospel than it is to, you know, understand  it. 

And that is page 136, to which I turned randomly.

Let me try turning to another page randomly.  Okay, here's page 142, where he discusses the importance of "a whole host of domestic activities  -- the rota of chores, laundry, personal cleanliness, eating, courtship, and even the position of items of furniture used by particular family members.."  His point is that these all promote "the sanctity of boundary and order" which are the "only hope" among the working classes of "creating human dignity and a modicum of self-determination against all odds"

On page 156 he complains about the rise of an "ignorant use" of the word 'cohort' to refer to a single person, more or less synonymously with "colleague", e.g. "Sir Geoffrey Howe, a Thatcherite cohort for eleven years...".   By page 157 he is saying: "The loss to the English language is very serious here, since an AIDS expert, for example, can no longer talk of ' the cohorts of infected people' and be sure of being understood the different groups of such people rather than the associates or colleagues of such people"  .  It's a big problem.  Tailors can no longer talk of three yards of cloth for fear of being taken to mean three backyards worth of cloth.  What is the world coming to?

Please don't make me read this whole book.

Bev's Trip To The Rally For Sanity, 10-30-2010

Central Park: Walking Along the Mall

Inwood: Isham Park

Central Park: A Message To Donna

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Meaning of Halloween-Candy Psychopath Stories

The whole point of Halloween for kids these days is taking candy from strangers. Of course, that's just what we are never supposed to do. To protect children from the dangers of strangers' candies, parents everywhere are on high alert for the menace sometimes known as the "Halloween sadist." You know the one—that psychopath who uses the occasion of trick-or-treat as an opportunity to poison the neighborhood kiddies with strychnine-laced Pixie Stix and razor blade-studded caramels. Every piece of candy is guilty until proven innocent by thorough examination.

And how many children have been harmed by randomly poisoned trick-or-treat candy? Approximately zero. It turns out that the Halloween sadist is about 1 percent fact and 99 percent myth. One California dentist in 1959 did pass out candy-coated laxatives, and some kids got bad stomachaches. But instances over the past 40 years where children were allegedly harmed by tainted candy have invariably fallen apart under scrutiny. In some cases, there was evidence that someone (a family member) was attempting to harm a particular child under cover of Halloween. In other cases, poisoning which had another cause was misattributed to candy. Not surprisingly, the myth created its own reality: As the stories of Halloween tampering spread, some kids got the idea of faking tampering as a sort of prank. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the myth persists.

U.S. Says Genes Should Not Be Eligible for Patenting

The new position was declared in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Department of Justice late Friday in a case involving two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

“We acknowledge that this conclusion is contrary to the longstanding practice of the Patent and Trademark Office, as well as the practice of the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies that have in the past sought and obtained patents for isolated genomic DNA,” the brief said.

It is not clear if the position in the legal brief, which appears to have been the result of discussions among various government agencies, will be put into effect by the Patent Office.

If it were, it is likely to draw protests from some biotechnology companies that say such patents are vital to the development of diagnostic tests, drugs and the emerging field of personalized medicine, in which drugs are tailored for individual patients based on their genes.

“It’s major when the United States, in a filing, reverses decades of policies on an issue that everyone has been focused on for so long,” said Edward Reines, a patent attorney who represents biotechnology companies.

The issue of gene patents has long been a controversial and emotional one. Opponents say that genes are products of nature, not inventions, and should be the common heritage of mankind. They say that locking up basic genetic information in patents actually impedes medical progress. Proponents say genes isolated from the body are chemicals that are different from those found in the body and therefore are eligible for patents.

The Patent and Trademark Office has sided with the proponents and has issued thousands of patents on genes of various organisms, including on an estimated 20 percent of human genes.

But in its brief, the government said it now believed that the mere isolation of a gene, without further alteration or manipulation, does not change its nature.

“The chemical structure of native human genes is a product of nature, and it is no less a product of nature when that structure is ‘isolated’ from its natural environment than are cotton fibers that have been separated from cotton seeds or coal that has been extracted from the earth,” the brief said.

