JWL: random head noise or...?

...actual distinct voices speaking in my mind? Or is it just the weblog of James Lindenschmidt? Here you can see me wrestle with this and other questions, while spewing forth my writings, opinions, and hallucinations.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Creative Commons License

Saturday, January 31, 2004

I believe in reincarnation...

Indeed I do, at least in a virtual, blogging sense. For proof, check out check out my new webpage/blog. I'll be posting there from now on. This will remain for archival purposes.

Monday, January 19, 2004

a silent voice

I've been very quiet on the blogging front lately, for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that I have been working on a new plan for JWL.Freakwitch.net, which will be my new website/weblog. I also installed a new monitor, a new graphics card, and Fedora Core 1. Linux, as always, keeps getting better and better, every time I reinstall, it's a huge improvement over the older version.

Also, I'm testing new blogging software (gnome-blog at the moment). More later...

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

A reason for optimism? or: Further evidence that one be an optimist and an activist at the same time

I had an insight tonight. It is related to the problem I've now had for quite some time, in that I have found it challenging to reconcile activism--or even political awareness--with optimism. The insight runs thusly: let's take the sum total of Bad Things That Are Happening Now, and simplify/condense it. Generalize it into one coherent entity that can be talked about, similarly to the way it is possible to discuss a "class" which is actually a highly complex web of mostly sovereign individuals. Now, let's consider the set of individuals who are orchestrating these Bad Things. There are a certain set of people who are profiting from them, and who want them to come to be. Call this theoretical construct whatever you like; for now, I'll call it The Conspiracy (he said satirically).

There is another set of individuals who are directly fighting The Conspiracy. Here I include many Iraqis, Afghanis, people who are dying in the wars of neoliberalism, people whose oppression is so severe that their very survival is in question.

Both of these sets of people have a limited population, though I suspect the latter are already much more numerous than the former. Several hundred million total, I would guesstimate. Perhaps a billion.

The rest of the world is largely indifferent. These are the vast majority of people today.

That said, my insight is this: when this set of people, by far the most numerous in the world, begin to care about the deeds of The Conspiracy, the compassionate, ethical, rational, logical, just, and good thing to do is so obvious, that these untold masses will come in "on our side." That is, The Conspiracy is now at its maximum population, while our numbers are always and steadily increasing. This increase is exponential and will one day reach critical mass. At that time, from a metaphysical perspective, the tide will turn. The Conspiracy will be undone.

So as far as I'm concerned, the only remaining question is how much damage will be inflicted between now and then. We will need healers.


The best analysis yet of the SCO lawsuit

For those of you following the Intellectual Property story, a good understanding of the SCO lawsuit is essential. Basically, SCO is one of the old Unix companies, and they are pretty much obsolete with the onset of Linux, which improves upon and replaces Unix. Their response to these conditions has been to sue IBM for contributing "intellectual property" source code to the Linux kernel. In short, they are claiming that Linux contains some of SCO's IP, and that IBM is responsible for it being there.

By most accounts, the suit is quite bogus. But one of my favorite IP lawyers, Lawrence Lessig, has finally written an analysis of the situation. It's a great summary. Go read it, if you find such things interesting.


9/11 Victim's widow sues George W. Bush

I wish her well. She seems to actually have a case. I hope the courts take it seriously.


Review of StarOffice/OpenOffice

There is a really complimentary review of StarOffice and OpenOffice up. StarOffice is basically Sun's version of OpenOffice with some extra proprietary goodies added (spellchecker, templates, etc.) and tech support. But essentially they are the same codebase.

I've been saying it in this space for a while now, but anyone needing basic office functionality should check out OpenOffice. It does everything I need, and many of those better than MS Office. At this point, I really hate working with MS Word.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Writer's Bloc

A new Writer's Bloc article, The Capital of Violence and the Violence of Capital is out.


New Chomsky Article

I want to bookmark Dominance and Its Dilemmas so I can come back and read it when it's not 1:30am. :-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

From Seattle to Miami

Here is another good piece, From Seattle to Miami, about the upcoming FTAA negotiations in Miami.


