Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Freshest Kids - a review

The Freshest Kids is a true and vivid history of Hip Hop. To many people, breakdancing died an embarressing death in the eighties as a played out fad. To many people like me, when the commercial fad ended, we were still amazed to see its heartbeat continue however faint in its hollowed out husk, only to see it come roaring back to life. In my case, at the Chinatown Y in Boston, where a group of Asian, Black, Latino, and a smattering of White kids were busy adding hand springs, flips, and other acrobatics to the traditional windmills, backspins, and body rockin.

The Freshest Kids puts 2 and 2 together, showing but 4 the the strength of the artform, its rough and ready roots, and the heart and soul of its originators, Madison Avenue might well have won the day. But all things that are hard fought, well-crafted, and elemental are indeed enduring. So it is with the B-Boys and B-Girls, God bless them all.

A story of the human spirit, it reminds us to be inspired by kids, their creativity, ingenuity, and explosive power when you remove the shackles of pretense and oppression in its other other pernicious forms. Because these kids with less than nothing, took only what they brought with them and made something that reaches through space - across the world to people and places they'd never seen - and time - back to ancestors they never knew they had. They truly are and ever will be The Freshest Kids.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GOP Legislators Fought Pandemic Preparedness

The tyranny of small(-minded) government...- @~When David Obey (D-WI), a longtime champion of pandemic preparation, included $900 million for that purpose in the stimulus package, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans. The Republicans essentially succeeded: the Senate version of the stimulus included no money whatsoever for pandemic preparedness.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Filemaker Table Joins - FINALLY!!!

I've been searching high and low for any way to perform a table join in Filemaker using a foreign key relationship without using a blasted portal! With a little bit of ingenuity and a lot of brute force, I finally found a way. I'm hereby declaring April 13th forevermore Victory over Filemaker Day! Here's how I did it.

Say you want to list organization affiliations on a given contact's record and you have two tables:

  • organizations: with the fields - organization_id(PK) and organization_name
  • contacts: with the field - organization_id(FK)

To display a list of organization names on the contact record:

  1. Create a layout based on the contacts table.
  2. Go to Manage... in the File menu and in the Relationships view (looks like an ERD or schema) link the contacts:organization_id field to the organizations:organization_id field.
  3. Now go to the Tables view and select the contacts table.
  4. Select the contacts table and add a calculation type field: calc_organization_names.
  5. For the calculation, insert the following formula which will take the matching organization names based on the table relationship and replace the line feeds with a comma:
    • Substitute ( List ( organizations::organization_name) ; ¶ ; ", ")
    • You may use a calculated field in the formula, e.g. if you wanted to concatenate organization_name with organization_city.
    • NOTE: Unfortunately cannot combine fields directly within List() function (with multiple fields the first field's values get listed followed by the second, and so on).
  6. Click OK to save the database changes then return to the new contacts layout.
  7. If it wasn't added automatically, add the newly created calc_organization_names field to the layout.
  8. If you already have the appropriate data filled into the tables, you should be able to see the comma-separated organization lists as you browse through your contacts.

For me this was a huge victory because finally it meant getting Filemaker to behave more like a proper database as opposed to the kneecapped desktop-based monstrosity I've come to know over the years. Being forced to use this on projects instead of the real SQL databases (MySQL, PostgreSQL, mSQL, Oracle,...), this comes at nothing less than sweet relief!!! (Sweeter relief if I didn't have to use Filemaker at all, but that work's in progress. One step at a time.) Thanks to my colleagues who've put up with my ceaseless bellyaching about Filemaker over the past few months.

...but what the heck. One more rant for the road:

The Foreign Key Relationship is basic database functionality. It shouldn't be SOOOO hard to find out how to implement this properly on anything calling itself a database. Yet for all my searching I found absolutely no documentation pointing to me a solution that didn't involve portals which lock it into a stupid scroll box in layouts, hamstringing further use of the resultant data.

So short of buying a Filemaker book that may or may not have the answer I needed, paying for a training class or one of those infernal pay-as-you-go help forums I was stuck coming up with the solution above k-solo. Yes, that makes me a cheap bastard, but it's the principal, dammit!