However, the government suggested such a change would have limited impact on the biotechnology industry because man-made manipulations of DNA, like methods to create genetically modified crops or gene therapies, could still be patented. Dr. James P. Evans, a professor of genetics and medicine at the University of North Carolina, who headed a government advisory task force on gene patents, called the government’s brief “a bit of a landmark, kind of a line in the sand.”

He said that although gene patents had been issued for decades, the patentability of genes had never been examined in court.

That changed when the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation organized various individuals, medical researchers and societies to file a lawsuit challenging patents held by Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation. The patents cover two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, and the over $3,000 analysis Myriad performs on the genes to see if women carry mutations that predispose them to breast and ovarian cancers.

In a surprise ruling in March, Judge Robert W. Sweet of the United States District Court in Manhattan ruled the patents invalid. He said that genes were important for the information they convey, and in that sense, an isolated gene was not really different from a gene in the body. The government said that that ruling prompted it to re-evaluate its policy.

Myriad and the University of Utah have appealed.

Saying that the questions in the case were “of great importance to the national economy, to medical science and to the public health,” the Justice Department filed an amicus brief that sided with neither party. While the government took the plaintiffs’ side on the issue of isolated DNA, it sided with Myriad on patentability of manipulated DNA.

Myriad and the plaintiffs did not comment on the government’s brief by deadline for this article.

Mr. Reines, the attorney, who is with the firm of Weil Gotshal & Manges and is not involved in the main part of the Myriad case, said he thought the Patent Office opposed the new position but was overruled by other agencies. A hint is that no lawyer from the Patent Office was listed on the brief.

My Daughter, Singing

I had lunch with (among others) a voice teacher today.  Talking with her made me nostalgic.  For years, until my daughter Ruth went off to college in Iowa we could rely on hearing her sing, regularly, if only in the shower.  She performed in many musicals with the local children's theater company and took voice lessons which, every semester, culminated in a recital.  When, finally, she was heading off to college she had a recital all her own.  Ruth is also an actress and I think that fact is evident in her singing much of the time.

I am no music expert; I don't know enough to assess her voice or her skill from a professional's standpoint.  I know only that l enjoyed listening to her sing and I'm very happy to have these recordings.  Ruth has not expressed any desire to pursue performing as a career (although she has considered teaching drama and, perhaps, voice).  I suspect that she will always sing as a hobby -- she's a member of a gospel group at Grinnell.  I may not have very many opportunities to hear her sing in the future so I listened to all of these this evening and had a very good time:

Moments In The Woods
Jonah Man
Crossword Puzzle
Who Will Love Me As I Am? (Duet)
Go 'Way From My Window
If No One Every Marries Me
I Remember
The Ballad of Jenny and Don't Fence Me In

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Mimi & Eunice Book is Now Available!

Order it by clicking the new “Store” tab.

“I laughed out loud!…[The Intellectual Pooperty cartoons] are very very funny….however, if you could inform readers that this naive concept doesn’t correspond to the laws that actually exist, it would avoid encouraging them to believe that it does.”

—Richard Stallman

Here’s a photo of the book surrounded by more copies of the book with pages open in seductive poses:

come-hither books

Copying Designs Keeps The Fashion Industry Creative

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

7 Things We Don't Have to Invent for Animation Production (Thanks to Free Software and Previous Free Culture Productions)

7 Things We Don't Have to Invent for Animation Production (Thanks to Free Software and Previous Free Culture Productions)

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Counting your blessings is good for the soul — not to mention for convincing yourself and any investors that your project will succeed. Free culture is highly conservative, because it’s possible to simply reuse ideas (and sometimes actual artifacts) with little to no cost. Here’s seven things I’m really glad I don’t have to worry about in designing the production model for our free culture animated series Lunatics.

Making Movies with Free Software

This article is part of an on-going series on the challenges I’ve faced in producing two free-licensed movies, Marya Morevna, through the Morevna Project and Lunatics, which we are working on as Anansi Spaceworks.

