Monthly Archives: June 2012

Independence

Believe me or not, but I find it important to know how to Do Things. Lots of things. Survival things. Building things. Project things. Because despite what you see of me in public, sometimes I look away from the screen. Because sometimes I don’t want to “google” the how-to. Because sometimes I want to know how to Do Things without dependence on something else to tell me how.

As a culture, we’ve been building up all of these extreme reasons for knowing how to survive, how to build, how to grow, how to prosper and thrive in the face of adversity. The reasons are many and usually tinged with future fear. Some cite the potential for civil war. Some cite impending societal collapse. Most popular is the threat of zombie apocalypse, as credible as that is.

I’m sorry to tell you, kids, but these are very, very thin reasons. You don’t learn how to survive and make an island of stability in a world of chaos on the off-chance that the shit will come down within your lifetime. No. The only reason, the only reason we should know how to Do Things is because it is what is expected of us as functioning adults. That’s it.

Put down the video game, close the browser, put the smartphone back on the table, and look at the faces in front of you. Be one of the grown-ups around you. Fix a car, build a shelter, plant a crop, prepare a feast, mend a wound, anything. Your services are badly needed.

Finishing

Writing music is difficult, because I don’t know if I’m drawing the right image, putting forth the right motif, or using the right instrument to induce the intended feeling in the listener. And when I press Record, I find myself out of the moment because I just pressed the damned Record button and I have to get back into it before I screw up notes. And then there’s fixing the recordings, and arranging the parts, and “Woah-my-god why did I write that part? It doesn’t fit!” Mute clip and re-record.

Mixing music is damned hard, because no matter how far I go, no matter how much I stroke the mix, clean the sound, I’m never certain if I’m going in the right direction. Sometimes, it seems the more I do the worse it gets. And the Undo history is a line, not a tree; it’s easy enough to test Before and After, but difficult to test Before, After 1, and After 2. And when you get three steps down the road, you realize your chosen After was the wrong one. The sound might be loud enough that my deaf ears can hear it, but the channels could be clipping or maxing out. And then when I render a mix and play it on my PC or in my car, the sound is totally not what I expected.

I guess it’ll take time getting the hang of it. I mean, “The Downward Spiral” wasn’t mixed in a day, and that was by professionals. Why should my own hobbyist experience be any different?

A song is finished when the musician is tired of screwing with it.

Drive-By

Not often I get to do this, but this morning I managed to help another website owner rid the Net of one more drive-by browser attack.

A friend of mine sent to me and 6 other people an email containing only a link (…and she used my super-secret personal email address to do it, nudge-nudge). This set off my suspicion alarms. The link went to a PHP script file buried in the image file uploads section of another website’s WordPress installation. The script’s filename was something opaque like “onelove.php”, and it had a query string (the part of the URL after the ?) that could be used to uniquely identify the source of the click and whoever emailed it.

Without opening a browser, I went to the command line and did some sleuthing. I used wget to try digging up the script to see what it returns. What I found was that the script attempted to redirect me to a website in Russia. “Now why is this script, in someone’s pictures folder, redirecting me to a foreign website?”

I performed a whois lookup on both sites to see who owned the domains. The victim site was a fellow Dreamhost customer, and the Russian site was hidden behind a “private” domain registration. “Huh!” I thought.

So I sent a short message to the victim site’s administrative address stating that her website had been hacked and was hosting this script, that she should remove it, and that she should update her WordPress installation (always important) to minimize the risk of future attacks. I then sent a reply-all to my friend and the list warning them to not click the link, to delete the message, and for my friend to scan her computer for infection.

I get home from work and return to my sleuthing. The nefarious script is no longer on the victim’s site. Possibly the victim got my message and took the proper actions. Maybe Dreamhost intervened and cleaned it out themselves. At any rate, it’s gone, for now. Hopefully, she has hardened her site against another hacking infection. I’d hate to see more people unknowingly clicking blind links and getting their browsers sent to a page containing just the right code to infect their system or con them out of their personal information.

We should help every chance we get, right?

Uncheap

So the new Rush album, “Clockwork Angels” was released today to the North American market. After work, I stopped by Cheapo CDs on Lamar to pick up a copy. After scanning the bins, I asked the guy if he had it in stock.

“No, we don’t have it, sorry.”

I laughed incredulously, “Really?”

“Yeah, it’s too expensive.”

“What?”

“We only spend $300 a week on new releases. Don’t want to order too much and not have it sell — we can’t return it.”

“Man. I guess I never considered that financial aspect.”

“I’ll be ordering later this week, though, or you can try Waterloo Records.”

“Meh,” I grimaced. I usually dislike going there.

“Doesn’t matter. We’ll be closing by year’s end.”

“What!?”

“You act surprised. CDs are dead. We can’t afford to stay in business.”

And so it is. Another music shop going away. Encore Records already closed this spring. I heard Backspin Records closed. And now Cheapo later this year. Before long, everything but the niche and specialty stuff will be sold online either as shipped discs or as digital downloads. I prefer to have discs because the audio quality is completely lossless and I have a bauble to hold in my hands. Digital downloads are fairly cheap and rather quick, but the lossy psycho-acoustic compression makes them sound terrible, and lossless formats usually cost more. Plus there’s no standard for additional collateral like liner notes and cover images, so it’s a crapshoot what you’ll be getting in your download.

So, go there. Go now. Help ’em out. They have stock that they’ll be needing to get rid of. When all these businesses close, what next? Who is to occupy their empty spaces? More boutique baby furniture shops?

Pushing Nothing

Q: At what point does atheism become antitheism?

A: When it proselytizes as fervently and annoyingly as the theists.

Listen, I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that call to wake people up and convince them of my truth. Call it our memetic drive. We have to cast our seed as broad as possible to inseminate as many fertile fields as we can before growing season is over. Whether it’s political, sociological, ethical, moral, or religious, we make it our life to put those ideas into anybody else’s head in the hopes that our seed will find purchase and grow. If we had our way, the entire world would be covered in our ideological spunk without a single mop and bucket in sight. This is gross and excessive.

Most theists I know are quiet about it. They have their strong faith, yet they move along with the toil of life. You would only know them as theists by where they went on Sunday mornings. Most atheists, you wouldn’t know them either; they’re just as quiet. But in each ideological population, there are the top 10% who are so vocal, they dominate 90% of the conversation, overpower the majority among them, and seek only to further the cause, pushing their thoughts and agendas onto others. This is untenable.

Even as an evangelical christian, I knew this distinction. I carried the cross, but I didn’t put it on display. In my own small ways I pushed the agenda, but for the most part, I kept quiet in order to remain as non-offensive as possible. As an atheist, I’ve also had my time on the mission field trying to convince others that there is no god. I carry some amount of shame for those offenses. Now I’d rather blend into the scenery and just live my life, letting you think or not think about my eternal damnation as you feel. I don’t care.

What I do care about are the proselytes, the advertisers, the pushers of any ideology. Please, for the love of whatever, be quiet and save your breath.