A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: January 2006

Obsesity due to a virus??

New human virus linked to obesity in animals:

“The nearly simultaneous increase in the prevalence of obesity in most countries of the world is difficult to explain by changes in food intake and exercise alone, and suggests that adenoviruses could have contributed,” the authors state.

“The role of adenoviruses in the worldwide epidemic of obesity is a critical question that demands additional research.”

Sacred Harp at the Calvin Symposium on Worship

David W. Music of Baylor led a Sacred Harp workshop at the Calvin Symposium on Worship at Calvin College today. A good number of people where there– a hundred or more, including very large alto and treble sections. They were good, experienced singers who, for the most part, were unfamiliar with Sacred Harp singing.

David did a masterful job of leading people through the shapes and eleven tunes. He started with Martin, a good choice for new Sacred Harp singers struggling with the shapes because there is a lot of repitition and it’s ususally sung slowly. He introduced the ideas of the hollow square, how to lead, dispersed harmony (although not by that name), Dorian mode, and fuging tunes (with Lenox)–a lot to get through in an hour or so! But people were quite experienced musically, and they seemed game to try new things. A couple of people came up to me afterward to find out more.

Still, it seemed to me that most people left with the impression that Sacred Harp is just an interesting reenactment experience, and not so much a living tradition. David mentioned the growing popularity of shape note singing. I had visions of a rising army of organoclasts, but, alas, not from these ranks.


We have a big demo next week that requires at least one rain-free morning on Tuesday or Wednesday, so I’ve been checking the weather forecasts. One thing I’ve learned is that the National Weather Service publishes ‘forecast discussions.’ These give the rationale for the government’s weather forecasts. For example, from today:

After Sunday…the forecast becomes much less clear. Over the past several days…there has been significant variation in solutions both run-to-run of the same model and between the different longer-range models. In fact…even the entire envelope of GFS ensemble solutions has shown significant variation. There have also been some significant tropical developments over the past week that both have the potential to influence our weather in the extended portion of the forecast and which are likely to have not been captured well by the numerical forecast models. The general upshot of all this at present is that it appears there will be significant west coast precip at times next week…but with the best present assessment being that the primary focus will be north of our district. Nonetheless…rain chances will continue for all but our southernmost areas through the middle of next week…But with the details of the timing currently too uncertain to specify.

Showers of Blessings: The [non-offensive] 23d Psalm

CSS tech note to self

<style type=”text/css”>
p { font-size: x-small; color: red }
p { font-size: x-large; color: blue }

There are two CSS rules above. Which one should apply? The official answer is the *latter* defined rule is the one used. Reference: Assigning property values, Cascading, and Inheritance in the CSS spec.

Ways from Sunday

There might be a googolplex ways from Sunday to make a list like this:
Two ways from Sunday–the universe fails me.
Three ways from Sunday–regular punk band.
Four ways from Sunday–how friendship is tested.
Five ways from Sunday–Christian punk band.
Six ways from Sunday–emo poppy band.
Seven ways from Sunday–Short story collection.
Eight ways from Sunday–HP fanfic (rated R).
Nine ways from Sunday–an errant compass.
Ten ways from Sunday–Arena rock band.
Eleven ways from Sunday–ways to analyze a poker hand.
Twelve ways from Sunday–balanced Orc Goblin player lists (????)
Thirteen ways from Sunday–how science works.
Fourteen ways from Sunday–how to repent.
Fifteen ways from Sunday–how Bob Goodenow spins the situation.
Sixteen ways from Sunday–insufficient number of ways to study marketing.
Seventeen ways from Sunday–slip-sliding irony.
Eighteen ways from Sunday–ways guys can muff it.
Nineteen ways from Sunday–how to mangle a quote.
Twenty ways from Sunday–checkmate possibilities.

A million ways from Sunday–failed attempts at writing ASP code.

Mountaineer Whittling

I just liked this image (from an essay on Appalachian Music at the Library of Congress website).


Warning: trivial post ahead, involving a dream and the Oxford English Dictionary.

When I was a poor undergraduate student, I had a copy of the compact OED, but I had to sell it to buy food or something. By the time I got to graduate school, Northwestern had online access to the OED. Ah, I thought, I’ll never be without the OED again. But as soon as I left the university, I lost it. I was glad to regain it during the year I taught at Kalamazoo College (one of the liberal arts types couldn’t understand why I’d want to use the OED, but we’ll pass over this).

The other night I work up from a dream, in which I had to know the meaning of the word ‘pogue.’ It’s not in the freely available dictionaries, as far as I could determine.

But the BBC is allowing free access to the OED while they are doing some kind of special on them over in Britain. The catch is that you have to get to the OED using a UK IP address. But Dave’s proxy server allows just that, and I could look up ‘pogue’ in the OED:

A bag, purse, wallet or container. Also by metonymy, money, takings. Also attrib., as pogue-hunter, a thief who steals purses, a pickpocket.

So, until “13 February,” I can read the OED online.

I have no idea why I was dreaming of the word “pogue.”

Superhuman speech recognition?

Well, I got excited when I saw this article referenced on Slashdot: IBM Strives For “Superhuman” Speech Tech. It may be very good–and the Voicebox in-car technology looks similar to what we worked on at I/NET–but:

On their automatic translation software: “The software development kit (SDK) is available now, but no final products exist yet for consumers to purchase. A product will probably not be available to consumers for at least another 6 months, an IBM representative said.”

On their sort-of near real-time Arabic transcriber: “Don’t expect to tune it in during lunchtime, however; Roukos hinted that the price will to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

It turned out to be just a successful press release after all.

"On outsourcing art"

Nice essay by Natalia: On outsourcing art.

Singing is a particularly sticky issue. There’s something horribly personal about letting a sound that’s unique to your body come out of your belly, susceptible to being heard by others — a bodily emission rendered as sound. Could such a thing ever be wanted? Even playing a cello (that lengthy embrace) is more detached. There’s an element of that embarrassing affect, enthusiasm, that’s necessarily present in singing. You can only be so hip and detached when you sing.

Yet what could be more natural than singing? I’ve heard so many people protest, “I only sing in the shower,” or “you should pay me to not sing.” The assumption is that singing is a performance practice, that when singing happens, the room is suddenly divided into those-who-are-able-to-sing and audience.