Thursday, December 27, 2007

Is Being Online Rude?

Tim provides his opinion about audiences being online during presentations as conferences. Generally, if a speaker is that boring, I find another presentation. Most good conferences are running multiple tracks so I've usually marked up the schedule for this occasion. The debate is 'is such behavior rude?' At a concert or pretty much any entertainment venue that isn't *classical* or "dryad jazz*, the answer is no. On the other hand, a power amplifier is a marvelous antidote.

When I observed my children texting at the family Christmas function, I took their cellphones away from them. As I said, "That's rude." A conference might be different. Maybe not.

  1. You paid to be there. It's your time or the time of your employer. You may have an issue with your employer if you are texting with your fav(n) while your competitor is presenting.

  2. The speaker paid to be there. They take risks doing that and one of them is they may fail to hold the interest of the audience. If the speaker is paid to be there, they already have the money.

It is pretty easy to rouse an audience from somnambulance. Point the microphone into the monitor. Some will consider that rude and will leave to type elsewhere. Those that stay are interested. Think of it as culling by holding the wand of power. Rudeness like violence begets more of the same but in the moment, they don't have a power amplifier and you do. They have a wireless connection. They are welcome to IRC their displeasure from another room and surely will. That's fine.

Then there is the one that is most irksome: cellphones in business meetings. Do you tolerate that? If someone is required and does that, count the number of people in the meeting and multiply by their average salaries for the time you are waiting? Was that cellphone call as important as the time at the time? Does your company still have confidential meetings and allow people to bring their cellphones and Blackberries into the meeting? Remember, those are also recording devices. You might want to have a chat with your company security person if you do.

Reflexivity is the nature of communicative acts. Only when they are tolerant, considerate and compassionate can they be considered 'civilized' acts. If this is 'over' it might be a good idea to turn up the power amps, put on some earplugs, and make sure that the force is felt. Then at the very least, boredom ends quickly.

Uncivilized behavior follows it out the door. What is left has value however small.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Same Song New Recording

Here is the final recording of

My Son's Time To Go.

It took some time to winnow this down in the 'less is more' tradition of arranging acoustic songs.

The sadness of wars is we keeping having them.


For the music geeks:

G Harmonica, Godin nylon string, Roland 1080 synth, electric bass, Rickenbacher 12 string, voice.

The processed sound effects are nylon string guitar with Doppler effects. The harpsichord is the 12 string electric resampled up an octave (an old hippie songwriter trick).

Monday, November 26, 2007

La Vie en Rose

La Vie en Rose is a recent French film depicting the life of Edith Piaf. Piaf is a name I knew but I knew nothing of the details of her life. The title song is a recognizable melody, but this tells me how short even international fame is once a singer dies. Yet...

For those as little cultured as I am, she was a French singer of the 1930s to the very early 1960s. It is a tragic, sad film with very few light moments and even those always in the context of her willful need to be both loved and independent. The music is extraordinarily beautiful, the acting is world class and the story is not one to be forgotten easily.

I recommend the film for a rainy winter day. There are some YouTube shorts of the real Edith Piaf singing her signature songs. I recommend these highly. Of course, now I will be out looking for Piaf's records.

I am always amazed at the haunting quality of the right song sung by the right voice supported by the right heart in the context of a tragic life. The film director says he intended to portray the life of the artist. He succeeded. Bon.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Jack and the Magic Beans

This weekend was the occasion for the local church production of Jack and The Magic Beans. They cast all kids in these and I get the plum task for writing and recording songs for the show.

The music is here.

It was great fun to see the little heads bobbing and twisting to the macarena beat of FeeFiFoFum. The kids in the cast made up a dance for it. Love it!!!

For the gearHeads:

1. Software: Adobe Audition and Guitar Pro
2. Axes: Takamine Six-string acoustic, Godin LGA electric six string, Rickenbacker 12 string electric, Kentucky Mandolin, Roland JV1040
3. Voices: Len Bullard
4. Acoustic Bass: Mark Huff

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Cloister and The Fence Jumper

Bob Sutor asks an interesting question about social networks becoming the banks of our personal information. Haren asks if open standards for exchanging social network information will improve that market.

Would that it were that easy, Haren. Let me compare this to the current faux standards initiatives in virtual worlds. The question is

1. The import/export of object serializations still needs a common object model if the behavior of the system is important. One can import/export geometry assets fairly well minus the color pallette (notoriously variant). After that, scripts are the challenge. VRML is the most ubiquitous import/export format for web use with Collada coming up fast. X3D has a better model but isn't as widely deployed.

2. The next issue is the runtime. These formats are usually not reversible, or what we once called 'lobster traps'. The lobster goes forward but can't come back without shedding a limb, sometimes called 'lossy'. XML doesn't protect a data asset from this. Being without semantics, it can't. The XMLers have long claimed XML is a good runtime format, but most of us are document wonks, not real-time 3D systems designers. Given the size of files required to create a seamlessly navigable virtual planet, verbosity matters. A lot. Animators won’t accept slower frame rates to enable open human-readable formats these days. The pioneering days of VRML gave way to the Second Life city-states where ‘stickyness’ is the analog to the Hotel California: check in but never leave.

In other words, highly competitive markets “forge, f**K, hide and deal” to obtain locks on their customers. The Haight experience repeats endlessly in the Valley: it starts off starry-eyed but pretty soon everyone is focused on the bottom line.

So there are two problems: having a common model to share that is operationally compatible, and the will to share.

Social networks have a slightly more dismal story I'm told. Not much attention has been paid here for the same reason the virtual world owners aren't raging for common interchange. Being entertainment venues or light social interaction venues, the idea is to keep eyeballs from wandering, so like a possessive mistress, they tend to guard the secrets of their attractions.

That might be seen as an indicator of the immaturity of the market. Small firms acting small. As larger companies become involved, they tend toward the common data models because they are more interested in increasing the size of the market itself. Note for example Google created KML for its 3D assets and it was implemented in the X3D/VRML editors such as Media Machines Flux. That is a win for the authors because they can move assets independently among the vendor worlds. This would be the result for the social networks; the users can move information assets. The problem is finding some net advantage for the network owners.

A change might be if more of these were P2P and the local machine could be used to protect the privacy where necessary. People would have to be responsible for it and some would rather pay someone else to do that. That was what I was saying in the first post. If a person could provide all of that information to one trusted/paid-to-be-litigable source, then the ability of that source to protect and manage the private information would be their selling point. Think of it as the Swiss Bank model for personal information. That vendor could provide a card or other means which a user then gives to say their doctor or other transaction partner rather than having each partner own a copy of the personal information. That was the problem of the SSN: it gets too widely distributed-by-value rather than reference; so its security is minimized yet it unlocks an incredible amount of personal information.

It is an interesting conundrum: a system designed to distribute (the web) results in the concentration of stored information to offset the dangers of the very characteristic it was designed to enhance.

Then there is the danger of sharing. It isn’t simply a matter of enabling it. If that were so, adultery would be a very well supported human behavior instead of one that while ubiquitous, is generally punishable sometimes by law but most often by social ruin. Just because something is popular to do doesn’t mean it is safe to do, yet Silly Valley investors and developers act as if every thing they sell has a social imperative.

"The web is going to be a much more immersive, a much more multi-dimensional environment," said John Doerr, one of the founding board members at Google and a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which invests heavily in the tech sector.

Mr Doerr's presentation touched on a range of areas that would be affected by the web, in particular green technologies and the energy sector, as well as disease therapy, and he gave stark warning to any firm that was not willing to embrace emerging trends. "In any real revolution there are winners and losers. The internet wasn't some kind of 'kum ba ya' thing," he said.

Doerr is funny if not ironic. His statement comes down to "Buy from us or perish." Actually, the web was a kumbaya thing. When the scout master began to molest the scouts, things changed.

Revolutionary changes don't often come from where the mass is looking. The status quo resists change and nature conspires against intelligence. Revolutionary comes from where few are looking and that few are struggling for their lives in some cause shared quietly if reluctantly by many. That is why it is called ‘revolutionary’.

The first revolution of the Internet is sharing yet sharing has created many problems with identity theft and other social illnesses. The rise of a ‘smarter’ web may be the creation of a cleverer burglar. The problem is protection, not sharing.

The next web is not an open web, but a cloistered one of many walled gardens where the contract is not how widely shared information is, but how safe and protected it is. The rise of the city-state was the rise of a gated community in the beginning. When what goes on inside the gates has enough value, the walls get higher and the guards become more professional.

In a world of competitive dog shows, breeders don't tolerate fence jumpers kindly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rock A Bye Baby

Force vs culture: force loses. It is a rock fighting water. The rock loses every time over time but it takes time. Even with a large rock, enough small streams crossing will erode it to dust.

