Thursday, August 22, 2013

Debugging C/API python extensions

I feel really fracking dumb right about now. But at least I now know how to use GDB (the Gnu DeBugger) on this kind of project. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Today in burying the lead

Headline (of an op-ed-style blog post by a Guardian editor involved in the story): "David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face".

WTF-worthy story down at the end of the post:
During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian's reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government's intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?
The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.
I, for one, feel much safer knowing that this is how Britain's antiterror squad thinks.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An open letter to Norma Jean frontman Cory Brandan Putman

Dear Mr. Putman:

Thanks at least partially to Randy Blythe's prosecution (and, thankfully, ultimate acquittal) for the death of a fan in concert, metal musicians and fans have started having a conversation about everyone's responsibilities at shows. Randy himself wrote an eloquent and moving blog post about this idea:
Perhaps one day I will be able to express what I felt when I finally learned I was to remain free, but right now I am still trying to understand it. Relief, certainly, but there was a greater part welling up in me, something like disbelief saturated with a deep sadness. A fan of my band was dead, and a family had been shattered...
If you are in a band... make sure that security is adequate and that barricades are properly placed. A dead fan of my band would still be alive today if those two things had been in place in Prague that night in 2010. I never saw that stage before I set foot on it, and I wish I could go back in time, inspect that nightmare set up, let the people in charge know...
This is our community, and we should take care of each other. A show is a place we are supposed to be together, having a good time, supporting one another. The real world will beat you down enough -- we don’t need to get stomped on at a show.
I encourage you to go read the whole thing; but before you click away from here, I want to talk about your reckless and irresponsible set last night.

A bit of background for readers not present: Norma Jean and nine other bands played an installment of the Summer Slaughter tour last night at the Ogden Theatre in Denver. NJ were seventh on the bill -- they have been putting in the hard work of writing, recording, and touring for years, have built up a base among the fans and respect among their peers in the business.[1]

I'd never been to a show at the Ogden before last night, so I have no idea whether the floor layout was unusual for that venue. (Even if it was, what I have to say doesn't change; see Randy above on the responsibility for the band to inspect the setup.) It was certainly unlike any other venue where I've seen shows before: instead of one flat GA section, the main floor was divided into three or four flat levels about 15 feet deep, at elevations staggered by maybe a foot, with steel barrier between each section (navel-high to those behind, shoulder-high to those in front). On the face of it, this is kind of a cool idea: many more of the fans on the floor will have a good line of sight to the show, a place to hold on to, etc.

But if you've ever been to a metal show, a moment's thought suffices to paint a picture of how strange the audience dynamics on this floor will be. On a floor without these barriers and level changes, some fans will press forward to the front rail; the main pit will form behind them, ringed by a wall of people enforcing the boundary of the mosh. This is for everyone's safety: I'm frequently in this boundary, taking the impact of guys (and girls) propelled by themselves or others at velocities they can't control, because I'm there expecting and prepared for it.

But at the Ogden, that was damn near impossible. People who didn't want to mosh stood on the second level; the back of the pit was not metalheads with crossed arms, but sections of steel barrier.

The second unusual consequence of this layout was that there was no place on the floor with really high density of people. On an open floor, the human density increases steadily towards the front rail (with the exception of the hurricane that is the mosh pit). But at the Ogden last night, the press forward was broken up by the section barriers.

And this is important for you, Mr. Putman, because of the invitation/instruction you issued to the crowd last night: you threw down a challenge to go crowd-surfing.

That was a really, really, bad idea. A fucking irresponsible idea.

Why? What is the first rule of being in a crowd where crowd-surfing is going on?


If someone is up on the crowd's shoulders, if there is any space at all between those bodies, they will find a way to fall into that space. Then the crowd will have to desperately try to catch them and lift them back up. That, or the surfer can fall onto their head.

In case we're not clear: a fall from six feet onto a hard floor, leading with your head, is a good way to end up dead.

This is why a surfer never, ever launches themself toward an active mosh pit. There is a huge active hole surrounded by people whose attention is directed entirely inwards, or towards the stage. A surfer who gets propelled into the pit is ending up on the ground, and probably hurt.

Anywhere else on the floor, the key to keeping a surfer in the air is for everyone to throw their weight towards them. Everyone, within a five-foot radius. There is a natural inclination to stand back, to let those who are holding the surfer up proceed unmolested. THIS IS A FATAL MISTAKE. You must press towards the surfer, to close up any space between those holding him or her up; the surfer must continue to move toward the front rail, toward higher human density, until they can be caught and safely returned to their feet by the trained security guys between the rail and the stage.

