Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Stealing Worlds

"Stealing Worlds" is the latest by Karl Schroeder, 2019, 311 pages. This is 1 of those books where I'm going "I have been waiting so long for this book." A very near future, with ideas on tech to use to escape from ever-rapacious capitalism, 80-90% of which are or could be in place nowish.

Schroeder has touched on some of these topics in his earlier works (see here for example), but this seemed to pull everything together. The infodump by one of the characters that makes up most of Chapter 14 represents that synthesis.

The only tech he uses that we are still reaching for is AI. But the AIs he described are not particularly ineffable, and may be within reach of big-data based systems.

I liked his concept of distributed autonomous corporations (DACs) - a corporation with no human employees, run completely by an AI. The owner gets all the profits - the very essence of capitalism? I also really liked his concept of a cryptocurrency that automatically resistributes from wallets that are too full to wallets that are empty - gotta love that outside-the-box thinking. And he again talks about thalience.

I really think we should get Schroeder, Cory Doctorow, & Kim Stanley Robinson together to design the future for us - the Green New Deal writ large. Can we get to a post-capitalist, post-scarcity utopia before the out-of-control paperclip-optimizing AI aka capitalism finishes turning the entire world into paperclips capital?

Friday, July 05, 2019

4 + 2

I think BookBub offered me "The Chaos Chronicles Books 1-3", by Jeffrey A. Carver, for $2.99 or some such. I remembered Carver as being a hard, galactic sci-fi kind of guy a la Gregory Benford or Greg Bear, so I went for it. The 3 novels it contains are "Neptune Crossing", 1994, 582 pages; "Strange Attractors", 1995, 352 pages; and "The Infinite Sea", 1996, 379 pages. These were fun, comic-bookish stories. An alien artifact on Triton implants an earthing with high-tech translator stones. He saves the earth, and then moves on to other galactic adventures with other translator stone holders. It kind of reminded me of Green Lanterns (DC comic). There is lots of action. The 2nd book does a good job of keeping us wondering, will the earthling hook up with the female 4-breasted humanoid empath stone holder? I did like that the main power of the translator stones was to ... translate, enabling communication with several other alien species.

I enjoyed these enough that I bought the 4th novel of the series, "Sunborn", 2011, 478 pages. Another cosmic story. Ha ha, in this one, at one point, our earthling tells 1 of the 2 smart ass robots that are part of the company, "Lead on, kemosabe." I'm immediately going, wow, is that a temporal tell, or what? And sure enough, Carver was born in 1949, so he's 2 years older than me. Ha ha, I wonder what is the youngest person who would get the reference? I queried my son born in 1976. He knew it had to do with the Lone Ranger & Tonto, but not sure exactly what. I queried my youngest daughter born in 1983. She replied with the image below, so I guess she got the reference. But I bet a 20-something would have no clue.

A 5th novel in the series is due out later this year.

I had 2 Karl Schroeder novels on my iPad, plus a Neal Stephenson. Decisions, decisions. I went with the older of the Schroeder novels, "The Million", 2018, 192 pages. I'm guessing this was actually a novella. It is set in the same universe as his "Lockstep". This is a really interesting concept - that in the absence of FTL travel, the way you could have an interstellar civilization is by slowing time way down by having entire worlds hibernate most of the time - except for The Million, who are the real-time caretakers. The novella is an interesting exploration of the ramifications of the concept, with action, plucky characters, etc. As the characters are mostly young adults, I'm guessing this is a YA story.

Then, on to the Stephenson: "Fall; or, Dodge in Hell: A Novel", 2019, 892 pages. Well, it was great to see Stephenson give props to "'D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths" and "D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths". These are family favorites - I have already bought all my grandchildren copies.

But, I was a little sad that the 1st person uploaded posthumously into quantum computers builds a world strongly along the lines of genesis. It was interesting as time passes and many of the books real-world characters get uploaded and now take part in the drama in Bitworld - culiminating in a Tolkienesque quest. But I kind of agree with the story's antagonist, El (Elohim), that they maybe could have done a lot better than creating a very medieval flavored world.

