Sunday, November 27, 2005

 

Migrating to a new blog!

This blog has now migrated to my new site, CriticalExponent (RSS).

Old entries from this blog may be found here (RSS).

Please update your bookmarks and feeds. New entries will only appear on the new site!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

 

Confessions

Knox was sweet enough to get me the new Madonna CD last night. So far, Confessions on a Dance Floor strikes me as, well, disappointing. The first track, "Hung Up", is catchy and danceable. But the other tracks? They're just not getting me.

It pains me to admit this, since I am a big Madonna fan and have been since I first heard "Like a prayer." I've consistently liked her albums, even if some songs here and there took a while to become familiar and likable.

Maybe this album will grow on me, too.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

 

Palimpsest



The Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester, Mattapan, and West Roxbury once hosted thriving Jewish communities. The people there were mainly orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe who immigrated in the late 1800s and moved to the area from their first Boston homes in the tenements of the North End. This southward displacement criss-crossed that of earlier Jewish immigrants from Western Europe who, having reached middle class, were already moving from their homes in the then-South End to Brookline and Newton.

Knox and I learned all this today as we were biking around the city with Dick, a guy we met through the folks at Hub on Wheels, who is also interested in designing a bike tour of Jewish Boston. Dick has already thought a lot about what such a tour would include, and today was all about going to see the sites on his list.

It's amazing how much history one can glean if one looks in the right place. These neighborhoods are currently populated by working-class African-American communities. Many of the churches, however, were once synagogues, and magen Davids and menorahs still adorn the façades. Hebrew schools have found new life as parochial schools or community centers. The G & G Delicatessen, once the hub of neighborhood life and local politics, is now a hardware store, yet its old name is still laid out in a floor mosaic at the entrance.

I'm just beginning to learn about this whole topic; at the moment I'm working my way through Hillel Levine's and Lawrence Harmon's The Death of An American Jewish Community: A tragedy of Good Intentions, a book that appears to lay blame for the fragmentation of the Jewish neighborhoods on the notorious policy of redlining and unscrupulous practices by some real-estate brokers. I'd also like to read Gerald Gamm's Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed for a different take on the same subject.

If you have any ideas for sites and history we can include in this bike ride-- and particularly if you can recollect what Jewish life was like in these neighborhoods-- we'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

 

Polio outbreak in the US

The New York Times reports on five cases of polio in an Amish community in Minnesota.

Monday, November 07, 2005

 

Printing to Lexmark Z52 under Linux

Over a year ago, I got a second-hand Lexmark Z52 ink-jet printer. I set it up to work on my Linux box, using the driver that Lexmark provided for download. Unfortunately, I could not get the printer calibration program to work correctly; it would refuse to print its test files. I figured I had the printer working well enough and would get back to this later.

About a year ago, when I got the wireless router, I also tried to get the printer to work over Samba so that Knox could access it from his Windows laptop the same way that he can access shared directories on my Linux box. I never got that to work either.

This weekend, I finally resolved both issues-- they had the same cause. See, my lpd server was set to examine files for printability (this appears to have been the default, despite the man page), so all the binary files from Windows or from the printer calibration program were failing unless I explicitly passed the -b flag to lpr to specify a binary file. This is easy to do in Samba (one just modifies the print command parameter in smb.conf) but not so easy to do in the Lexmark printer calibration program (since it is compiled code and has no configuration file).

The solution, then, turned out to be simple: I just added the line
check_for_nonprintable@no
to my /etc/lpd.conf file, and now it does not try to prohibit file formats it does not recognize. I no longer need to specify the -b flag to lpr, and the printer calibration program works 100%.

It took me a while to figure this out, as I was focusing on the printer-sharing issue and thought there was a Samba problem. It turns out Samba was working beautifully; it was just lpd being over-protective.

While I'm on the topic, kudos to Lexmark for providing Linux drivers and a Linux Developer Kit!

 

Boston's Jewish Renaissance

The Boston Globe Magazine has a cover story on the Jewish renaissance in Boston:

To be sure, Greater Boston's Jewish community is as diverse as any and its newfound unity relative. In addition to Reform and Conservative congregations, Orthodox and Hasidic synagogues can be found in Brookline, Allston, and Brighton, where thousands of Russian and Ukrainian Jews have settled. And no one expects Boston to supplant New York as the hub of American Jewry. But a remarkable string of recent events has helped Boston position itself to be the country's capital of Jewish academia.

Friday, November 04, 2005

 

In slap to Microsoft, Massachusetts requires open document format

Oooh, the Romney administration is doing something I can agree with. It is requiring that state documents be saved in an open document format:

Massachusetts' shift to the so-called OpenDocument format seeks to ensure the state's electronic records can easily be read, exchanged and modified now and in the future, free of licensing restrictions and compatibility problems as software evolves.


This move is rather grandiosely being called the software equivalent of "the shot heard 'round the world." (Never mind that many other places in Europe and in America have already moved to open source.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

 

Star Wars as post-modernism

This is a provocative read:

[Lucas] makes explicit his theoretical interest in the mechanics of plot. As viewers, we take pleasure in the implausible events that must happen for the narrative contraption to snap shut in a satisfying way. But the characters come to understand that there is another agent, external to themselves, that is dictating the action. Within the films' fiction, that force is called … er, "the Force." It's the Force that makes Anakin win the pod race so that he can get off Tatooine and become a Jedi and set all the other events in all of the other films in motion. We learn that Anakin's birth, fall, redemption, and death are required to "bring balance to the Force" and, not coincidentally, to give the story its dramatic shape. The Force is, in other words, a metaphor for, or figuration of, the demands of narrative. The Force is the power of plot.

 

The first hydrogen fuel cell family car

The Spallinos ... "aren't just the first fuel cell family on their block," as one Honda ad recently put it. "They're the first in the world."

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