We seem to be approaching such a time in the evolution of the global Internet and a more massive shakeup in the power structures of our companies and governments. Where companies and individuals talked open standards and open systems, we seem to be witnessing attempts to close it on several fronts particularly given the opportunity to use the emerging markets for virtual worlds to gain keiretsu locks on the technologies. A considerable numbers of streams seem to be crossing.

Single Language Unification

There is an emerging effort on the surface from several domains to propagate the idea of single language unification. After all, that is what HTML is, right?

This is the wrong approach for many reasons. It creates an unhealthy ecosystem. Even where there is one language for a period of time, requirements for it diverge sufficiently to cause either so many variants that they may as well have separate titles or to eliminate areas of application that look similar on the surface but are quite different in the domain in which they operate (eg, design time vs runtime datasets). Generic markup succeeded precisely because it is the antithesis of the single language ecosystem. Think of DNA and you see how the engines of living systems actually work in cooperation or competition with the host environments.

The single language approach has a very long and public history of failures. One only has to look. XML succeeds precisely by NOT being a single language approach. SGML stalled because of having too many variations in the approach to a syntax unified system. HTML bifurcates because of too many necessary variations in the object frameworks that support it and the plethora of scripting languages that animate it.

This single language meme is stacking up to be one of the Big Idea discussions in the next year given the numbers of ostensibly separated emergence points I am seeing across various blogs and forums. Taken to extremes, it is a very bad idea. Not considered in terms of the technical reasons it is advanced, it is a dangerous idea to ignore. Not understanding that some of the motivations at some of the emergence points are not technical in nature makes it insidious.

Standards Or Not

While the discussions of social networking make for a fascinating coffee table book collection of musings, the elephant in the room is standards for interop.

1. Platform unification: pick a winner among the various competing gardeners. That's a non-starter for obvious reasons.

2. Keiretsu unification: a consortium of non-standard technologies are pulled together to create a network of interlocked walled gardens. Christian Renaud might want to use a different analogy than speciation. Look at the emergence of cities and city states. This one succeeds for some time but it is the Roman Empire approach to civilization. It has the advantages of money AS a force for integration but it creates a short lifecycle for the content. 3D content minus RADs is very expensive. Caveat emptor.

3. The Language IS the Platform. This approach has historically produced the healthiest ecosystem of standards. Languages are much more like living entities in their development cycles if you want to use speciation metaphors. The lifecycle advantages for the authors and owners of content are far greater as they force system vendors to compete for talent by offering better rendering and other services. The service bundle becomes the product for host vendors. In the X3D/VRML history, multiple vendors vied and died. Had it not been for the language basis, the content would have died with them. That is the ultimate outcome of building walled gardens in the desert. Archaeologists are the inheritors.

On the other hand, The Single Language Theory postulates that multiple languages create fractures with the most popular meme being the Tower of Babel myth interpreted as "God's vengeance on audacity". The counter interpretation is that it was God punishing one King who wished to become the single intercessor and that multiple languages enabled all to pray with their own expression.

The second analogy more nearly fits the situation we encounter with 3D standards. The problem is as Watte points out at Forterra, performance. This is the place to start thinking about 3D interoperability: runtime languages with high performance versus design time languages (eg, X3D, Collada) with desirable lifecycle characteristics.

That is the convergence we have to solve. The rest is marketing politics.

Games In the Workplace

This is a profoundly BAD idea. Many years ago the founder of Fairchild tried posting salaries as an exercise in motivating employees. It was the same reasoning: transparency leads to better performance. According to the stories, it almost destroyed the corporation as the inside games quickly became more important than external business. I’ve seen similar problems with so-called peer reviewing systems that then submit names to a committee to pick the so-called ‘high pot’ performers. Who ever dreamed that one up was certainly high on something. The key clique insiders began to game the system immediately. The results were very predictable.

This is folly because it assumes people are rational and given good information will act to improve the situation for themselves and others. The AI guys know the fallacy of rationality is bogus. The humans will take many kinds of acts given such rating systems but most of them are destructive. There are reasons for privacy laws and for restricting the flow of certain kinds of information. Transparency in proximity means closing the door to the bedroom first.

China and The Rest of the World

With cheap labor and dirty manufacturing coupled to the infinite desire of the West for More Stuff, the Chinese have amassed a substantial cash advantage. It is a bit like Google or Microsoft in the software market. Keep a lock on a market long enough and eventually you hold all the cash and most of the high cards in the deck. So goes the pace of globalization. IBM surrendered to China and other companies are kowtowing as fast as they can send salesman.

This is normal and predictable. The US dollar is in the toilet for awhile, the Chinese are holding the notes, and just as we had to do in the late 70s and 80s to dig our way out of the oil debt and the falling dollar post-Viet Nam, we have to do some major kowtowing to rebuild from our latest misadventures. Again, this is predictable as sunrise.

Markets seek levels like water seeks low ground or metal anneals when heated. The problem of annealing processes is sub-optimum minima that have to be socked really hard to restart the flow. One wonders where the thump will come from but those poisoning events will rattle something. What is truly entertaining is how strange the bedfellows become and how former bad guys turn out to be the good guys at the denouement.

It isn’t that the mammals aren’t rational. It is the shocks it takes to get them to use it. They claim the Chinese curse is ‘may you live in interesting times’. I think the right word for what is happening is ‘insidious’ because it is otherwise, deadly boring. What was that old quote about “lulling them to sleep”?

Rock a bye baby, indeed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why William Gibson Hates Futurists

Gibson says he doesn't like futurists. He goes on to talk about Osama and Alabama. It makes for the kind of reading that other self-absorbed and pathologically cynical writers enjoy: an affirmation of the emptiness of their work.

As one might suspect, Gibson knows as much about Alabama as he knows about virtual reality: technically nothing.

A vivid imagination is only one part of predicting the future. The other part is the chops to make a prediction come true. The rest is timing. Gibson writes pulp science fantasy. Jules Verne dreamed of rockets to the moon, but he fired them out of cannons, something even the scientists of his day knew was bad engineering.

So here I am back in the office a half mile from an engine laying on its side that once took man to the moon and five miles from the test stands where it was first fired.

I just came from the services of the man who's invention was the coating of the heat shields that saved the life of every American crew returning from space until the space shuttle flew. I sang and then watched his daughter, a prima ballerina now retired and teaching in New York dance for her mother and father's friends, a woman who would bring people such as Dave Brubeck to his home. This I watched in the rebuilt ruin of a tavern on a mountain not half a mile from where Alan Ginburg taught me the blues forty miles from where W.C. Handy, the father of the blues was born, and not much further, where Helen Keller first saw the world through the water falling on her hands.

As I looked through the rain cloud that settled around the park, I realized I am glad for the ignorance of William Gibson and those like him who know so little about my home but wish to use it as their frame for ignorant thought. It is thoughts like theirs that keep a tidy mist around my home keeping others like them from coming here as if it were Brigadoon bewitched. I wish them well and that life and liberty will keep them far from here where giants lived, where the thunder of their engines shook my house and broke my Mother's picture frames.

I live in a place both quiet and beautiful and filled with the gentle men and women who looked at the stars and in them drew a line straight to future while the William Gibson's of their day did not believe and could not go. Please stay in Vancouver, Bill. It is the right place for you. I will stay in Alabama. It is the right place for me.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

MooBooBouree: You Can Teach A Cow To Tap

Here is the children's song I was asked to write.

I can't believe I'm doing this, but hey, so did Garcia and Grisman, so it must be ok.

Thanks to my choirmate, Mark Huff, for playing standup bass!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blue Moo Bouree (You Can Teach A Cow To Tap)

Blue Moo Bouree (You Can Teach A Cow To Tap)
c len bullard - sept 17 2007

You can dress her in a skirt
You can rouge her up good
She can even wear a mighty fine hat
But if you try to make her dance
She's got two left feet
And there's nothing she can do about that
You might get her on the stage
But she won't say much
When she's chewing on her cud she can't rap
There's many fine things that you can't do
But you can teach a cow to tap.

If she sways too far she might fall down
On the fence or the chicken or the dog
If you her leave outside when the sun goes down
She'll get lost wandering round in the fog
There's a trail to the pond and a trail to the barn
All she needs is a compass and a map
Well there's just some things a cow can't do
But you can teach a cow to tap.


Show 'em, Prissy!

You can show her to the feed
She'll give you what you need
Grade chuck roast, burger or broil.
She's content to be beef
She's content to be boots
Where there's grass n'er a cow was ever spoiled
But she can't do a waltz
Play a fiddle or a flute
As a singer she'll be coming up flat
As an entertainer goes, she's a pretty dull show
But you can teach a cow to tap.

Look at that.. Blue Moo Bouree!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Day Two: Testing the River of Life World

So far tests are running about as I expected. On the Bit Management Contact browser, it works ok minus the expected case sensitive file errors. I'll fix those. One tester sent me his Flux Console output and that IS VERY HELPFUL. BIG THANKS!