There wasn't as much snappy dialog and turns of phrase as is usual for Stephenson. So, an enjoyable, sprawling read, but maybe Stephenson is showing his age slightly.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The ABCs of Agent Orange

Posted on Twitter. Crickets so far. I don't get much traction on Twitter.

[Updated 2019-06-10 1:07 am]
[Updated 2019-06-10 11:35 am]
[Updated 2019-06-10 10:07 pm]
[Updated 2019-06-10 11:42 pm]
[Updated 2019-07-02 1:18 pm]

The ABCs of Agent Orange @realDonaldTrump

Birther ...
Deal breaker
Draft dodger
Prima donna
Russian asset
Wannabe mafioso

Friday, June 07, 2019


I haven't done Music In since late November - 7 months. The winter was a bit sparse, so I have been looking to new - and old - sources for new music.
  • Darwin Deez, "Songs for Imaginative People", 2013, 10 tracks. I think I originally found Darwin Deez on the iPad app Aweditorium. 1 thing I have started doing to get more new music is, when someone comes up on shuffle play and I like it, I revisit that artist for later works - as this album is. His guitar has a really unique tone. One live video he's playing a Squire Strat, so it must be in the amp. 4 stars. Here's "Free (The Editorial Me)" - nice video, reminiscent of "Memento" or "Groundhog Day" with a much shorter loop.

  • Grizzly Bear, "Horn of Plenty", 2004, 14 tracks. This does it for Grizzly Bear - this is their 1st album. Ha ha, this is definitely a band that improved with age. This album is fairly unfocused, no memorable songs. 3 stars. But, "Horn of Plenty" === Cornucopia, 1 of my fav words. So here's a pic.

  • Danny Gatton and Buddy Emmons, "Redneck Jazz Explosion, Vol. II", 1978, 8 tracks. This is not quite as strong as Vol. I, but still, hard to find fault with the god of pedal steel guitar playing with a great guitarist. 4 stars. Here's "When Sunny Gets Blue".

  • Jorge Elbrecht: "Happiness EP", 2018, 6 tracks; "Here Lies", 2018, 14 tracks; "Coral Cross - 002", 2019, 10 tracks. This was a recommendation from my most excellent nephew, drummer Max Heinz, of Portland ME. I liked these more early than I did later. "Coral Cross - 002" particularly was much more noise than I like in my music - 2 stars. 3 stars for the other 2.
  • Wilco, "A.M.", 1995, 13 tracks. I continue my exploration of Wilco. This is there 1st album. I didn't think there was a particularly catchy song, a prereq for 4 stars - then this next came up. 4 stars, after months at 3!

  • Sour Cream Band, "Sour Cream", 2018, 10 tracks. 1 of the best albums I have heard performed by people <= 17 YO. Guitar is Harlan Cecil, son of Sherri McGee, "Chick Drummer with Balls". They did a 45 minute performance on WRFL Live and I heard 0 bad notes - impressive. I have loaned Harlan my 3 pickup Flying V as encouragement. Ha ha, his main guitar is a cherry SG, as was mine Back In The Day. A great guitar, I'm happy if he sticks with it. I recommend this album, but for my collection, it is 3 stars.
  • Mumford & Sons, "Delta", 2018, 14 tracks. As with Fleet Foxes, I think that "power folk" bands really have a problem finding a sweet spot and staying in it. This album was way rockish. 3 stars.
  • My Brightest Diamond, "A Million and One", 2018, 10 tracks. Maybe from Amazon weekly email? The vehicle of indie rocker Shara Nova out of NYC. Very high quality tunes. 4 stars. Here's "A Million Pearls".