SQL's been around since the 70's and is a de facto standard for relational database interaction. If you produce a product that mimics a relational database, then pay your developers properly, give them a few more Red Bulls and let them make it work the way a database is supposed to. Or at least document it properly so these basic functions aren't hidden! Cute quirky history with Apple aside, obfuscation doesn't equal value!!!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

getting drupal's big picture

The Pro Drupal Dev book is great. Halfway through having learned about modules, nodes, hooks, menu items, etc I was having trouble pulling together the big picture: how do all these make a site?

Took a step back and thought about a target site archetype: sections, pages, page types, page sections/modules. Mapping the site out this way, creating a page taxonomy (page types and their content components) I was better able to relate to the nodes I’ll need, modules, and even admin behavior and permissions (what should be enabled/disabled, and for whom).

This will help a lot as I go forward with the reading (will probably be revisiting a few chapters) and will probably be revisiting this (both the notes I took and the exercise itself) several times in the near future.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Support a Music Revolution -

More importantly, keep someone doing good in the world out of the kindness of his own heart from having to quit his altruism altogether.

Ardour is an Open Source digital audio workstation. Think ProTools, FL-Studio (formerly known as FruityLoops), ACID Pro and other home to professional studio production tools. Now think FREE as in beer and speech. The tools above range in price from $200-$2000 per license. Ardour is an industrial strength tool, that's free AND runs on a similarly free operating system - Linux (something those other clowns DON'T do).

As Ardour's creator put it, when you buy a car, the hood isn't welded shut. Likewise with Ardour, except you don't have to pay anything for it. You download it, you install it, you own it, and it's TRULY yours. Tinker with it, install it anywhere you want as many times as you want, upgrade it for free, copy and share it with all your friends. ALL of them! Let's see Microsoft offer you all that!!

Huh? What's that? You don't make music and you don't use Linux, so what does this mean to you? Think of a kid with an old used hand-me-down computer running a free operating system (Linux) who uses a beat-up hand-me-down guitar and this free audio production software to make beautiful music that will finally blow all the nauseating crap you hate off of the airwaves once and for all.

It's a dream, I know, but that can't happen if the developers can't afford to support it, upgrade it, and keep it solid and competitive. Doing that is a fulltime job that Ardour's creator and contributing developers do for free. All they ask is a dollar and a dream...a dream of better software, a dream of better music.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

In Pencil

We write our lives in pencil.
Press firmly with our good deeds.
Press gently with mistakes.
Let the errs be soon forgotten,
That the good shall take their place.
And there they'll be remembered
'Til the paper fades away.

~AFN. 3/21/2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Problematic Post-ing

The New York Post's recent editorial cartoon associating the shooting of a chimpanzee with the authorship of the economic stimulus bill is problematic on several levels.

Since the dawn of the Atlantic slave trade, Black people have been categorized through “science”, religion, and social morés as being sub-human: something more akin to apes, than Homo sapiens. It was this classification among others that was used as justification of chattel slavery that brought Africans to the Americas and other parts of the world. As supposed non-humans, we were not to bear any rights justified for humans let alone the landed gentry of a “free society”. It was thereby taken for granted that we were subject to capture, enslavement, and subsequent trade; and that we were to be used as a disposable commodities, abused, killed, or discarded at the society's whim.

Undermining this fallacy and blank hypocrisy was chief in the grueling transformation of social consciousness undertaken by the abolitionist movement. Challenging this archetype ultimately led to the passage of the Slave Trade Act which ended the United Kingdom's slave trade and lead to the much later abolition of slavery in the United States.

Sadly it did not end there, as shown through a continuing century-plus of Jim Crow laws and other racial subjugation in the form of segregation and social stigma. The Post's tone-deaf editorial cartoon and it's subsequent luke-warm apology demonstrate how this pernicious association continues to play out even to this day.

Granted, the cartoon in part lampoons the recent police shooting of a pet chimpanzee in Connecticut. However as the dialog balloon tags the violent act of the shooting (implicitly justified) with the writing and passage of the stimulus bill (implicitly unjustified) it takes on a sinister tone if not one of outright incitement. The message is simple. Resolve political disagreement through violence. Coupled with the racial overtones and the fact that we have unprecedented numbers of Black Americans holding high office and appointments (including President Obama and members of his cabinet) the message goes beyond sinister to a vicious call for the deletion of 400-plus years of social progress.