I published one comment from an Anonymous source which I normally won't do, but will make an exception in this case. Please when you send feedback, include the name of the browser you are using. One of the reasons for completing and fielding ROL is to provide a shake test for the VRML/X3D browsers. As we understand where this world won't run outside of BS Contact, we'll have a pretty good idea of where and why we aren't achieving the cross-browser playability that is so critical to the success and growth of standards-based 3D content on the web.

Many thanks, Folks! If you want to keep up with this, go to my other blog,

where I'll discuss the technical issues. Lamammals is a personal rant blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New Version of River of Life Is Posted: Please Test

The new version of The River of Life world is now posted at this link.

There are usually some problems with a fresh release (caps in titles, etc.). If you load the world and find these, please post them to me here. I'll be testing as well. This world is encoded in VRML97. I will convert it to X3D once this version works.

Note that the world was built by hand using the Bit Management Contact browser. I have not tested it on other VRML browsers lately. If you do, let me know how that goes. The worlds have been through Chisel and are error free to the best of my knowledge. There are still warnings and non-conformance messages given the tight restrictions of Chisel, but other wise it runs.

One favor: please don't pilfer the sound files. Those are samples under fair use and this is a not-for-profit world. All of the artists are listed in the credits.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

A New Song Fer Ye

I'll make a proper recording of this song, but for those who like them rawer, this is a raw as I get: one voice, one guitar, one mic, all real time.

This is my comment on war, not the politics, but the sad reality of it over the generations for me.

My Son's Time To Go


Monday, August 27, 2007

No Cure for BitTorrent

I was having a conversation with a younger developer about the resurrection of one of the more popular copyright infringement sites using Bit Torrent. He said it can't be stopped and seemed proud of that stating it was like cancer: remove it one place and it just pops up somewhere else.

Two thoughts come to mind. One was the pirate radio stations off the British Isles many years ago. They thought they were untouchable. The British Navy made stink of that belief monitoring their last broadcast even as the fresh holes in their sides were filling them with water.

The second is, well, I know a little something about cancer. Not to be cloying, but the truth is it is treatable in very many cases and types. It is just, well, the treatment isn't pleasant. I wonder if that is what is in store for the Bit Torrent sites trading in pirate intellectual property. Perhaps it is a cancer and it may be time to make it clear that the treatment or cure is... well, unpleasant for the host. Even if there is no cure for some cases, it can be driven into remission and even where it can be cured, the poison applied is well, unpleasant.

The millenials believe this piracy is making musicians "competitive". It's probably time to take the poison back to their servers and provide them with an experience that is... unpleasant. Hardware isn't free yet. Something that leaves it hairless as well might be the right cure.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Emergent Controls in First Order Systems

From time to time I comment on control emergence in cybernetic systems transitioning from first order to second order. In the current parlance, there is the term 'crowdsourcing' and quite a lot misdirected effort to support it as a serious study of research. On the other hand, some of the research does tend to support the model of control emergence.

Good. It may also create some good data for planning such efforts although that seems to be a contradiction in terms. It isn't really. One can sum it up as we once did at a former employer's work site with a scrawled banner on a wall:

We build the tools to build the tools and sell the tools we build.

Not as mystically satisfying as "crowdsourcing", etc., but much easier to present to the investors.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ravings From A Microsoft Junkie

Oh it is so sad. For so long I've been a Microsoft junkie consuming the twinkies of the uber-toolkit vending machine slobbering over gridviews, popping providers, and storing my procedures where the kids won't find them.

But even junkies have pride.

1. Save As HTML should save HTML. Period. Take out the MS processing instructions. Do yourselves a favor in the document office wars: punt to making extremely easy systems extremely reliable. There is ALREADY ENOUGH INFORMATION IN HTML 1.0 for long lifecycle support. Don't piss in the soup. CLEAN exports and imports are to stressed out
junkies what water is to aspirin.

2. CSS must work in IE exactly like it works in Firefox. It must work in ASP controls. Why do I need TWO style namespaces?

3. The Ajax Controls are hosed in namespace aggregates. Unpredictable Crapware Wastes Days. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into lost dollars. Junkies don't have enough time for thisjunk AND other junk. If switching between the design view and the XML source view regardless of container states can cause bindings and controls to disappear without error, crapware is too kind a word. If there is an error in the design view, that same error must be indicated in the XML view. Well-formed XML is not enough.

XML/Design Mode: It is valid or it isn't. If it is the design state is valid. If it isn't, it says so.

That's how synergy from dual-representation editing works. Otherwise, it doesn't.

4. The choice to support a polyglot for web application development is a commercially practical one, but the inability or unwillingness to implement a subset that is common to all web systems normatively, that is a failure to negotiate. Don't *be* the friction. Be the grease.

Clue: Too Much Stuff. Even for junkies.

ps: the C#/SQL Server stuff is good s**t.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Millennials

Somewhere out on the flatlands of the web I was grazing on a press blurb about the so-called millennials, a term Gen-Xers prefer to describe themselves. It said they are not that well-liked by their bosses. The article described their high expectations, fast production and technical skills coupled to their inability to stick with an employer without quick promotions and senior salaries. The comments warned the baby boomers to get "out of our way".

Umm... glad to do it.

When a generation's most notable contribution to culture is the concept of "the starter marriage", that says it all. History skips right over them. Why? For all their ambition, ultimately, they're bland. As my wife says, "no staying power".

Monday, July 30, 2007

My Generation Looks At The World at 50+

Mine was a generation beset by the woes of our parents winning WWII then thinking we had the moral obligation to right all wrongs. The problem of Kennedy saying we would fight any foe of democracy is we thought we could, should and did in VietNam. Some learned the limits of power and went on to build the Internet. Some believed we lost because we didn't use our power and went on to launch a war in the Middle East disguising lust for power with lost ambitions of Camelot. We learned out politics from MAD magazine and our religion from pop music. "What me worry?" and "We are all outlaws in the eyes of America" colluded in a mash-up of sentiment, carelessness, and greed.

Today we stand at the front window of our homes watching for our children to return from wherever they have gone just as they once watched at the window for us to return from work. We are burying our parents and their friends and watching our 401ks wishing we had bought Microsoft in the 1980s and sold Digital at the same time. Black music is considered the only American music just as black music has become a cesspool of racism and sexual violence so we turn to country music, a music we used to laugh at, just as it became the cesspool of bigotry and stupidity.

All sides are angry and no one trusts a generation who tells them they might want to trade the SUV in for a hybrid while that generation pursues office politics through affairs designed to get rid of the starter spouse and move up to the two decades older but much richer target on the radar. The ownership society stripped the middle class and emerged triumphant from the Reagan-you-are-American-you-deserve-to-be-rich years to give Mafia funeral retirements to the generation of peace-and-love-and-CafeOle-with-a-gin-chaser geezers. We are beset by gay tastes and gay politics with which we may say we are comfortable but we aren't and never will be. We've watched the front office emptied of competent if out of style men only to be replaced by incompetent women in comfortable shoes and told to make them look smarter than they are even as they tell us we must step aside while they take their turn at corrupting the new hired kids with illusions of responsibility masking opportunities for predation.

We became our parents as they watched and now we try to make sure our children don't become us just as they are buying Pink Floyd and Beatles t-shirts because 'you had better music than us'. Maybe the music IS the legacy of my generation that counts and remembering who the Hudson Brothers were is one way to mark the point when it all went downhill to a disco thump with white line fever. I hope it is enough.

We discovered too late that peace is the time between wars and that we can't trust those who want to fight them for ideals or those who want to fight them for profit. In the end, we see how little difference we actually made except to notice we haven't blown up the world yet.

"Peace and love and all good things have a price, I know that's so.
But I didn't know how bad I'd feel now it's my son's time to go."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Blood Tests

Back in for blood tests today. The lymph nodes in the neck are swelling so there will be another CAT scan next week. Not to worry too much though. The blood tests looked good and it's still very early in the game. It's a bit of lousy karma for a singer given I have a scheduled performance in a week at church (You Raise Me Up) and two new songs ready to record as soon as I can do it.

The job is high presssure but that's ok. It is great fun to lead a team of good folks doing something worthwhile with the code. I'm bringing the laptop home and working late hours but it is fun. ASP2.0 is probably better but I could debug a response.write statement just looking at it. The easier the framework tries to make building a web page, the harder it becomes to debug it. I may be (no I am) old fashioned but stuffing the pipes with too much ease usually has the opposite effect. (For you non-geeks, ASP is a Microsoft application design toolkit).

In general, I am fine. The lawn is mowed, the bills are paid, and Dr Who is back on Sci Fi. I will release a new version of the River of Life 3D world soon.

