Sunday, April 18, 2004

A Little Night Music

Oy ve, I keep thinking I'm not going to do this anymore, but I started The Great Refactoring of '04 on March 12 -- basically converting 1 million lines of code from a 2-tier to a 3-tier architecture. So, proceeded to work, with the exception of a Saturday afternoon when I went back to the old family homestead to divvy up stuff before the house was sold, 24 12-hour days. The code totally took over my mind. I think I was left with about 10% of my brain to run my personality, so I dare say I was even more charming than usual. I was working til 7:30, coming home, having 3-4 beers or glasses of wine to shut myself down enough to sleep, going to sleep at 10 thinking about the code, waking up at 4-6 am thinking about the code. The record was when I got into the office at 5:15am one morning and worked til 7 in the evening. One other developer who's worked with me at two other companies was there 3 straight weekends as well. The last weekend, we drafted 3 other developers and slogged away, without a source libriarian (barbarism!). Anyway, mostly done, all but one program linking, painful but it had to be done. Glad I was there to do it, I do believe I am one of the world's great software rewrite men.

So, I've been attempting to regain my humanity for the last two weeks. Of course, the best way to start is with some good SF. I reread for the 1st time "Distraction" by Bruce Sterling. This is a great book. The ending, where the female protagonist who now has a bicameral mind teaches herself to focus on a different thing with each eye, and her bicameral boyfriend says, "That is so cool -- do it again." -- I don't know, a great moment modern science fiction.

My son and his girlfriend were down from Indianapolis and spend Thursday and Friday night here. Friday night we went out to Tomo's with my youngest daughter and her boyfriend and did some serious damage to mass quantities of sushi. Ran into some old soccer friends there, their youngest's 18th birthday -- unbelievable. My son and his girlfriend hadn't seen "Kill Bill, Vol I", so we borrowed a copy from the boyfriend's roommate and watched it. What an art film! I am not that big a Tarentino fan (he wants to be Elmore Leonard so badly), but this movie definitely has its momemts.

My youngest daughter had initiated a memetic first strike on me earlier in the day when she called me and started whistling "Twisted Nerve" from the movie. Interesting google info, written in 1968 by Bernard Herrmann (1901-1975), known for doing the scores to Hitchcock movies, including Psycho. Damn, what a catchy tune, you can't get it out of your head. My son and I were taking turns inflicting it on each other at 20 minute intervals the next morning. I actually achieved a moment of lucidity Saturday morning and hung out with my son and his charming girlfriend that morning instead of going to work -- and got a free lunch at Gumbo Ya-Ya too! (Cheap, good, fast-food Cajun is back in Lexington!).

In talking to my son's girlfriend, I revisited an old theme: how can music have the impact on our brains it does? It surely doesn't seem evolutionary. I have read a couple of books on it: "Music and the Mind", by Anthony Storr, and "Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy", by Robert Jourdain, and neither of them had anything compelling to say. My current vague working idea is that, we are primarily visual creatures. Vision accounts for 10 of the 11 megabits/second that we take in. Hearing is the only other sense that has any bandwith to speak of (1 megabit/second), and is somewhat orthogonal to vision. Taste, smell and touch are all too analog and too specific (exact receptors for 50,000? different smells) to encode anything. So, that leaves hearing/music as the available channel for information that isn't totally "us" like vision is.

Finally, to music. I have picked up 6 cds lately, all very listenable:

  • Norah Jones, "feels like home" -- very easy to listen to, pretty much like her 1st.
  • Dido, "life for rent" -- a good bit duller than her 1st, not horrible tho.
  • Death Cab for Cutie, "Transatlanticism" -- very nice emo tunes, kind of an Eliot Smith sound.
  • John Mayer, "Heavier Things" -- the 1st of his I have tried, very nice.
  • Stereolab, "Margerine Eclipse" -- some of their stuff is so upbeat and peppy, it has a kind of infectious happiness about it. Another very good cd, their prior "Sounddust" was also very good.
  • Air, "Talkie Walkie" -- their prior cd "10000 hz legend" was bad -- lots of talking in French??? -- I gave it to my oldest daughter to try. This one is much more listenable, more like "Moon Safari".
BTW, I can be reached here.