And at the Ogden, this was impossible. There was, nowhere on the floor, sufficient density of bodies to hold up a crowd-surfer. And if a surfer did cast himself on the mercy of the crowd's shoulders from the second level or above, what would happen when they reached the front barrier rail of that section? There are no burly security guys to catch them -- just a pit full of frenzied moshers looking out for themselves, or fans facing forward, totally unprepared to catch a body coming in from a foot or more too high.

Through the first six bands, Mr. Putman, the crowd understood this. The pit in the front level mostly took care of itself -- when it reached critical mass, people took it upon themselves to line the back barrier and prevent out-of-control human/steel impact -- and the rest of the crowd banged head and rocked out with their feet firmly on the floor.

And then you challenged the crowd to do otherwise.

And more than a few did.

And that broke the "take ye fucking care of one another" ethos that makes metal such a community.

And we're lucky that no one got seriously hurt or killed last night. A couple of times it was a very near thing indeed.

So please, metal fans: protect each other when there's crowd-surfing going on. Throw yourself at the surfer, plug the hole that their body will try to fall into.

And please, bands in general and Norma Jean in particular: be more carefully.

[1] Full disclosure: I'm not much for metalcore, so NJ's set wasn't going to be one of the high points of my night regardless; but I freely acknowledge the skill and hard work the band has put in, and don't want to shit on them gratuitously.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Slaughter

Summer Slaughter tour
Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO (16 August 2013)

Thy Art Is Murder:

Rings of Saturn:



The Ocean

Cattle Decapitation

Norma Jean


Animals As Leaders

The Dillenger Escape Plan

Monday, August 12, 2013

First day of Mile High

Today was the first day of the Third Mile High Conference on Nonassociative Mathematics at University of Denver. Looks like a good group of people, only a few of whom I know. Yay for making connections.

Had lunch with Aleš Drápal today; I don't believe that we'd ever actually met before, though he immediately knew who I was, as I expected. The world is still small.

Neither he nor I are actively working on LD-related research at the moment, though finite LDs form nice test examples for computational packages; he mentioned that he has some unpublished theorems relating to the "levels" of homomorphisms between Laver tables. He also mentioned a direction of possible research that he had mostly abandoned, but where there might be results of manageable difficulty for a person or collaboration with the right crossover knowledge:

Let \( \mathbf{A} = \langle A; * \) be a LD-groupoid (probably finite and monogenerated). It is known that in some cases, such as when \( \mathbf{A} \) is a Laver Table, we can define an associative composition \( \circ \) on \( A \) satisfying
  • \( ( a \circ b ) * c = a * (b * c) \)
  • \( a \circ b = (a * b) \circ a \)
  • \( a * (b \circ c) = ( a * b ) \circ (a * c) \)
and that this operation is provably unique in the case of Laver Tables. (If \( \mathbf{A} \) is a Laver Table, then \( (a \circ b)^+ = a * (b^+) \).) Aleš thinks that the semigroups obtainable in this way may be interesting from a semigroup theory perspective, but couldn't find any collaborators in the 90s whom he could interest in looking at the problem in any level of detail. (He thinks there's less there in terms of the universal algebraic properties of these semigroups -- what kind of varieties or quasivarieties they generate, blah blah blah...)

To future me, who wants to play around with this problem: start with Aleš' paper in Semigroup Forum 51, "On the semigroup structure of cyclic left distributive algebras".

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stone Farking Wheaton W00tstout

Ok, this one is really nice. A lot of malt sweetness, both from non-fermentable sugars and from upper-end mash temps;a very nice (but subtle) touch from the bourbon barrel aging; pecans on the bottom of my tongue.

Also, it's dark as Satan's leathery wings, but not cloudy at all.

I need to give it another try from a tulip glass, I think. Maybe my brother's wedding this week will provide an opportunity.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Historiography, evidence, and the Bible

Yesterday, I found and shared this post from a blogger on the Skeptic Ink network (whose site is much less buggy these days, FSM be praised!) talking about the epistemological status of the historical existence of Jesus. One of my friends objected that
historians who deny that Jesus existed are about as prevalent as biologists who believe in Young Earth Creationism
I said that YEC is a poor comparison, since we have mountains of evidence to contradict it. (Literal mountains, even, now that I think about it.) My friend responded that we also have mountains of evidence for the existence of Jesus:
four different accounts that bear many elements of Greco-Roman bioi, plus extrabiblical attestations from reliable historians like Tacitus and Josephus? That's an incredible amount of evidence, considering we only have enough written works from the first century to fill a large bookshelf.

Attention conservation notice: this post is going here on the blog because it's gonna be too long to comfortably post on facebook.