Getting up happy about the day is such a change from the last few years of work. I have to hope it lasts a few years on balance and on account.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Blessed By This Love

Blessed By This Love

Sex is a hunger
Of the blood
For the body
For the love
Is the body that feeds

Bind me up
Bind me up
To the heart that can heal me
To the one who will love me for always

Let it shine
Let it shine
On our own peace of mind
Love me darling
Love is what we are made for

If this is love then carry me
Oh hold me closer now now I see
The light in you it shines in me
The light in you it shines in me
Oh blessed blessed blessed be
By this love blessed be
By this love
Be blessed by this love
By this love
Be blessed by this love
By this love

len bullard july 4, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Stefania Finds Sam

Stefania Finds Sam

Stefania finds my song at and writes:

"My family and my boyfriend think that I'm crazy for bewitched...when I'm a little bit sad I watch bewitched and I become happy..I don't know why!"

Bewitched became the story of a deep and eternal love of a woman of so much power she could make of the universe what she willed but she willed the universe to choose by choosing first what she loved and then what she would do to protect her love. When an all powerful being protects love, such is the path of chivalry where the choices of love are clear and faultless.

... and Liz fit that to a bill.

Friday, June 01, 2007

You Want It Bad

You Want It Bad

He tells you that it is the last thing
You tell him but its not the right thing
Its seldom what you want
Its never what you need
You can't keep it but you want it when you see it

And you want it
You want it
You want it
You want it bad

You want it
You want it
You want it
You want it bad

It caches out on the wrong word
It makes a noise in the night now
It's basically what takes a bad day
And makes it something that you're cool with

And You want it
You want it
You want it
You want it bad

You want it
Know you want it
You know you want it
You know
You want it bad

It blisters white hot coals on the soles, y'all
Goodness gracious
You walk through fire like you reall don't care
It scares the blood inside
It keeps you up at night
Torments your soul until you're scared of dieing
But you know you want it
You want it
You want it bad
Because you want it
You want it
You want it bad (repeat a face)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Gig With the Vampires

A Gig With the Vampires

A diagnosis from the oncologist, two days at the new job and a gig among the vampires. So far, so good.

The oncologist gave me a new name for the cancer with the same prognosis. It is a mix of news as expected. The cancer is a form that is incurable. Apparently far worse and more aggressive forms will go away for good and always if the patient can survive the treatment, but every attempt gracious and offensive has been turned back by this one on every patient they've tried, bled, and put back on the street. Like a bad haircut, it can be lived with but unlike one, you can't outgrow it or cut it all out. The good news is it is slow to grow, can be treated with smaller doses and until it gets to a certain stage of symptoms, they don't treat it at all.

So I feel fine. Really. I have a nasty cut on the neck where they took a lymph node(I have more and won't miss that one), and later this week, they will punch two sizes of needles through my pelvic bone (big ouchie) to take some bone marrow. If things go as expected, I go back to work and stand around for the rest of the day, then go to my son's bacaulaureate. Not too bad really.

The new job is fun two days in. UAI is a small company that builds public utility web software. It's good looking stuff too. After years of big and small teams in mostly big companies, a small privately owned outfit is a fantastic change. I won't be able to say much about my current project, of course, but it isn't a stretch of the imagination as much as it is old fashioned software engineering and after the last nine years of being too near the smell of sulphur and ashes in purgatory, I feel very liberated and hopeful that this is exactly the right place to be. My dharma, artha and kama feel well-adjusted.

I played the Bluebird in Nashville on Sunday night. I went with my best bass playing buddy, Steve Weber, a guy who's incredible talent is on almost every song I've recorded since I was twenty. The Webelo and I had a fun time driving up and back. It was a beautiful day on I-65 driving the hills up to Abergavenny. Just perfect for the heart of the American South in springtime: sweet sunny hot and blue.

The Bluebird? I think the vampires took over since the last time I was there. Now I know what happened to the Sunnydale crew after Spike exploded and Buffy left for Italy with the Immortal. They've 'gone country'.

The Bluebird on a Sunday night is a strange experience and has been since I first played there over a decade ago: very small, very crowded, full of tourists and impossible to get even a bottle of water if you are a songwriter instead of a high tipping tippler. Well, at least they used to bring us water.

Over the years, the room has changed not at all but the staff has quite a bit. When the announcer said that I had played at the "Ray Acooof TheAtre", (Roy Acuff, NERD!!), that he and his wait staff worked their days at major labels in Nashville and that he personally owned a 'artist management and publishing company' (who doesn't dude?), and that at the end of the night, HE and HIS STAFF would vote one of the ten performers off the regular roster (in the days when Amy ran it, if you could pass her audition, you could play there once every six months forever), I knew that the sad truth is there is very little country left in the home of country music.

And really, that is NOT a good thing.

I'm not a country songwriter; I'm a folk rocker who cut his teeth on the soft sad with JohnPaulGeorgeANDRingo and on the sharp blade with Skynard and Hank. Still, I like any songwriter bar if they treat the songwriters with respect and help us find our way to the stage and to the van afterwards. While once upon a time, we all needed a place to show off our songs, to be discovered, to find management and a label, to get demos financed and so forth, anyone can own the gear, hire a lawyer and put out a CD. We used to write for the radio but now we write for the web and frankly, there just ain't that much we need from The Majors these days.

Yet, something strange happens when any establishment becomes an institution in its own right. The Bluebird is a converted sewing shop in a small strip mall on Hillsboro Road. Despite the fact that possibly many millions of shekels have been made there, they've not changed the carpet or the photos on the wall in all those years. In other words, it has become a cash cow for the career-aggressives who exist in any moderately successful business and take over a hot scene for their own personal pursuits. And then it becomes grotesque.

Rather sad. The Webelo and I played our set of my three original songs and split quick back to the Rocket City. You see, I need Nashville about as much as it needs me, so as much fun as I have there, I'm not looking anymore. I just don't need a "Destination Mall" with sixty five clothes horse shops in bright white and overhead lighting with a book store with six aisles of self-help books and only once shelf with old computer science titles and no Radio Shack. I mean.. really.

All the good stuff in my life is right here, downstairs, getting ready for school
tomorrow and being chastized by my ever suffering sweet baboo who keeps me going and loves me. And she is very good stuff.

Thanks to Tim Bray for the very kind words on his blog and the email it prompted to my inbox. Many thanks to all of you. The news I got got my attention and it has spun me around. Like a car flipping end over end in the air in a crash stunt in a movie, I watched the world spin around me then came down on all four wheels in the middle of the road still doing the limit a bit banged up but in the right direction.

And you know what? I am not alone. It's all good.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Oh Happy Day!

Oh Happy Day!

Happy news for my friends and others. The diagnosis for the cancer is chronic lymphatic leukemia. That sounds bad but it is one of the most treatable and people live for decades with it. I'll find out about the treatment this week as I continue to traverse the co-pay food chain (One Doctor = One Fact. Repeat Until > BlueCross || Death). :-)

On Friday, I was hired by a local small software firm as a senior application developer applying web technology. I am looking forward to this in soooo many ways. Exciting!

I seemed to have turned a corner and things looks wonderful. Death notices get your attention, yes they do. Every day is a better day now. Sounds dramatic, but it is oh so true.

Off to the Bluebird in Nashville now to play at Songwriter's Night. Life is... good.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Secret of the Christ

The Secret of the Christ

Many thanks to you who sent messages of faith and support. I'll be fine. Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL) is very treatable. National Hockey League (NHL) isn't. There is no cure for hockey. Pick your acro-numbs wisely.

We’ll be ok regardless. We have each other. This is the great mystery and the secret of the Christ.

The church says it is a great mystery that God became a man and God died for mankind. They couch it in ceremony, tell you you need an intercessor, preach miracle and destiny and faith.

God cannot die, so God cannot give up life. God can give life. God gave Jesus a life as a man and whatever anyone believes, it was a man that died on the cross because only a man can die willingly. When the man rises, that is the gift of God.

Life is God’s gift to man. The death of the Christ is a man’s gift to God.

To serve others in selfless love was the example made and followed and this is the secret of the Christ. For two thousand years since that death, men and women have walked this earth humbly or proudly but giving of themselves to relieve the pain and suffering of others because of the man who died on the cross. The secret of the Christ is not a secret and not a mystery. What we will do for each other, we have done for God. That we will do this is the great mystery and that God knows this is the marvelous faith. From God comes love, to God goes love and to each other, all that love can bring or needs is given.

Be well. I love you. Take that as meant, not as others might think it means or ever makes of that less than it is or more than it is.

What love is, that is a mystery.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Sitting here working at the keyboard about a month ago, I noticed a small lump beneath the skin on my throat. While having a check up, I mentioned it in passing to my general practicioner who recommended antibiotics. When the lump stayed, it was off to the ENT. I thought those were the tree beings in Lord of the Rings. It turns out they are Ear Nose Throat specialists.