1) Business Models

What artist wants to innovate new business models? For that matter, what entrepreneur does? Business models are generally not worked out from first principles — instead a successful model is observed and imitated. The really “innovative” models are the ones that are perturbed just a little — some extra “twist” is added to the model.

Business models are generally not worked out from first principles — instead a successful model is observed and imitated

So when a really paradigm-shifting concept is suggested — such as giving up on enforcement of “intellectual property” rights and embracing “intellectual freedom” instead; such as trusting fans instead of mis-trusting fans — just about anybody is going to be shaking in their boots.

At least until they see it working. And for this, I am truly grateful. Two major successful examples of this have gone before — the Blender Open Movie series (consisting so far of “Elephants Dream”, “Big Buck Bunny”, and “Sintel”) being one, and “Sita Sings the Blues” being the other. The models are a little different, but there are ideas in both that suit our project.

Previous animated productions have pioneered a lot of the tools, techniques, and tricks for making and marketing free culture productions

Previous animated productions have pioneered a lot of the tools, techniques, and tricks for making and marketing free culture productions

The Blender movies were done largely with foundation funding and a pre-sale model. This makes a lot of sense because they were self-consciously created as free culture products, and because the spinoff of supporting development of the Blender program was an important part of their conception.

“Sita Sings the Blues”, on the other hand, was not originally intended to be released under a free-license, so it’s model is a little different — relying entirely on sales after release (and for that reason, much more obviously dependent on the goodwill of fans). This is probably closer to how we will market Lunatics, though we may need to seek foundation funding or commercial sponsors to support initial production on the pilot.

2) Software

Early on, free software was all about programming, command line tools, and text editors. But over the last few years, the options for multimedia authoring tools have blossomed impressively. I can’t make a full list here, but here’s some tools we will absolutely be using in our animation project:

  • Gimp - Image editing: for textures, UV painting, backdrops, flat art in the project, matting and so on
  • CinePaint - Image editing: Has a number of features specifically for working with movies, and high color depth capabilities
  • Inkscape - Vector graphics editing: planning for sets, displays and other flat art
  • Audacity - Sound-mixing tool: extracting effects sounds from recordings; mixing music, effects, and dialog; filtering and levelling effects
  • Synfig - 2D Animation and In-betweening: animating flat-art elements, “cheating” some shots in the pilot. The main tool for Morevna Project
  • Blender - 3D Modelling, Animation, and Editing: Characters, props, sets, vehicles, etc. Tools for the whole 3D animation process. It’s also one of our best options for scene editing
  • Cinelerra - Advanced Non-linear Video Editing: if we don’t use Blender for editing, we’ll probably use this tool instead
  • QDVDAuthor - DVD mastering tool: when we create DVD versions for direct sale, the masters will probably be made by this very flexible package
A few of the many software tools being used on production for Lunatics

A few of the many software tools being used on production for Lunatics

Far from being starved for options, we are spoiled by choice: there are so many free software multimedia tools that our real problem is choosing which are the best for our project. Fortunately, in this too, we have precedents to follow.

3) Animation Toolchain and Project Structure

Even with the right tools, organizing a big project is complicated, and it’s easy to get bogged down in details. One nice thing to come from the Blender Open Movies is a fairly evolved set of “best practice” examples for how to lay out a complex 3D animation project.


The “Big Buck Bunny” production DVD contains documentation on how the project was organized on disk — a big help to would-be Blender animators

Each of the Blender Open Movies has been released with a disk containing not merely the movie, but also the production filetree with all of its organization (and also a lot of documentation). This is clearly the example to follow.

Of course, we’ll make a few changes. Lunatics will be divided into episodes, with frequently used elements in a series development directory. But otherwise, most of the experience garnered from the Blender movies will apply nicely.

4) Many Vehicle Models

One blessing from a possibly unexpected direction is the example set by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and US Federal policy about information works created by employees of the US government. With very exceptions, these works may be treated as “public domain”, and so there is a tremendous amount of source material on space.