  • Elvis Costello, "Look Now", 2018, 12 tracks. Elvis is one of those old dudes (64 YO, YOB 1954, age of my brother Mark) who keep cranking out great albums. Kudos! 4 stars. Here's "Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter", with poppy grooves that would make Todd Rundgren proud.

That does it for 2018. On to 2019.
  • Beirut, "Gallipoli", 2019, 12 tracks. This seems to be the most prolific of Lexington native Kelly Pratt's several bands. I think of the music as Balkan Pop. 4 stars. Here's "Corfu".

  • Broken Social Scene, "Let's Try The After (Vol. 1)", 2019, 5 tracks. The latest from the Toronto super-group. These are all strong tunes, 4 stars. Here's "1972".

  • Deerhunter, "Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?", 2019, 10 tracks. I get these guys confused with Deerhoof. This album has some decent tunes. 3 stars.
  • Mudbone, "Live At Dogtooth", 2018, 7 tracks. Mudbone is the house band for the Dogtooth Sports & Music Bar (formerly Vodka Bar formerly Weekend Willie's) Tuesday Night Blues Jam, 7:30-10:30. They usually play 60-90 minutes, then start asking people up. I've played at this jam every Tuesday I'm in Naples FL since maybe 2011-2012? Mudbone is a fabulous band: Bill E. Peterson on drums, playing a kick, snare, high hat and ride cymbal; Jerry Fiero on harp & vocals; Ricky Howard on guitar & vocals; Ray Nesbit on guitar & vocals, & David Carlton Johnson on bass & vocals. David also is excellent on keys & guitar & tours with Aaron Neville on bass, keys, & vocals. 4 stars. Here's an old recording of "Be Thankful For What You Got". Mario Infanti, who moved back to CT a couple of years ago & was replaced by Ray Nesbit, is on guitar & vocals. Mario played with Chuck Mangione.

    Note, I realized a couple of years ago I could steal material I like from people in Naples & perform it in Lexington and visa versa. I've been doing this arrangement at jams in Lexington with a full band & in the duo with Steve; people really respond to it, FTW!

  • Panda Bear, "Buoys", 2019, 9 tracks, I get this guy mixed up with Gold Panda. This guy is part of Animal Collective. This is some decent alternative rock. 3 stars.
  • Boston, eponymous, 1976, 8 tracks; "Don't Look Back", 1978, 8 tracks; "Third Stage", 1986, 10 tracks; and "Walk On", 1994, 10 tracks. As I described in "Back In The Day", in spring of 1970 I played in a band with Tom Scholz, who later founded Boston, wrote & arranged most of the material, and still records and tours as Boston. 4 stars for the 1st 3, 3 stars for the 4th album. Here's one of their many iconic songs, "More Than A Feeling". Tom is the guy with the sleeveless top playing the gold Les Paul.

  • Andrew Bird, ""My Finest Work Yet", 2019, 10 tracks. Bird is always reliable for providing very listenable music, but no standout catchy tunes in this effort. 3 stars.
  • Fake Laugh, "Honesty / Surrounded", 2019, 2 tracks. This came from the weekly newsletter email I have started receiving from Bandcamp. Both songs are excellent, shamelessly upbeat & poppy, 4 stars. Here's "Surrounded".

  • Chelsea Wilson, "Chasing Gold", 2019, 10 tracks. Modern Australian disco, what's not to like? This also came from the Bandcamp newsletter. 4 stars. Here's the title track.

That takes us through April Fool's Day. Current unrated smart playlist is 174 songs, oops. Probably need to process Music In again at the end of July.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Back In The Day

I lived in Boston or Cambridge MA from Sep 1968 til July 1974. I graduated MIT June 4, 1972, 4 days before I turned 21, then worked at MIT until Apr 1974. I played in bands from early 1970 until Oct 1973.
  1. Band whose name I did't remember:
    • Tom on keys & rhythm & lead guitar. He was the bandleader.
    • Me on lead guitar & harmony vocals & pedal steel/slide guitar.
    • Mickey(?) the lead singer.
    • Terry Borroz on bass (and vocals?).
    • John Broderick on drums.
    I remembered this as a Led Zeppelin tribute band. I give the lead singer 3/10 channeling Robert Plant.