FTAA Countdown in Miami

I'm starting to keep a close eye on what's happening in Miami. I haven't really begun to understand what the story is there, or what the FTAA is trying to do there. This article should help. I'm blogging it here so I can refer back to it.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

More Wechterage

Still been introducing myself to my new guitar. She told me her name today, it's Annabelle. Annabelle Wechter.

This guitar is solid. Where my old guitar feels fragile in my hands, Annabelle feels like I could smack something with it and break it. It's more massive than you'd expect, and the weight is shifted to the neck. Definitely a different feel, that I love.

But she's already wearing me out. The action is definitely too high. This guitar clearly needs a good setup. The truss rod in the neck might need a little bit of a tug, but I'm switching to a lighter gauge string (Elixir Polyweb Custom Lights), so the neck could shift on its own. The nut looks great. It was hand-carved. The saddle is also shaped beautifully, it is simply too high. The underside of the saddle needs to be sanded down, probably by as much as 1/8". I want the action to be as low as possible without fret buzz. It's a precise operation. I would have to get a flat piece of plywood, my staplegun, and some sandpaper (what gauge?), and run the saddle in my hand across that. Plus, the neck is wider than what I'm used to, but once I get used to that it'll be fine. The neck width is actually very close to my Ibanez electric.

I'm thinking of taking Annabelle on a little trip into the White Mountains in New Hampshire to get tutored. There's a really amazing little shop in Ashland called the Vintage Fret Shop. It is situated alongside a river in an old blacksmith's shop. It's where I played a Wechter for the first time. The guy has a little shop set up right in the front of the store, and oh yeah, he sells guitars too. Very cool. They have very reasonable rates (I was quoted $10 to set up my guitar with low action), and their shop just exudes competence. Plus, their repair guy has a degree in philosophy. Too cool. I think I'll have them work their magic on Annabelle as soon as I can get out there. Then perhaps my new mistress will be gentler with my poor fingers. :-)


plucking my wechter

I got a new guitar today. It's a Wechter Pathmaker Model 3120. I like it a lot so far. The strings that came with it were horrible. I took them off and replaced them with some cheapo strings I had laying around, until I can get to the music store to pick up some Elixirs. Much better.

The acoustic tone has a lot of potential. It's a small-body guitar, so it's not going to have the punch of a Dreadnaught acoustically. But it has some sparkle to it, a very even, balanced (if a bit boxy) midrange, and I should be able to dial in the bass setting I need electrically. Acoustically, the low end is a bit better than my 15-year-old Alvarez WY-1. In all, I expect the guitar to sound better with age. It definitely has that "new guitar" sound. Slightly boxy in the midrange. But I look forward to recording it with some nice condenser microphones.

I haven't plugged it in yet, but that looks to be the most interesting part about the Wechter. It has a 3-pickup system: a piezo pickup under the saddle, a magnetic pickup across the soundhole, and a condenser microphone on a little gooseneck inside the guitar. It will certainly give me a much wider tonal range than what my Alvarez provided.

The construction on the guitar is very, very solid. I expect this guitar to be much more durable than my last guitar, which I played pretty hard. To me, acoustic guitar is a percussion instrument, and while always respectful, I am not always gentle with my instruments. The neck joint is the most solid I've ever seen. The cutaways are actually a single, curved piece of solid wood. The assembly is very strong and vaguely shaped like a crossbow. The acoustic body is then attached to the cutaways, resulting in a very solid guitar from the neck joint up.

There was no strap button installed. I got a new drill bit and a new strap button from the store and installed it myself, according to instructions provided on Wechter's website. Now that the strap is in, it hangs nicely and comfortably. Because the neck is so solid, and the wood in the cutaways is substantial, the guitar is very balanced in weight. If anything, it's a little too heavy toward the neck. I look forward to playing this thing live.

There were a few small blemishes in the finish. Nothing I'm too worried about. One small annoyance is the placement of the fret markers. For most of the markers, they are placed closed to the fret itself, rather than halfway between 2 frets as on most guitars. However, the 17th fret marker is off; it is placed exactly between the 16th and 17th fret. Someone's measurements were off slightly.

The current action is a bit too high for my tastes. I need to lower it, which will entail sanding down the bottom of my saddle. I may take it to a luthier to have it done for me.

