Ah got the music in me.

About a month ago I posted a message to craigslist basically asking if anyone in the metro boston area was interested in taking in an inexperienced bass player. I was tired of just noodling around, and I felt that a bass guitar is best played in a group. It’s a support instrument, not a lead (except in very rare cases), and therefore needs others to play against / with. I was really not moving ahead in my playing, and I decided it was time to seek out other players.
My posting (now expired) was pretty self-effacing. I’ve never played in a band before, and aside from some noodling around in various folk circles, never really played the ‘supporting bass’ position in anything serious.
I got 3 replies to the posting. One was someone looking for a sort of glam-metal bassist. Pass, thanks. The second was from a sort of pop-C&W-folksie group in Weston. I got together with them last week, and while we played well, and did some interesting bits, it didn’t grab me much.
Late last week I heard from another group. These guys were a bunch of geeks who had formed a blues band in their company, and over the years had gigged to a bunch of parties and local bars and the like, but had slowed down over the last year. Now they wanted to get going again, and needed a bass player.
Well gosh. A local geek band that plays the blues. I could get into that.
So I did. Last night I went down to Franklin and played for about 3 hours in my first full blues band. We had lead guitar, rhythm guitar, keyboards, drums, a -kick-ass- vocalist, and moi on bass.
I was EXTREMELY nervous going into the whole thing. This really was my first decent sized band, and the music being played, while more along the lines of what I like, was far more complicated than a simple root-note bassline. But, I had practiced my blues scales, downloaded all the tabs and tracks for what was on the set list, ran through each of them a few times, so I think I was ready.
And I was. We went through 6-7 tracks (sometimes repeating several times to work on various pieces). Each time we went through, my lines got clearer, and the piece sounded better. I worked well with the drummer (in small bands, the bass player has to be in sync with the drummer – we hold the beat and the rhythm that the other musicians are working around, and if -we’re- not in sync, the whole piece sounds clumsy). Fortunately, the drummer and I clicked well, and he commented at the end of the set “We havne’t had a bass player for so long, I got jaded – now I have to be careful what I’m doing because there’s another rhythm piece in. But it sounded alright.”
In the end, I was exhausted, but the band was upbeat and happy with how things came together. There’s some great talent there. I didn’t flub it, I didn’t stand there looking doofy during bits I didn’t know (only happened once where I dropped out – during “Wind Called Mary” by Jimi Hendrix. Complex little piece.) The lead guitarist came over and shook my hand at the end of the set “It was a real pleasure playing with you. You’re coming back, right?”). Wow.
We played a lot of your standard barroom blues. Mustang Sally, Proud Mary, etc. The lead singer has a great voice.
They liked me. They liked the sound, the band worked well together, and we’re gonna do more. Next practice is Wednesday night.
I think I’m in a band.

RadioParadise punches it dead on today…

Trying to get back in the groove after weeks of intenseness related to selling our house, and working back in my office, Radio Paradise chimes in with Compared to What performed by Les McCann.
This song is over 30 years old, but the lyrics ring mighty true today…

The President, he’s got his war
Folks don’t know just what it’s for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We’re chicken-feathers, all without one gut (God damn it!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me, now)

Make sure you check out the RP Forums about this track.

SSL Creation under Debian

I always dread setting up SSL servers. The SSL mechanism is complicated, and the terminology is not something I deal with on a day to day basis, so the openssl command line stuff is total greek anytime I need to use it.
While setting up our new server, I realized I needed a self-signed cert just for some internal use (webmail client, etc). I didn’t need it signed by a ‘normal’ CA or anything, I just needed the connection encrypted. I had installed the Apt package for Apache2, and saw that the SSL pieces were in place, but… no cert. I spent several days just dreading doing SSL setup.
Finally tonight I sat down to do it, facing a deadline for a server move next week. Some googling brought me to an article on Ian Miller’s site about using the apache2-ssl-certificate script installed with Debian Apache2. It automates the cert generation, placing all the pieces in the proper place. Then, following Ian Miller’s directions (about 8 steps), and I was up and running with an SSL host in under 5 minutes.
Yet another in the cap for Debian.