    I met Tom between classes at MIT. Early in the spring semester, 1970, long-haired hippy me was walking with another LHH talking about working up a Jimi Hendrix song. This tall, gangly guy with long dark hair & bangs invited himself into the conversation. He'd played keys his whole life and guitar a couple of years. He later asked me to join the band.

    I probably quit the band when I went home for the summer to work at Jeffboat for the 2nd year. That was my last time going home for the summer. So we played together from early 1970 til maybe late spring. We never gigged.

  2. Blue Eyed Boy Mister Death:
    • Delbert Lionel Hilgartner III ("Del") on Hammond B-3 with Lesley, lead vocals, & bandleader. Del died 6/24/2015.
    • Me on lead guitar, harmony & lead vocals, & pedal steel
    • Randolph Axel Nelson ("Randy" later "Axel") on rhythm & bass guitar, harmony vocals, & percussion.
    • Barry Levine on bass, sax, & harmony vocals.
    • John Broderick on drums.
    We were a dance band, did a lot of Santana, the Stones. We had a few originals, mostly written by Del. I think Randy wrote 1 also. We gigged at bars, ski resorts, frat houses, etc. We played most of my junior year, and disbanded when Del graduated June 1971 and moved to NYC to work in film at Cooper Union.

  3. Salamander - motto, "Walk Thru Fire":
    • Richard Griggs, (later Zvonar) on rhythm guitar & lead & harmony vocals. Salamander was Richard's band. Richard died 8/3/2005.
    • Me on lead guitar & harmony & lead vocals.
    • Robert Desautels ("Desi") on bass.
    • Barry Levine on sax & harmony vocals.
    • Terry McGeough on drums & harmony & lead vocals.
    • Gragg Lunsford, who joined a few months in, on keys & lead & harmony vocals.
    A good dance band, it started up right after the demise of BEBMD. We did some Richard originals, a lot of Kinks, Stones, Van Morrison, Allman Bros, Delaney & Bonnie. Gragg was much bluesier. We played pretty regularly. Our best gig was 2 weeks on Nantucket Island in the summer, playing at Preston's Airport Lounge. Great club, big stage & dance floor, pool tables in the wings, George of the Jungle pinball machine, air hockey. They put us up in a beach house, fed us at the club. Beach every afternoon, socialize in the evenings, play 9-2, sleep til noon.

I've been touch with Desi, John, Del, Barry, Richard, and Terry McGeough over the years. In late January, 2019, John Broderick sent an email to Barry and me. He had found ~4 hours of tracks by BEBMD: 12 including 5 originals from the basement; 2 sets at 1 club & 1 set at a different club. He included a Google Drive link.

BEBMD didn't suck! We weren't bad! I was really fast on lead guitar! I've listened to them a few times now, not bad. To quote John Broderick, " What a great selection of songs played with a lot energy."

He also included 17 tracks by the 1st band, which apparently was named Tesseract. The instrumentals are pretty good, the vocals, not so much. A couple of songs are painful - "Sea of Joy" for 1.

Here's the link to the google drive folder. There are 4 .xls files with the track listings, and 4 mp3 files of 1, 2, & 1 hour length. John pointed out you can separate the tracks with audacity, which is free software available here. It came with the USB turntable my kids got me 7-8 years ago. It is good software. It has a feature to automatically separate tracks. It didn't work well when I 1st started using it, but it may work better now.
But then at the end of the email Jon sez "How many people have Tom Scholz recordings from before his success with Boston?" ??? Tom Scholz? Iconic rock band Boston?

I look up the Boston wikipedia page, and the Tom Sholz wikipedia page. I look at pix of Tom - "Holy shit, I know that guy! I remember him well."