I've been looking forward to having this guitar in my possession, and so far it hasn't disappointed. It sounds good acoustically, should sound great electrically, and is durable. For the money, I don't think there is a guitar that more closely fits my needs at present. I am grateful to be playing it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Limbaugh Now Liberal

This article, Limbaugh Now Liberal, is really funny. Read it:
Former conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh shook the world of conservative talk radio today, announcing that he has converted to liberalism. The statement was made at a press conference following his 30-day treatment to overcome addiction to painkillers. "I don't know what the hell I was on for the past few years, but it must have been some really serious dope," said Limbaugh. "I mean, I must have been drinking some serious bongwater." Limbaugh said that he spent the first three to five days of treatment practically unaware of his surroundings, facing painkiller withdrawal after stopping the drugs for the first time since before beginning his popular national talk show. "Then -- at about day ten -- it was like a veil was lifted. I started thinking clearly for the first time in years."
Really funny stuff.... I like the juxtaposition between right-wing extremism and the stupid assumptions of the effects of drug use.


Corporatocracy - Wikipedia

I ran across the term Corporatocracy at the Wikipedia (online Free encyclopedia) site. Pretty cool word.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

OpenOffice 1.1 is out

OK, the release candidate is now officially a release. OpenOffice.org 1.1 has been released. You can get it from a reasonably fast server, Windows version or Linux version. I've downloaded them, but I haven't yet installed them. They shouldn't be much different from the one I've been using the past few days.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Writers, get OpenOffice now

If you are a writer of any sort, whether you are working on a novel or writing a 3-page paper for a class or something, you should go get OpenOffice immediately. It's a really good tool for writing, better than Word. I even like it better than LyX, which is saying a lot. The cool thing about LyX is that it is a document processor, not a word processor, which means the writer doesn't have to think about formatting the document. S/he just writes. LyX takes care of formatting automatically. Though you do sacrifice some flexibility, you more than make up for it in workflow. When I'm writing, I write faster in LyX, because formatting isn't an issue. And if you are really determined, and if you really, really hate the default formats, you can learn to hack the underlying LaTeX code to modify the document. But this is (for the average user) heady, geeky stuff.

OpenOffice has taken a page from LyX (or more specifically, from LaTeX, which is the markup language underlying LyX). It has a stylist, which allows you to do the same thing as LyX. You type, and tell the program what each part of the text is. For the title, you select the title and select "title" in the stylist. For a section heading, select "heading". Etc. Once you do this, OpenOffice takes care of formatting for you. The coolest part is that this automatic formatting is MUCH easier to modify than in LyX.

For shorter documents, this isn't such a big deal, but once your document is longer than a few pages, a stylist is indispensable. The best part is, once you have a template you like, you gain the ease-of-use and quickness offered by LyX, while retaining the layout flexibility of a wordprocessor.

In addition to the above, OpenOffice can publish to HTML. Unlike MS Word, the HTML it generates is actually pretty clean, and surprisingly representative of your formatting. In other words, the generated webpage looks surprisingly like the original document, even in terms of details such as line spacing.

Anyway, I'm really impressed with OpenOffice 1.1. There is absolutely no reason for a writer to use anything else. The best feature of OpenOffice is that it is free, and that the data it generates is stored in a free data format (.sxw files are basically zipped XML files). That way, you don't have the most profitable corporation in history standing between you and your data.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Look! The Emperor Has No Clothes!

This is a follow-up to the post from the other day. Apparently, Dan Geer, who was one of the authors of a report criticizing the dangers of a computer monoculture in the form of Microsoft dominance, was fired from his job at @Stake.

I guess intelligent, undocumented criticism of Microsoft is no longer a part of the corporate reality.

Friday, September 26, 2003

New version of OpenOffice

There is a new version of OpenOffice.org available, version 1.1RC5 (release candidate 5). I just downloaded it and installed. It's light years beyond the previous version (1.0.2) I had installed. The coolest new feature is that there is a button right next to the print icon to export your file to pdf. And it's all Free, in the best senses of that word.

It's available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.


Implications of Cancun

There is an article on ZNet called Implications of Cancun that I want to read, so I'm bookmarking it here.