Another blessing is the large amount of free material produced by space agencies, such as this highly-detailed 3DS model of the International Space Station as it exists today

Another blessing is the large amount of free material produced by space agencies, such as this highly-detailed 3DS model of the International Space Station as it exists today

In addition to imagery obtained of the Moon and the Earth, there are also plenty of images of real spacecraft (some of which will make an appearance in Lunatics, especially in the pilot episode), and 3D models of many NASA spacecraft (they’re in 3DS format, but that is easily imported into Blender). Even a few Russian vehicles are represented here.

Also, to some degree, though the policy is not as sweeping, the Russian Federal Space Agency (also known as “RosCosmos” or “FKA”) has largely followed suit in making material freely available and reusable.

While many of these will need to be modified and a few entirely replaced, they provide an excellent start on much of the modelling that needs to be done for the project.

5) Character Models and Rigging

Another source for models of considerable interest is the OpenGameArt collection. These were created primarily with computer games in mind, so they have an emphasis on “low-poly” models which don’t always suit an animation project like ours, but it can save us a lot of trouble. The aircraft pilot in the second figure is simply a posed generic human model created by Clint Bellanger and released via OpenGameArt under a CC By-SA license.

The artistic style of the 3D character models in Sintel is similar to what we want for Lunatics. With the material being free licensed, this raises the possibility of simply adapting it to work for us

The artistic style of the 3D character models in Sintel is similar to what we want for Lunatics. With the material being free licensed, this raises the possibility of simply adapting it to work for us

I’m particularly looking forward to examining the models and rigs on Sintel, because the character style is sufficiently realistic to fit our needs on Lunatics. I plan to test the idea of simply adapting the existing rigs to fit our characters, and possibly using stretched versions of some of the models. This may or may not work, but even if we have to create new models, these will make excellent study material.

6) Sound and Music

Sound is not my strongest area, and it would represent a considerable problem for me, except that a huge amount of material is already available. Much of the music, at least for the pilot, will simply be mixes of existing tracks from online music sharing sites.

Much of the music, at least for the pilot, will simply be mixes of existing tracks from online music sharing sites

Although we will probably have to record or generate some sound effects, many will be mixed from real recordings. We have lots of NASA footage of Soyuz launches and some of activity aboard the international space station. The soundtracks from these can be extracted and mined as a free source of accurate sound effects for space hardware.

Additionally, there is a nice collection of location recordings published online under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license by Sound Transit. These recordings are mostly of very high quality, and are the source for many of the ambient sounds we’ll be using, especially at the beginning of the pilot.

7) Licensing

Perhaps this is really obvious today, though I remember when it was a very tricky decision, but licensing for free culture works has been well established.

Since 2002, the Creative Commons has become the definitive choice for free-licensing artistic works from text to films. With such strong precedents, there’s no reason to worry over the details of licensing.

On the Shoulders of Giants

One of the best things about free-licenses is that they unfetter the natural chain of knowledge — the path that links each new innovation to the next, pulling us up to greater heights without have to re-invent what has already been done in order to do something new. You get to the fun part a lot faster this way. Working on the workflow and tools for Lunatics made me realize just how much of an advantage this is — there’s so much that we don’t have to re-invent because we can use what others have laid down the groundwork for us already.

Licensing Notice

This work may be distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, version 3.0, with attribution to “Terry Hancock, first published in Free Software Magazine”.

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This entry is (C) Copyright by its author, 2004-2008. Unless a different license is specified in the entry's body, the following license applies: "Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved and appropriate attribution information (author, original site, original URL) is included".


Terry Hancock: Terry Hancock is co-owner and technical officer of Anansi Spaceworks. Currently he is working on a free-culture animated series project about space development, called Lunatics as well helping out with the Morevna Project.