DC Pastor Channels 400yr Old Puritan Values

People complain about the “Left Wing Bloggers” spreading misinformation and bias, and the “Right Wing Bloggers” giving skewed and incomplete viewpoints. Ta heck with all that, here’s a DC Pastor preaching that “Lesbianism is On the Rise” because “Sisters makin more money than brothers and it’s creating problems in families… that’s one of the reasons many of our women are becoming lesbians!”
According to this article in the Washington Blade, Rev. Willie Wilson, a Baptist Minister in DC, used these very words in a sermon delivered on July 3rd.
Some choice quotes:

“Lesbianism is about to take over our community. I ain’t homophobic because everybody here got something wrong with him,” he said. “But … women falling down on another woman, strapping yourself up with something, it ain’t real. That thing ain’t got no feeling in it. It ain’t natural. Anytime somebody got to slap some grease on your behind and stick something in you, it’s something wrong with that. Your butt ain’t made for that.

Lesbianism is about to take over our community. I’m talking about young girls. My son in high school last year, trying to go to the prom, he said, ‘Dad, I ain’t got nobody to take to the prom because all the girls in my class are gay. There ain’t but two of them straight and both of them are ugly. I ain’t got nobody to take to the prom.’

You got blood vessels and membranes in your behind. And if you put something unnatural in there, it breaks them all up. No wonder your behind is bleeding. It’s destroying us. Can’t make no connection with a screw and another screw. The Bible says God made them male and female. The Hebrew word “neged,” which means complementary nature – there is something unique to man and unique to woman and it takes those two things to complement each other. You can’t make a connection with two screws. It takes a screw and a nut! (shouting).”

To top it off, this sermon was titled “You’ve Got To Fight To Be Free”. Why bother trying to put a ‘spin’ on a topic. Come right out with your hate, fear, and 1600-era’s morals and slap them onto a crowd in a place of worship. Yeah!

‘The Brights’ and Secular Humanism

Each Friday, James Randi posts a weekly ‘commentary’ on the rampant influence of mysticism and religion in daily thought. He has has made a lifetime career of exposing charlatans, fakers, and frauds along the lines of Sylvia Browne and John Edward (of ‘Crossing Over’ fame).

In this weeks commentary he steps on his soapbox and delivers masterful commentary on the rise of religious mysticism as a credible alternative to scientific theory. For anyone bothered by events such as the Kansas Board of Education deleting the theory of evolution from the science texts or the fact that our nations leader invokes an all powerful deity, from which he takes guidance daily, this treatise is an outstanding commentary on the state of affairs.

Randi also mentions an organization called The Brights, a group whose baseline philosophy I basically agree with, but I am uncomfortable with a “Join us! Do not be afraid!” attitude prevalent through the site.

For example, the site states, as a definition of it’s core philosophy:

What is a bright?

  • A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview
  • A bright’s worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements
  • The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview

That’s all well and good, and gybes pretty well with my own philosophies, though a bit self-referential with the ‘naturalistic worldview’ schtick. But the site continues…

Currently the naturalistic worldview is insufficiently expressed within most cultures, even politically/socially repressed. To be a Bright (someone who fits the definition and registers on this Web site) is to participate in a movement to address the situation.

Okay, hang on a moment. Apparently this group is not comfortable with a simple definition or an ideal. You must participate in the movement to be a ‘Bright’. This really gets into “If you want in the club, ya gotta do the dance, man!”.

I’m going to remain skeptical of these folks for a while. The site is rampant with a ‘join up on this website, and be a Bright!’ sort of content, which unfortunately just makes me want to avoid it all the more. Their forums seem active and interesting, but I think I’ll stick with my own self-definition. Agnostic Secular Humanist, and call it art.

Cool Debian Geek Site Du Jour

For some reason, I had no idea that Debian-Administration.org existed. It has tons of great articles on nifty tricks to do with Debian, as well as up and coming changes and suggestions for administration.
Today’s gem is using the deborphan tool to tell whether any packages have been orphaned by having their parent packages removed or upgraded away. Running it once on my machine shows me 24 packages installed that aren’t used by anything.
Definately a good site to add to the home RSS feed list if you administer any Debian systems.