I haven't really studied what happened in Cancun yet. I'm sure there are more articles about it.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Microsoft Reliance Threatens National Security

This story, to me, states the obvious. But it's only obvious because I've been thinking about the dangers of proprietary software for several years now. Go read it.

UPDATE: I just found another study (pdf file), called CyberInsecurity: The Cost of Monopoly. I haven't read it yet, but it looks interesting. I'll report back when I've had a chance to read it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Caffentzis and The Commoner

I was talking to my friend and teacher George Caffentzis the other day, and he recommended The Commoner: a web journal for other values. It's a nice site with some really good articles on it. In particular, I'd like to link to two of George's articles that are very very good. They do a good job of analysis of the political situation in Iraq: There are many other articles there, too. But start with the Caffentzis pieces listed above.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The War On Terror: a British Perspective

I want to put this into my blog, essentially to bookmark it so I can read it later. At first glance, t r u t h o u t - British MP: Attacks U.S. on 9/11 and War looks like a very enlightening article. And now Bush wants something like $87 Billion to continue his crusade. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Guitar strings, and Linux for business

There is an interview with Sterling Ball, who is the head of the Ernie Ball guitar string manufacturer. After getting audited by Microsoft and having to pay up $60,000, they switched to Linux and Free software. According to Ball, "One of the analysts said it costs $1,250 per person to change over to open source. It wasn't anywhere near that for us. I'm reluctant to give actual numbers. I can give any number I want to support my position, and so can the other guy. But I'll tell you, I'm not paying any per-seat license. I'm not buying any new computers. When we need something, we have white box systems we put together ourselves." It seems to me that this is the way IT should be.

A little background on the raid and the subsequent switch, from the article:

In 2000, the Business Software Alliance conducted a raid and subsequent audit at the San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based company that turned up a few dozen unlicensed copies of programs. Ball settled for $65,000, plus $35,000 in legal fees. But by then, the BSA, a trade group that helps enforce copyrights and licensing provisions for major business software makers, had put the company on the evening news and featured it in regional ads warning other businesses to monitor their software licenses.

Humiliated by the experience, Ball told his IT department he wanted Microsoft products out of his business within six months. "I said, 'I don't care if we have to buy 10,000 abacuses,'" recalled Ball, who recently addressed the LinuxWorld trade show. "We won't do business with someone who treats us poorly."

But my favorite part of the article is this passage, that reflects a wonderfully pragmatic view of the function of computers in a business. Computers are a tool, and either they do their job or they don't. The question is, how much hassle is their attached to using the tool? Look at what Ball says, in regard to Free software, and the fact that he's gotten so much press simply by switching to Free software:
I think it's great for me to be a technology influence. It shows how ridiculous it is that I can get press because I switched to OpenOffice. And the reason why is because the myth has been built so big that you can't survive without Microsoft, so that somebody who does get by without Microsoft is a story.

It's just software. You have to figure out what you need to do within your organization and then get the right stuff for that. And we're not a backwards organization. We're progressive; we've won communications and design awards...The fact that I'm not sending my e-mail through Outlook doesn't hinder us. It's just kind of funny. I'm speaking to a standing-room-only audience at a major technology show because I use a different piece of software--that's hysterical.

Good stuff...

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Kucinich vs. Dean

Needless to say, I've been very interested in upcoming primaries and the election of 2004. The two candidates who have commanded my attention in the Democratic party are Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean. I haven't really begun to do much research on the differences between these two candidates. I knew that Kucinich was probably closer to my progressive political ideals, but I had heard that Dean probably had a better chance of winning. So I wasn't really sure.

Until now.

Bob Harris has compiled a side-by-side comparison of the two candidates, Why I'm voting for Kucinich over Dean. It's very interesting. After giving it a read, I have to agree. As of now, I am a Kucinich supporter. I may even have to register as a Democrat so I can vote in the primary.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

It's a power thing, as in, who has the power?

The recent power outages in the northeast, combined with the power/energy issues in California over the past few years, have gotten me thinking about effective ways to distribute electricity.

Far and away the best model I know of is by R. Buckminster Fuller. I've written about him before. Go read this article.