Today I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma, a form of lymphatic cancer. There will be a surgery next week to take the seriously swollen node for a biopsy to determine the stage and type, but cat scans reveal other nodes in the throat and chest, and the needle aspirant says its NHL.


Not my year, I guess. I am about to get acquainted with procedures I've seen done to others so I've a fair idea what is coming. So far I feel fine but do me a favor and keep a good thought for my family.

If the quantity or quality of the posts here go down, that is the reason. If they go up, well, mirabile dictu.

I've good doctors so please don't send 'the Aunt Martha lived to be a hundred with this disease' stories. That has a way of being very depressing.

Life among the mammals is a struggle for many things, life itself being one among many. And so it goes.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Some days here at Casa LaMammal, we play trivia games. Being compleat geniuses and patriotes, we like to ask questions only a compleat idiote would bother to know. This is where we find out just how good your memory is, how bad your TV habits are, or if WikiPedia and Google really know everything not worth knowing. After all, that is why we call it 'trivia'.

Be warned: these are tricky.

Where did Peabody go to college?

What was Peabody's first job after graduation?

What was Peabody's second job after graduation?

Why did Peabody adopt a boy?

Where did Peabody find the boy?

Where was the boy living when Peabody decided to adopt him?

What was the recommendation accepted by the judge for Peabody adopting the boy ?

What is the name of Peabody's boy?

What did Peabody give his boy on his birthday?

What did the gift do?

Why did Peabody give his boy this gift?

Where did Peabody and his boy go on their first outing?

Whom did Peabody and his boy meet on their second outing?

What did the boy call Peabody?

What is the name of the series that starred Peabody and his boy?


Google is still insisting titles in this blog need to be in devanagri script. Since I didn't change any settings, they must be having a true Sanskrit-moment at headquarters. Weird. As long I add no spaces or other delimiters, the titles remain Engfish, but one wonders.

Eliotte now insists VRML isn't dead. It failed. Languages don't fail. People, companies, investments, initiatives all of these fail. Languages work or don't work. But if the metric is adoption, then it is just a 'size matters' metric. Here are some notable failures by that metric:

1. The Macintosh. All profits to the contrary, it is very much a minority platform. It is the classic loser of the desktop wars.

2. Netscape/Firefox/Mozilla. Huge embarassing failures. Despite the technical excellence of Firefox, it still can't chart better one in five, but like the dead newt, it's getting better.

3. SVG. It couldn't get a hearing in Congress with Jimmy Hoffa's body in its trunk.

4. XML. Where is that XML browser that was going to liberate us all from the tortures of programming in the DOM with innerHTML?

5. Ruby, Python, PHP, and a host of other open source minority languages. Javascript, on the other hand, claimed a place front and center and never gave it up.

It's an easy game to play but a game it is. Let's try looking at the more interesting points.

1. There has never been a time since VRML 1.0 that a viable VRML viewer wasn't readily available. There are more available now than when VRML was 'winning'.

2. The VRML is Dead or Failed meme originates in the States. Americans will declare 'mission accomplished' without ever checking to see if they really have and they will declare failure and loss as soon as the first trendy pundit tells tells them they are losing two points of market or mindshare. Webheads are lemmings.

In fact, the uptake and application of VRML and now X3D in European universities and markets have been wildly successful. That is why the Intergraph Corporation had to go to France to buy the French Homeland Security applications when Ingr had VRML experts on their own staff. They declared it dead, refused to support internal efforts and got caught with their pants down. Ooopsie.

3. The idea that all successful computer science originates in Silly Valley and that if the Americans don't use a language, it is a failure is the height of American zenophobia and arrogance not to mention a bit of ignorance.

4. Just a bit of Googling (if you can get it to quit transcoding) will show you some wildly successful applications of VRML. The same bit of Googling can show you some wildly impoverished American companies and professors. IBM among others are spending a very considerable amount of investor dollars to convince the world that we need open standards for 3D on the web when we already have them. The indirection is there to hide their own ambitions to obtain encumbered IP and licensing advantages through Second Life. I understand that. That's business. It's sleazy but it is altogether American business practice these days.

Languages work or don't work. People fail.

The latter case is possibly more disturbing because it means American professors in otherwise respectable universities are educating a generation of students in the politics of failure. Maybe that is not the right thing to do. Maybe a computer scientist should look as the applicability of a technology, become conversant in the means and uses of scene-graphs and leave the political analysis of failure to the marketing majors where learning to lie early and often is required if it isn't a natural talent.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

VRML and The MAC: Which Failed?

Elliotte Harold decides that VRML failed because it wasn't on the Mac. Jason Osgood claims it was because of XML.

Why is it on the web that people who don't do this kind of work, don't use a language, and aren't a part of the community that does get to decide that a technology is dead?

I say go to web sites such as and look at the work being done in X3D. Osgood, you gave up too early. Your's is a common complaint among those who did. Is XML uglier than classic VRML syntax? XML is uglier than almost any alternative syntax. But it comes with millions of lines of supporting code so while you are in a vocal minority, you are also in a very small one. As the song says, "you made your move too soon".

If all X3D is is a transcoding, I would agree. It is an ugly transcoding. On the other hand, significant improvements were made in the VRML design that you overlook including much improved nodes, a much better object model, a much better API (SAI) that supports AJAX.

Blaming the standards group for making your move too early is like blaming your parents for your last failed relationship. They may shape your decisions but they don't make them for you. You turned on it early when it disappointed you, and you won't look ahead or give those who stayed the course credit for what they have achieved. That's mean-spirited and not just a little self-immolating.

If VRML had failed, it wouldn't still be the single largest supported format for all tools combined when importing and exporting. If VRML had failed, companies like Octaga and BitManagement wouldn't be doing multi-million dollar 3D projects today. If VRML had failed, worlds built ten years ago wouldn't still be running in browsers built in the last two. If VRML had failed, the US Homeland Security department wouldn't be using it in HLS projects for training emergency responders nor would it be a US Navy approved standard.

What VRML could not do as has been pointed out so often is make 3D designers out of web page builders. It couldn't make real-time 3D as easy as document design. What it can do and is doing is provide a royalty-free unencumbered means to create 3D on the web and off. It saved a information space for use by those who cannot afford Maya but can master tools such as Flux Studio because they have the time and are willing.

You are missing the point, Elliotte, because you need a whipping post for another project that isn't winning mindshare as fast as you want it to. Like so many I've talked to about Open Office, you don't want an open unencumbered royalty free means to create and maintain information, you want to beat Microsoft. You want to hurt them. You want it so bad that you'll tell any story you have to and make the point on any back you can find. You are a better man than that.

X3D/VRML is succeeding. Do your homework and look at the URIs. Look at the projects. Look at the software. I don't want EVERYONE to use X3D. We learned in VRML that too few have the talent and that ensures just as you find in SecondLife that a lot of the 3D is terrible. If they want to try, we provide the tutorials for free, software for free, and guarantee the lifecycle. That is all that can be expected. If they can't make a go of their business or their relationships, that's life. The world will let you die, it will let you starve, it will let you lose. All a standard can provide is a chance to live, to make money, and to win at the business or hobby or art that you choose, but if you don't, it can't.

If you don't need 3D, don't use it. If you do, look at the costs of building it and maintaining it because it is by nature one of the highest cost content types, so if you do use it, figure that out fast because you will burn your customers just as the early wysiwygers before HTML and XML burned customers with closed encumbered systems that died without even a chance of rehosting. Then take another look at VRML/X3D and ask if the only metric for winning in some markets is surviving. Osgood has an axe to grind. Elliotte, you have a cause and may you get what you need, but don't do it on the back of a worthwhile effort that has done everything necessary to succeed with its values intact and its content still wrling a decade later. There aren't too many pre-dot.bomb standards that can make that claim and those that can did because their real users kept them alive. Don't insult them because you didn't.

Caveat vendor.

Friday, April 20, 2007

It's the Network, Stupid

I do tire of the 'but where are your patents?' question for starting a Web 2.0 business. Complexity barriers and web 2.0 are antithetical. Then there is the 'how much ad revenue can you generate? Isn't that impossible in today's market?"

That is a better question. Not to be dull, but:

1. The VC approach relies on the Buffet Complexity Barrier to Competition. Thus, the VC looks for IP or other secret sauce. The VC wants a quick return because the heart of this and hedge fund investing is quick turnaround investing in the 4 for 1 range.

Say vig.

2. There is no complexity barrier in ANY content market. The music industry can explain this one to you, but essentially it is an 'any idiot can do it' market. So the content industry relies on the promotion or amplification of talent and the keiretsu of managed acts and events. Think of this as the control of resources for resources.

Note that recently Sony/RCA/Columbia Music announced and implemented a blogging policy. They don't accept CD submissions. They want musicians/composers/bands who blog and sign up on their VOX site. It is the single most interesting change in the music business in 100 years. The gates are finally blown open. That doesn't mean the politics aren't still there. They are possibly worse but they are finally accessible. This is the music industry recognizing the need to support the resources for acquiring resources at network speeds.