Tom wrote most of Boston's material, created their sound, created their 1st album in his home studio, and still tours and releases music as Boston. He also founded Scholz R&D which sold a ton of Rockman practice amps, + boards to create the Boston sound.

I bought the 1st 4 Boston albums, I recognized most of the songs on the 1st 3 albums. From 1975 until 1997, I spent very little time on music - pretty much just the car radio, so they must have gotten pretty good airplay. A definite part of the rock cannon, and some complex songs with different sections, voices, etc.

Ha ha, so I find out 49 years later that I played in a band with a guy who went on to become a rich, famous, and accomplished rock star. No idea for 49 years. I guess this means that, again, I love living in the future!

I got Tom's email from the MIT alumni directory. I emailed him, and later fwded John's email to him. Never heard back, oh well. I have enjoyed the old bandmates with whom I have been able to reconnect, particularly Desi & his wife Brigitte. Brigitte is an accomplished artist.

I tried to reach out to Axel Nelson. Randy quit MIT after 2 years & moved to Point Reyes in Marin Co CA with his hippy girlfriend Lesley. I think he's still out there, I found online what looked like a good phone & email. I called and emailed, no reply. I also googled Gragg Lunsford. I think this might be him.

Friday, May 24, 2019


The news has just been so bad lately. The POTUS sadistic behavior increasingly being normalized, the patriarchy out of control with idiotic 19th century abortion laws. So I continue with all escapism, all the time.

1st, "The Light Brigade", by Kameron Hurley, 364 pages, 2019. Military fiction, way too many exploding bodies. Some good anti-corporatist verbiage:

The corps tell us each individual should reap the profits of “their” hard work. But the reality is the corps made their fortunes on the backs of laborers and soldiers paid just enough to keep them alive. The corps did not labor. Do not labor. The shareholders and upper management sit in their glass towers and drink liquor spiked with our blood. Instead of sharing that wealth with those who broke their backs to attain it, they hoard it like great dragons.
2nd, "Perihelion Summer", by Greg Egan, a fav of the last couple of decades, 154 pages, 2019. This short novel is climate fiction, but Egan's climate change mechanism is a pair of black holes traversing the solar system and elongating the earth's orbit rather than atmospheric CO2 and methane. The main plot revolves around Australians helping residents of Timor escape an unlivable summer by migrating to Antarctica.

The only magazine I get in hardcopy now is MIT Technology Review. The latest issue had popped up on the magazine stack - "Welcome to Climate Change".

It had 3 sections for different phases of climate destruction: mitigation, adaptation, and suffering.

So much bad news. The 1st story of the "Suffering" section was horrifying, as was the final fictional piece by Paolo Bagialuppi, I tweeted my horror, and got crickets for response.

Here's the link to the Climate Apocalypse article. Here's the link to the Paolo story. Hopefully these aren't behind a paywall.

Yeouch, back to escapism, pronto! Luckily I picked a short story collection that was exactly what I needed: lots of bright, shiny futures. The collection was "Infinity's End", edited by Jonathan Strahan, 364 pages, 2018. I think there was only 1 story with a slightly lame ending, other that all very good work, and much, much positivity. Thanks, I needed that!

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Is Music Generative?

In my submission to the "Doughnut Economics Way #8" competition, "Money is Software", I posited that language, software, and money are all generative - you can make them arbitrarily complex, without limit. You can always add another adjective or clause to a sentence. So is music also generative?

My initial thought was "No". There are limited notes in a scale, limited number of voices you can add before music becomes cacophony. But then, I thought, "Well, you can always add another guitar solo."

So I'm voting that yes, music is generative. Notes can go from a whole note (1 measure) to a 64th note, and be on or off in every 2^6 pattern. So maybe, mathematically, music is not quite as unconstrained as the other 3 examples, but, at the level of the human mind's comprehension, I posit that it can be treated as generative.