I would expect any newspaper, even The Post to hold itself to a higher standard. The press was nicknamed the fourth estate for its role as steward and guardian of democratic ideals. The Post's negligent eye, and self-serving extenuation demonstrate its opposition to those ideals where its interests are involved. I can only hope that with the era ushered in through President Obama's election, we will also see the demise of this irresponsible brand of journalism and the institutions that support it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How to take a hike

"Taking a hike is the best (and first) thing I've done so far this year!!!"

How I did it: The key to taking a hike is preparedness.  Know your destination.  Dress appropriately and bring along some gear that may be helpful or at least fun.

I looked up several potential destinations in my local area.  I found several helpful sites, local and national that pointed me in the right direction, which I'll list below.  The beauty of looking up potential destinations is that it also gets you really excited about finally going.  No I can't wait to go again and have plenty of options for when I do!

Being that it's still winter in New England, I took a look at a few sites discussing winter hiking and being prepared for them.  My three biggest take aways from those were:

  • dress warmly
  • stay hydrated
  • don't get lost
Wasn't sure I was actually going to go until yesterday evening.  So I decided on an easy one: The Cliff Walk in Newport, RI.  I guess folks would consider it a walk more than a hike, but navigating ice sheets covering the path, scrambling down boulders to take a shot closer to the water's edge, and a section of the path that's more boulder hopscotch than "path" a winter's hike maketh.  Suffice it to say: check!

The beauty of the Cliff Walk is that this activity is a two-fer.  I went on a hike AND took pictures at the beach during the winter.  Check and check!  Well I'll actually now have to go take pictures at the beach in spring summer and fall to truly call the second one a check, but you get the idea.

Anyway, as I said before, the whole adventure has gotten me primed to go on several more hiking adventures over the course of the year as I'd hoped it would.  Great goal, and cheers to anyone also planning to do it!

Lessons & tips: Here's what I wore for my winter hike:

  • hot chillies long johns (just the pants)
  • t-shirt
  • turtleneck
  • cotton sweater (overkill once I got going but helpful later in the day)
  • microfleece zip-top sweater
  • "army" cargo pants - (great for holding my digital camera, extra film and usuals: keys, wallet, phone)
  • Kinco WarmGrip work gloves - better for taking pictures w/o having to take gloves off
  • microfleece hood - never needed to pull up the hood, but it doubled as a scarf and stayed out of the way better than a regular scarf
  • basic comfy hiking boots - mine are a pair of 5-year old Rockport XCS's
Here's what I carried for my winter's hike (note this was a photo-excursion as well):
  • 1 full 700mL Nalgene bottle - with water...this time ;-)
  • Hot Fingers Skiing and Snowboarding gloves - just in case.  They're bulky and I never needed them so they stayed in the backpack.
  • 1 35mm SLR camera
  • 1 extra roll 24 exp 200 asa film - I'm from the old school...
  • 1 digital camera - ...but I'm all about learning new things!
    • also note: phone doubles as handy camera/camcorder.  see posted photo
  • Road map - in car for getting down to Newport (just in case)
  • Google Map directions to Cliff Walk starting point - I luv Google Maps for the phone ( as long as you only check directions at stoplights!
  • Extra change: for emergency calls and tolls ($4.00 round trip to Newport)
  • Back pack - gotta carry that stuff around somehow
What I wish I brought:
  • SD card for my digital camera
  • Extra batteries for my digital camera
  • Trail map/guide - would have been nice to see the full extent of the trail before hand and know a little bit more about the sights along the path.  I felt like an idiot having to ask about the Vanderbilt mansion (The Breakers) which is one of Newport's biggest attractions!
What I wish I'd done before I set off:
  • Remembered the items listed in the preceding section
  • Double-checked the film in my SLR - wasn't loaded properly on the first half of the walk, so wasted roll and opportunities.  But first time I've used it in years so it was nice enough to have it around my neck, let alone actually try to take some real pictures with it.
  • Packed extra socks - may sound stupid, but if for any reason your socks get messed up on a hike (wet, hole, porcupines), you gotta keep your feet happy.
I texted friends last minute the night before to see if anyone else wanted to come along, but all in all, I'm glad I did this one on my own.  I got to spend 3 solid hours out there, just me and the waves and the winter sky.  It was a beautiful day.  I'll definitely enjoy the company on future hikes, but all in all, glad that today was all mine.

Resources: Sites about Hiking and Trails in RI:

Sites About Hiking in Wintertime:

It took me 1 day.

It made me invigorated