3. When a technology emerges, one can ride the wave until it becomes common and by that point must be large enough or well-connected enough to sustain operations to repay investors. Otherwise the churn is exactly as has been described elsewhere regardless of the size or age of the operation. Ask any mid to lower level employee of a stable company purchased by equity investors. The cruelty and the cost-cutting are legendary.

This is the result of squeezing for vig.

On the other hand, it is not impossible or even incredibly risky to run a content-based business if one takes the network or keiretsu approach. It is very hard work for those who do not have a good network of contacts for the production of the content with access to the customers for content of a given type. That is the key:

content has a type based on the associations of the customers.

Until you identify a content-type network, you don't have a Web 2.0 business. This isn't just figuring out the abstract network, but the actual members of more than one instance of it.

There is no dominance possible because by its nature such networks are quite flat. What you look for is reach. This isn't a hard idea because it is a matter of identifying the connectors, the information sinks, the producers, consumers and modifiers, then providing useful utilities that speed up or reduce the work load for every component that can effectively use a computer form or page. You don't necessarily produce content: you hook up those that do and then compete fairly for those services. VCs hate this idea. Customers love it. The money is made in maintenance and it is dammed good income if you survive.

You can also produce the content, but that is a separate business. It is not of necessity NOT a Web 2.0 business, but that is a topic for a different blog. See my other blog.

The hard part is building it to the point of getting the exponential or power law effect. A LOT of little pieces have to be assembled first and those without subject matter expertise are advised to get people who have it and to be sure that their expertise is reasonably global but immediately local. That is where the real risk is. Some content markets are entirely local by the very business rules for processing the content.

All said, it's the network, stupid, meaning, until you have identified an organic content network, meaning a network of information trading relationships, all of the cpm figuring you do, the ad relationships and so on, are so much dreaming. It isn't about getting rich quick. That is the way the Mafia does business and they are mostly sloppy, ineffective and culturally insane. Earn it by product for value. It's old fashioned but stable and grows proportionally to sane returns.

We don't all want to be pirates.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kathy Sierra, Don Imus, Codes of Conduct and the Success of Meanness

A modular code:

Compassion. Tolerance. Self-restraint.

And a very old one. It works for the same reason other code does or doesn't: lots of time and many runs so thoroughly debugged.

People don't get the point until they feel the pain of the pleasure of the practice. It's not a bad thing to cheer for civility. Leaders should. But as the Imus situation is showing in America, what you are willing to do about it and how deeply you are willing to consider that action before doing it says more about your civility than your abhorrence or acceptance.

A decision, a code, any choice really is drained of its potential by all of the subclauses. As soon as you noticed Sierra's case, you spoke up. What about the years of misbehavior preceding? Did you speak up because she is your friend or a female or an attractive female? Is it a human issue of dignity or a sexist issue of gender over gender?

A thread runs through these debates and others like it. There is an increasing revulsion to violence in the world for reasons too obvious to debate. The web is not a different medium; it just has more readily available microphones so everyone is at the podium right now. That's good, but it isn't that different.

Something like the Imus case becomes an opportunity for many powerful agendas to be attached to an issue of the moment, to ride the media whirlwind into public consciousness until it is so overloaded that it fails to make much change unless followed by an even more egregious incident of the same type. That is terrorist thinking and a terrorist strategy. It is what so many are becoming because by example, they see it working and being intelligent, they adapt to the strategy that is succeeding.

Mean has been succeeding for a long time on the Internet. It isn't men being mean or women being mean, or bloggers being mean or listers being mean, it is mean succeeding. You do better to understand why mean is the successful strategy than to create complex codes that chip away at the freedoms you worked so hard to gain in society and with these technologies.

Until you know why mean succeeds, you don't know what you need to do about it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Losing Murdock

Today we had to put our Sheltie to sleep. At age 13, Murdock's liver finally gave out and he spent the last week on the floor sleeping or on the front porch watching his enemies, the squirrels. Last night my wife slept on the floor next to him because he would bark during the night being in pain, not wanting to be alone and being scared.

Murdock was a sturdy beggar. When I picked him from the litter, it was because he was the one who ran out to bite my toes. Shelties are the sweetest breed of dog and one of the smartest. Easy to train and uncannily good at learning English and teaching dog, they are good company, good friends and the soul of what it is to be a family guardian.

Lots of tears at my house today. Two inconsolable teen agers, a Mom who needs to sleep but can't, and a Dad who needs to start looking for another Sheepdog. Murdock was my third Sheltie, the second Murdock and the last, and the best of them. He has been my company during this long period of unemployment and I'm pretty sure that next week while the kids are at school and the wife goes back to work, I'll be in front of this keyboard crying too and missing my best friend.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

The deepest love is not known by what we gladly gain for others, but by what we dearly lose.

Agnus dei,
qui tollis pecata mundi, miserere.
Dona nobis pacem.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bluesophiles, Flame Warts And Other Irritants

I note that several bloggers are taking notice of the death threats to a female blogger. Is the Mean Machine finally getting some attention because it's a girl on the receiving end? Would it make any difference if it weren't a pretty girl? One wonders.

Nasty stuff. No one deserves that. It is a risk of popularity and notoriety but that doesn't excuse it. I think we might want ask if the web has been rewarding the bullies because bully pulpits make for bully behavior. A kind word and a big stick have become the politics most favored by many an emergent power.

We've been reading conversations like that for years. Some have made themselves famous doing it. I remember Berners-Lee trying to mollify Jorn Barger on the old SGML list years ago when TimBL was the only one Jorn would listen to after Jorn had been banned from lists as whitebread as the Kate Bush fan list. Barger went on to be famous in Beltway circles for RobotWisdom despite the fact that just a little searching revealed he had lifted ideas from his university sponsors before being asked to leave his position there. After doing some checking, I concluded he was yet another web psychopath but he was being lauded for it. That was when I realized the web was and is Clockwork Orange. On the other hand, as irritating and nasty as he was and probably still is, Jorn signed them with his real name.

I don't think this behavior will ever stop because frankly, the web has been making heroes out of people for this for too long now. We've all flamed on from time to time and we always will, but I sign everything I write anywhere I write it and always have. Unless one is Swiftly taking on the King, it is bad practice to write using a pseudonym much less endorse it as the best way to contribute to a conversation. Game persona are crossing over into the blogosphere and that is bad juju for the blogosphere. It is one thing for commedians to write political satire; it is another for politicians to write comedy and expect us to laugh. There really are standards for that.

I usually send comments made by anonymous contributors to the garbage files. I think that is the one practice all serious or even hobbyist bloggers can use to spread baking soda on the flame warts. An oven catches fire when overheated food spills onto the burners and dries there, but it happens and the fire extinguisher is at hand because we are all a little sloppy in the kitchen. But on the web, it isn't enough to refer to polemics or past practices in other media. Few media have the amplifying effect and the pervasive cross-sectional demographics of the web. We ought to recognize the change in scale IS a change in type and be smart about adopting different rules.

Make a general rule to refuse anonymity. That is without doubt a wiser practice than to refuse a contributor because of their choice of web browser. Disallowing anonynmous posts isn't a cure, but it keeps us from burning down the kitchen.

Then we have the mob rule made popular by the whole 'wisdom of crowds' meme. There is a truth to the idea that with enough observations made, measured and compared against predictions, you get a sort of averaging toward the truth. What the meme in its populist form doesn't account for is sample size over time. Serious scholars were once taught to beware the zeitgeist because it is too easy for the spirit of a crowd at a time to be overwhelmed by the intensity of local events writ large. The right wing swing of American politics post 9/11 that enabled our catastrophic foreign policy of the last eight years to go almost uncontested is an example.

Then we have the Standards Game as it is being played in the dust up over Microsoft technologies and ISO. Some who will fight MS for any reason or none have easily been recruited into the more subtle cause of killing off the credibility of ISO which is one more front in the investor war on standards of any kind. It was realized fairly early in the Warren Buffet Fan Club that royalty-free unencumbered standards remove the complexity barrier sought by venture capitalists and the hedge firm investors. One would think they would laud ISO given ISO doesn't require those kinds of participation agreements, yet ISO has been aligning itself with the consortia that do and ISO is the gold standard of standards because of its reliance on processes and national body voting. It isn't that an ISO standard can't fixed, but it is obvious when it is done. Transparency of process is the real gold standard. Everything else is professional editing.

Where the W3C was finally reduced to being a wall trophy for its large members, others have followed their lead and ISO having recovered some of its lustre from the trampling it took in the early web years is being seen as a threat in the POTS (Proprietary Off The Shelf) initiative. Champions of POTS are the new voices of the small companies set to launch Web 3.0 by laundering their proprietary products as de facto standards before they even have products or de jure standards without understanding the meaning of that and hoping no one else does either.