Alice Babs with the Swe-Danes

Alice Babs - Swing it, magistern (1940)

Weimar Rundfunk Music


Welcome to Weimar Rundfunk Music Company, where you can experience the best in European Jazz, Swing and Hot Dance from the 20's thru the 40's. We have a collection of over 15,000 tracks recorded by some of the world's greatest musicians. All from one of the richest, and least known periods of musical history.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Rap On Alexander Hamilton

The news about In The Heights soon to be closing on Broadway led me to wonder about what Lin-Manuel Miranda might be working on now.  The answer is: quite a few things!  The one that most intrigued me, however, is a rap album about Alexander Hamilton (!?).  He gave the world its first look at what it will be like last year at the White House:

Sad News: "In The Heights" Ending Its Run On Bway

In the Heights to End Broadway Run on January 9; Lin-Manuel Miranda to Return for Final 19 Performances

By: Andy Propst · Oct 27, 2010  · New York

Lin-Manuel Miranda<br>  (© Tristan Fuge)
Lin-Manuel Miranda
(© Tristan Fuge)
The Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights will play its final performance at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway on January 9. The production, directed by Thomas Kail and featuring choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, will have played 1,185 regular performances.

Apprentices in Non-profit Management - Community Enhancement & Engagement

That's my daughter Ruth, on the left.

New Frontiers In Memetics

Envy stimulates the economy—and is why you bought your iPhone



By Casey Johnston



The year is 2007 and your friend pulls a shiny new iPhone out of his pocket. It's the first one you've ever seen, and you stare agape as he lovingly taps the screen. A feeling starts to bubble up inside—contempt? Rage? Hunger? No—it's that biblically reviled emotion we know as envy.

While it's no secret that envy often drives us to action, it's only recently that scientists have realized there might be a brighter side to envy, at least for businesses. Some assume that generating envy will boost sales, but just as often pushing for envy seems to create resentment and sales slump. According to a recent study that involved perception of iPhones, this envy response can actually be tuned based on different factors that push consumers toward or away from a product.

To study envy, a group of researchers at Tilburg University in the Netherlands undertook a few different experiments with students there. They all involved inviting participants to compare themselves to individuals who had received some sort of windfall in life, and seeing how it affected their outlooks on life.


Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts: Home

The Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition gathers together in the virtual space of the web some 1100 pages of fiction written in Jane Austen’s own hand. Through digital reunification, it is now possible to access, read, and compare high quality images of original manuscripts whose material forms are scattered around the world in libraries and private collections. Unlike the famous printed novels, all published in a short span between 1811 and 1818, these manuscripts trace Jane Austen’s development as a writer from childhood to the year of her death; that is, from 1787 (aged 11 or 12) to 1817 (aged 41). Not only do they provide a unique visual record of her imagination from her teenage experiments to her last unfinished writings, these pages represent one of the earliest collections of creative writings in the author’s hand to survive for a British novelist.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Watermark « Mimi and Eunice

Tiny brained bees solve a complex mathematical problem

Tiny brained bees solve a complex mathematical problem

Monday 25 October 2010

Bumblebees can find the solution to a complex mathematical problem which keeps computers busy for days.

Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London and Royal Holloway, University of London have discovered that bees learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they discover the flowers in a different order. Bees are effectively solving the 'Travelling Salesman Problem', and these are the first animals found to do this.

The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route. Computers solve it by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the shortest. However, bees solve it without computer assistance using a brain the size of grass seed.

Professor Lars Chittka from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences said: "In nature, bees have to link hundreds of flowers in a way that minimises travel distance, and then reliably find their way home - not a trivial feat if you have a brain the size of a pinhead! Indeed such travelling salesmen problems keep supercomputers busy for days. Studying how bee brains solve such challenging tasks might allow us to identify the minimal neural circuitry required for complex problem solving."

The team used computer controlled artificial flowers to test whether bees would follow a route defined by the order in which they discovered the flowers or if they would find the shortest route. After exploring the location of the flowers, bees quickly learned to fly the shortest route.