Optimus Keyboard may be Real in ‘About a Year’

Everyone and their brother has been making noise about the Optimus Keyboard. A keyboard that has little OLED displays in each key, letting you display what they’re set for – in full color. Reconfiguring for Quake or Dvorak layout or just running pretty animations is all possible.
The problem was the original site was an art mockup of the keyboard – photoshopped to show what it might look like – basically a design setup.
Now it looks like it might actually happen. According to the article from Engadget :

A recent interview with Artemy Lebedev, founder and director of the Russian design firm working on the keyboard, sheds some light on the future of this device: they envision is as an “open source” keyboard, with an SDK and a “keyboard studio” application that lets users customize the keyboard any way they choose (sweeeet!). The company is currently negotiating with several different manufacturers to get the Optimus into production, and they”re hoping to see it getting into our hot little hands in about a year for “less than $200 to $300.”

I’m so there.

‘The Connection’ getting the axe? Gordon leaving WBUR!

According to an article in the Boston Globe, WBUR is cancelling the outstanding talk show ‘The Connection’, hosted by Dick Gordon. The new station manager, Peter Fiedler, states that the changes are part of a cut back program. “We decided to strengthen local focus because that is where our core listener base is”, he said in a statement.
The Connection is produced at WBUR, but is heard on 66 national stations, including XM Radio. According to the press release, ‘The Connection’ will go silent after August 5th.
I for one am deeply saddened by this news. Dick Gordon made turned the flagging Connection flow into a truly fascinating hour of interviews and details after Chris Lydon’s famous meltdown with WBUR staff. Apparently Gordon’s firing was a surprise to Gordon as well, given to him after his show today.
I hope that another station will pick up the Connection and continue it’s production.

Lo, I am companioned.

Since we’ve moved to the new house, our roomate, Beth, has forced upon us her menagerie of pets, consisting of One (1) long haired grey cat named Cali, One (1) shorthaired tortoiseshell named Devita, and… one 10yr old Rotweiller mix, named Jasmine.
Now, it’s no secret that I’ve been lusting after having a dog for… well, forever. I work alone at home full time, and having someone near by I can chat with who seems to enjoy my company I always thought would be a big win. Now i’m settling into a work at home pattern that does, in fact, involve a dog. A very friendly dog who is just looking for company during the day, and is quite content to hang out under my desk while I work.
I know Jasmine is not my dog, and I’m still not sure I’m up for the long term responsibility of owning a dog, but gosh, she’s nice to have around.

Planarity – the game!

This is a hyper-simple game, but is great for a couple hours of killed time. It’s called “Planarity” and is available at http://home.cwru.edu/~jnt5/Planarity/. A couple other folks on LJ and elsewhere have posted about it, but the nutshell is you’re given an ever increasing number of vertices on a polygon, interconnected randomly. Your job is to move the vertices so none of the connecting lines overlap.
It’s not unlike those earth-games human pretzel knot games.
I just finished Level 4, at 3:08 for a time.
Enjoy 🙂

Tweaking the righties.

Fun and fun. I’m having a nice exchange over on Jay Reding’s blog. It really does amaze me that people still think Bush’s position of pre-emption is a good and current policy.
Jay trotted out the old argument “Oh, so you think the Iraqi people would be better off under Saddam, eh?”
This argument is getting so old now. We’ll never know now, will we? Since Bush decided to level the country to rubble and put us in a totally untenable situation.
Do I think they’d be better off than the current situation? I don’t know, it’s pretty bad. Do I think there were better ways of doing it than Bush’s ‘shoot now, make plans later’ scenario? Absofuckinglutely.
Reinforces my latest summary of US politics:

    Liberals think, then act.
    Conservatives act, then justify.

Think about that a bit, and you’ll find it applies to just about every Left vs Right argument going on, particularly as it applies to foreign policy.

Linux Gripe du jour

This is just wrong. Why was this changed in Linux-land, I have no idea.
Use ‘man ls’ or any other man command.
Hit space a few times to get down into the document.
Now try to go back. ‘b’ or ‘^u’ do not work, because it’s a pipe, not man’s built-in pager.
This is a HUGE problem when trying to find a specific command option. For instance, do ‘man man’, then type ‘/pager’ to search for the word ‘pager’. Great, it shows you it, but it’s buried in text. So you’d like to page up to see the context for it. No dice! Can’t backscroll!
Update – Apparently this is an issue with the default ‘/bin/more’ program installed with Debian Sarge. apt-get install less replaced /bin/more with ‘less’, which does backscrolling properly.