So when a standard is launched, the open sourcers ask the three questions they should ask?

Is it open? Is it royalty free? Is it unencumbered?

But they don't usually understand the conditions for the conditions.

1) Those are not requirements for standards.
2) Those are conditions of participation in a given organization.
3) Those conditions are not common across all organizations.
4) Where those conditions are a requirement for participation by signatories to participation agreements, the signatory balances investor rights (ownership) against participation benefits. To not do so is to abrogate fiduciary responsibility to the owners. This is law. The IP owner has to choose and no amount of force will make that happen. The standard isn't law but the fiduciary obligation is.

To demand those conditions in all cases is unrealistic. To demand them by force of buying power is the market at work. To demand them by threat or increasing zeal demonstrated by making false claims or claims unsupported by evidence crosses a line being noted elsewhere these days in the blogosphere, but has been noted as a side-effect of anonymous contribution on the Internet in technical lists for many years before the web.

It is to use the web as a raw amplifier where seizing a microphone and pushing it into the speakers creates a disturbance irritating enough to clear most rooms. Note that this is harnessing the same effects that the Jorn Barger's of the early web days used. Note that it is no more effective in standards than in Barger's iconoclastic pursuits. It simply stinkies up the room, the list, the conversation, and actually empties them. Sometimes that is exactly the intension, but let's be clear, those are the tactics of bullies. The best thing to do with a bully is ignore them until they make a threat that crosses the legal line, then use the law to remove them from the room just as a bouncer would toss out a member of an audience who seized a microphone and stuffed it in the speakers.

If there are to be open, royalty-free, unencumbered standards, they will come not from irritation but by the signatories understanding of their power to increase marketshare by increasing the size of the market itself. They are created voluntarily. The products that conform to them must be sustained if not by profit based on sales, then by loss leader status or by other sources of revenue.

There can be values we all share for common good or majority good. We have to judge each opportunity on its merits. While the open source community is quick to claim a moral majesty for its values for its products, it is slow to recognize the greater good that other standards can create for even larger groups of customers and too often, members of that community will use any form of irritation or obsfuscation to deprive a larger community of such benefits when not offered in accordance with the open source conditions for participation.

Doing so plays into the hands of lesser angels. Some will not believe it because the use of irritation has become an enjoyable habit just as critique of music by those who cannot perform it becomes a way to assume a superior pose, but it is seen by those who do play as exactly that: a pose.

When we play to customers in clubs, we often see the Bluesophile. This is the guy that sits at the front of the audience, backwards in the chair, hands folded across his chest as if he were a music professor sitting on a jury at the end of the semester. He makes statements like "I want to hear something REAL!". When we ask what that might be he says in all seriousness as if his opinion had the weight of a passing grade, "Sweet Home Alabama." I don't make this stuff up. He really believes that. Why? He is from Michigan. He KNOWS that a "REAL" Southern musician plays that song as a matter of "AUTHENTICITY". He is to a Southern musician what a tourist asking a black farmer where his watermelons are grown is: a poser, a bigot, and a pain in the ass. His goal is to impress his friends that he can control the band with opinions he got from his massive record collection liner notes. Otherwise, he is a software engineer or a marketing executive or worse, the human resources manager at a local high tech firm without a clue about the blues, or any musical talent for that matter. He has a fat wallet and a big mouth and he knows we won't come after him as long as he has a big bar tab yet to be paid.

We hate those guys. They spend money on drinks to get the attention of the bar manager who will then listen to them. It isn't that the band won't play SHA, it is that they won't do it five times a night so this guy can get laid.

All ecosystems are systems of relatable niches, some large, some small, some brief, some sustainable, some symbiotic, some parasitic, but all niches. Convenient facts can make a case in a given context, but in no context establishes a truth for all. No niche defines an ecosystem. The working relationships do.

Watching the looming scandals in the Beltway, as the country endures another navel-gazing paroxysm not unlike 1973-74, my son asks the whys of this. I tell him that no matter how many times one is told, ‘accept this, that is life’ or ‘give a little to get a little’ or the other epithets that trade personal values for money, keep in mind that it is always a bad trade. What we give up in dignity for a job or an advance, we never get back and after awhile, the money is gone and the job is just another job. I’m an old Southerner and I never found any trade for honor worth making. I left my last job when a man looked at me and said, “It may be immoral and unethical, but strictly speaking, it isn’t illegal.” A trained lawyer knows that convenient facts can make a case, but they can’t make a truth, and it seems judgment is a matter of the authority to which one subscribes. One hopes justice never is, but if it seems to be, it is time to find another judge, and if that is not possible, another court, and if that is not possible, another lawyer.

And some nights, it is better to tell the bluesophile to shut the f**k up. And in almost all cases, if you don't want the Mean Machine to prosper, disallow anonymous comments on your blogs. You really can't rely on popular consensus when designing nuclear reactors, and you really don't get to vote on the law of gravity. In life, the wisdom of crowds and the pronouncement of the self-selected blogger is too often just the latest whimsy from the media or a guy who can't get laid without spending a lot of money first.

Lay back and enjoy the set, or move on to the next bar politely and quickly. Bar fights get out of control fast. So do oven fires in messy kitchens. So do flame warts. The best extinguisher smothers the flame at the source by denying it oxygen. The oxygen of the web is not a link. It is a link target.

Dance to the music, or hum along with your friends. Don't get wrapped up in the song too far or the notes too seriously. It is just stuff. If you go home with the right stuff, it is better stuff and when you go to work the next day, you can talk about that, or just hum and tap your feet mysteriously. Enjoy. That's when life among the mammals is real. And really life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Blog: 3D On The Web. CHEAP!!

To make things a little easier for readers of Lamammals who care about things 3D or don't, I've opened a second blog for my posts on 3D. There are four articles there now, one to introduce it, one which is the article on using Flux Studio to produce Surface of Revolution objects, and two new articles that are part of a tutorial on using VRML for animation sequencing, eg, storytelling in 3D.

See 3D On The Web. CHEAP!! for the cheapest book on 3D programming and design on the web, because... well, IT'S FREE!

Code sample complete, too.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

3D On The Cheap: You Say You Want A Revolution?

When I was a young musician, I owned a 1966 VW Microbus just like my hero, Arlo Guthrie. As with most trends, a practical reason drove the adoption of cheap technologies: a '66 VW bus had gears on the wheels that enabled a 40hp engine to push a heavy load a long ways reliably. It wasn't fast off the line but it was very cheap. For the young musician starting out, a van that hauled equipment, a bass player and two girls we picked up at the last gig to the next gig, that was a miracle of modern technology and the market.

Today I have less hair, the same bass player, and I married a girl that rode in that Microbus; so, regardless of the zeitgeist, a good affordable technology goes a long way toward getting you to the first gig and the last. My philosophy of cheap powerful tools has not changed; only the gig. I make 3D worlds.

Courtesy of Tony Parisi and Keith Victor and Media Machines, there is a cheap 3D editor that can do what that VW microbus could do: get you to the gig on time and under budget. In fact, unlike that bus which cost me $250 in 1973 dollars, this 3D is editor is FREE!

Yes, go to Media Machines and download your own copy compliments of the VRML/X3D community that has its roots in the early days of the web that had its roots in the early days of Free Beer world that had its roots in the Summer of Love. Make of that what you will, you can't haggle with a free lunch, and yes, they do exist. So let's take this buggy out to a gig.

Today, we are making pots. No, not the Gaz-Giz kind, but the kind you put in your new virtual apartment. You have one of those, yes? Everyone who is anyone does. Geez…

To do this, we use a feature sometimes called by graphics geeks, the Surface of Revolution. It sounds cool and it is. I don't understand a lot of graphicsGeekSpeak and you probably don't either, so say, Amen and move on. Think of the Surface of Revolution as a potter's wheel or a lathe. When the object is turned, it takes the shape where ever you are pressing on the clay or the cutting blade touches the wood or metal. In Virtual Reality, all of this is virtual. Makes sense, yes? You place points to create a line that describes the outline of one side of the pot, press the Show Me button, and the computer makes the shape. It doesn't get easier than that. Or cheaper.

If you have downloaded and installed the Flux Studio 2.0 editor, open it. On the left are the windows that display what you build. Think of these as your scribing surface, drawing panel, back-of-an-IHOP-napkin. These are where objects are displayed. Parallel and on the upper right is a Treeview control that enables you to select objects by their name and position them in the scene relative to other objects. Below that is the dialog that displays the properties of these objects. Of you select an object in the Treeview, the dialog below will show you its adjustable properties. These are displayed as tabs.

At the top are drop down menus. There are icons beneath and around the borders for different construction techniques. Click on the Create menu.