As well as enhancing our understanding of how bees move around the landscape pollinating crops and wild flowers, this research, which is due to be published in The American Naturalist this week, has other applications. Our lifestyle relies on networks such as traffic on the roads, information flow on the web and business supply chains. By understanding how bees can solve their problem with such a tiny brain we can improve our management of these everyday networks without needing lots of computer time.

Co-author and Queen Mary colleague, Dr Mathieu Lihoreau adds: "There is a common perception that smaller brains constrain animals to be simple reflex machines. But our work with bees shows advanced cognitive capacities with very limited neuron numbers. There is an urgent need to understand the neuronal hardware underpinning animal intelligence, and relatively simple nervous systems such as those of insects make this mystery more tractable."

(Adapted from materials provided by Royal Holloway, University of London)

For media information, contact:

Simon Levey
Communications Officer
Queen Mary, University of London

Monday, October 25, 2010

George Heymont: It's a Small World After All (VIDEOS)

If you've gone to the movies to see a full-length animated feature in recent years, chances are it was produced and distributed by Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks. Animated features such as A Town Called Panic, My Dog Tulip, or Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole have not been accompanied by the kind of spinoff marketing campaigns that include toys and tie-ins with fast-food restaurant chains.

That doesn't mean that independent animated features have a lesser artistic vision; it just means that they stand a smaller chance of dominating box office receipts on their opening weekend. Three independent full-length animation features have such strong storytelling techniques, such brilliant artwork, and such quirky appeal that they should not be overlooked.

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NPR: Sci-Fi's Cory Doctorow Separates Self-Publishing Fact From Fiction

All Tech Considered - Technology News And Culture

All Tech Considered

03:00 pm

October 25, 2010

by NPR Staff

October 25, 2010

With A Little Help
Frank Wu

Cory Doctorow's With a Little Help will be available online with four different covers, including this one by Frank Wu, and in limited edition hardcover. Enlarge for full cover.

Cory Doctorow is a best-selling science-fiction writer, champion of creative commons and, now, self-publishing pioneer. He's distributing his latest book, a collection of short stories called With a Little Help (read an excerpt here), without the aid of a publishing house.  Instead, he has turned to his online community, and social networks like Facebook and Twitter, to help build buzz, get advice and even copy edit his new book.

Doctorow tells NPR's Michele Norris the key to making money off a business model that's built around the word "free."

"I'm doing everything," he says.  "I'm doing everything I've ever done that ever made me money, and everything that anyone else has ever done that seems to have made them money."

In other words, Doctorow is giving away free e-books in hopes of getting people buy the paper books; he's offering print-on-demand paper books with four different covers through; he's soliciting donations; and he's printing 250 hand-sewn limited-edition hardcovers that will run $275 each.

He's even sold off commissions in which he agreed to write a story about a mutually agreed-upon subject to be included in the new book.


Doctorow explains that he started his experiment by cherry-picking the best of what's already been done and throwing it all together.  Once it's all said and done, he plans to publish his data about the process and its results for other would-be self-publishers to have a model to work off of — which is yet another way to help his cause.

Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author and co-editor of Boing Boing.

"I think people want to buy the book partly because they want to be part of the experimental data set," he says.

And how will all that money compare to an advance from a publisher?

"For short stories it compares very favorably," Doctorow says. He's published two collections of reprints through New York publishing houses: the first paid a $1,500 advance and the second paid $10,000. This new experiment has already made him $10,000 — and it hasn't even come out yet.

"I reckon if I sell the hardcovers — which I think I will — I'll make $40,000 to $50,000," he says.  "Then, whatever I make from the audio books — which I'm selling on CD as well as giving away as free downloads — and the donations, and the print-on-demand books where I'm getting $3 a copy instead of $1 a copy … I'm thinking $70,000 to $80,000 net."

But it's not all about the money. Believe it or not, the already-successful author's motives are pretty self-less.

"I don’t have to do anything else to make ... money," he says. "I feel like it's giving something back to people."

With a Little Help 2