In the figure above, you see the drop down Create menu. Click the Create Revolution menu item. Take a moment to enjoy that thought.

A pair of small windows pop up on the screen. The one on the left is a drawing pane. Here is where you place, move, add and delete the points of the line that is a silhouette of the shape of your revolution. If you have a copy of the Jefferson Airplane "Volunteers", now is a good time to put it on. On the left of the screen in the Treeview, notice the small vase-like icon with the label "Revolution: Revolution1". The label is duplicated in the dialog "General Node Parameters" below.

The window to the left of the drawing pane is the control window for creating revolutions. As labeled below, you see that each button changes what the cursor does when you click in the drawing pane.

Surface of Revolution Control Panel

  • Insert point: adds a point
  • Add to end: the main control that adds points to either end of the line.
  • Move point: click on a point and pull it to the position desired.
  • Delete point: enuff said
  • Close points: this creates a closed shape.
  • Show grid: turns the grid on and off.
  • Snap to grid: forces entered points to be on a grid line.
  • Update: actually the "Update Solid and Close Window" command. Geeky. This is the command to create the revolution and close the two windows. It looks like an OK hand gesture. A V for Victory might have been more Revolutionary but Ok is Ok.

    Want a revolution? Got the revolution!

    Play with these. Enter some points, make some lines, pull them, delete them, have fun. Notice that the shape can be made smoother or jagged by adding and deleting points. If you push them out, you get ridges. If you push them in, you get a groovier pot. Enjoy the moment.

    Hint: the line should close on the diagonals on the left if you want the shape to be symmetrical and close at the top or bottom. If you want the top or bottom to be open, don't push the points to the line. After you make one or two, you'll get the idea. This is very easy stuff but the results are spectacular.

    There is your line. It looks like the alien that came to Serve Man in the Twilight Zone.

    Select the Update/Ok/ShowMeShapesOfThingsToCome icon. Whew! You've made a short squat top. Ok, that is a backwards pot. What can you expect from a dyslexic?

    Notice the lines around the shape. These are the vertices that make up the shape. Vertices create faces. Each area in the lines is an individual face. Look at the dialog on the left. You can change the number of faces that make up the shape by adding or subtracting from the # of Sides property on the Shape tab (the icon that looks like a pot). A higher number creates more faces and a smoother shape. A smooth surface looks good, but the more faces you add, the slower the animation. In any world with a single object, you can make a perfect rendering but as the world gets more objects, the world slows down noticeably. Be prudent when building these one at a time with an eye toward putting them into a more complex world later.

    At the bottom is a button labeled, "Edit Cross Section". If you click on this, you will re-open the drawing and control windows. Try it. This lets you look at the shape, then go back and edit it some more. Computers are way better than potter's wheel and lathes in this respect. You don't have to throw mistakes away.

    The window with the shape is divided into four different views: top, front, right and ISO. Where is left? Don't ask. The Man might be listening. If you have a mouse with a thumbwheel, when a view is selected, you can use the wheel to bring the shape closer or further away. This is very handy for doing detail work on an object..

    Click inside the Front View. Note that the lines go away and you can see your shape. Note also that the properties tab goes away. Not to worry. If you click on the vase with the label Revolution 1 in the TreeView, the properties dialog reappears.

    If you don't like the size, you can change it by changing the scale. One way to do that is to select the scale command from a menu that you don't see. Right click in the Surface edit window and a floating dialog appears. It duplicates commands on the other menus and adds more. If you want to scale the top, select the Mirror/Scale/Rot (rotation) menu item.

    Scaling is pretty obvious, but there is one beyond cool into marvelous feature there. Let's take a little side trip in our magic bus: notice the modest self-effacing Background Image menu item. Select it. This opens a dialog like the one you will use to paint the top as explained below.

    When you select an image here, it is loaded into the Surface of Revolution drawing window so that you can use it to trace points on a complex image. Now that is just simply hot. I used an image my friends may remember from my past VRML work. It is the symbol of a certain very hot British songstress. Never will meet her; never will forget her. Kate rules.

    Play with the other options as you have time. Remember you have a help file if you need to decrypt the geek speak.

    At this point, you may want to look at the shape in 3D space instead of in the three views. At the top of the Flux window third row, second from the left is an icon that looks like a Windows window with a cube in it. Note I said, top, not the left side where there is also a Cube. That is for making cubes, not looking at them. Droplets optional.

    Click on the Top cube. This will open the Flux Studio preview window.

    There is your top in all its 3D glory. Pretty cool stuff. Notice the controls along the bottom. These enable you to move the shape around in the preview window as well as take screen snaps. This preview window is a window in the editor. Your editing commands are still on the dropdown at the top. Click on the button on the far left at the bottom with the X inside it. This will close the preview window and return you to the editor.

    If you wanted a red top, you have one. On the other hand, virtual reality is psychedelic stuff and painted tops are way more psychedelic. In olden daze, we would whip out some dayglo paints so we could spin it over and over and over looking at colors whirling around and say, "Wow! Man!"

    These days we can do much better than that. We can plaster pictures right on that surface with the click of a button. Click on the TreeView icon Revolution1 as before to open the properties window. Select the tab for the single texture as shown in the figure below.

    Look at the properties dialog. There is a text entry box with a folder button to the right. This is for finding and loading a texture from a directory on your computer. Hint: it pays to collect textures from everywhere legal that you can get them and keep them. Cut up photos. Any spot on a photo that is reasonably flat facing you is a good candidate. Even if it is slightly skewed, you can use PhotoShop or even lowly Paint Brush skew commands to bring it back close to square. Making textures is a good hobby and it fills the time waiting for Battlestar Galactica to return.

    Notice that the dialog also lets you use movie textures such as animated gifs or even, those movies you are hiding from your kids. If you want a spinning top with Auntie Grizelda picking you up as a baby or an animation of geeks playing leap frog, have at. This is your world. No one can tell you what to do here. Way better than dayglo.

    Click on the folder icon. This will open a File Dialog for finding and opening images. Note that it also optionally will display thumbnails of the images in any directory you open. This is handy, but since thumbnails aren't always large enough to see what they really are, any image you select is automatically opened in a larger preview window. This is very very cool.

    For my version of the top, I've selected a free stock photo of a wild rose. I'm an aging flower child. Sue me.

    Hit the open button and the texture is automatically applied to the shape in the drawing pane. That's it. Not a single geeky graphics chore in the lot.

    But you may want to adjust it. Images are sometimes too large, too small, or upside down, or sideways. Not to worry. If you look back at texture properties window, you will see Drag options. Having Drag options is one of the most spiritual choices aging flower children and some nightclubs could ever dream of.

    Select the Drag To Scale if it is not selected, then put your cursor on the shape in the drawing pane. Move it up and down or left and right. Notice the image on the shape gets bigger and smaller, or multiplies. This allows you to set the texture sizes and positions to your tastes. You can also enter values into the text boxes.

    When you have more time, play around with the Multi-texture features. This lets you use multiple textures on the same shape not as additional pictures, but as a composite that changes the appearance by making it more luminous…. Eyurp… shinier, or gives it bumps like fabric by combining the textures in special geeky ways. You can waste many weekends playing with this feature.

    The next to last step is to look at your master work in a real 3D viewer. Flux Studio comes bundled with Flux, an X3D/VRML viewer. When you select the button at the top left of the Flux Studio window, the one that has X3D in stoned looking letters (who makes this stuff up?), the shape automatically opens up in the Flux viewers. Play with the controls to fly around it, rotate/examine it. Welcome to Virtual Reality!

    You want to save the top. Select the File command at the top far left. You can save your file as:

  • A Flux file. The editor internal format that enables it to be reloaded without importing it.
  • An X3D file. This is the new version of VRML97. It has two syntax options: the classic curly syntax or XML. X3D has more features than VRML97 and improved modeling fidelity. Spend some time on the web lists learning about these.
    VRML97: the original Virtual Reality Modeling Language (version 2) still in wide use today.
  • Compressed or uncompressed: the file can be saved as a gzip file for better life as a good netizen (say smaller and faster). Or if you like to hack inside the language itself, save it out as uncompressed and you can open it in PFE (Professional File Editor) for VRML or any of the amazing XML editors. Making objects in Flux Studio then studying the uncompressed file is a good way to learn the language.

    This is a vase I made with Flux Studio for a temple in the River of Life VRML/X3D Virtual Reality world. My wife wants one these for her real world knick knack shelves. This proves the online world and the real world are not only blurring, they are feeding on the same karma which is ultimately, the same thing. Very zen.

    The image on the vase is from a real Hindu temple wall panel.

    In the old days, I would have stashed combustible comestibles in this. Today, I'd keep it for my cremation remains.

    Ashes to ashes... bus to dust.

  • Comment Policy

    If you don't sign it, I won't post it. To quote an ancient source: "All your private property is target for your enemy. And your enemy is me."