hudebnik: (Default)
Like most civilized Americans, I'm outraged and saddened by the violence in Charlottesville last weekend, and by the President's bizarre insistence on treating heavily-armed, overtly and proudly racist right-wing protesters waving Nazi flags as morally equivalent to the mostly unarmed left-wing counter-protesters who were the victims of a deadly automotive assault. And today, the President doubled down on his original tone-deaf statement, saying "before I make a statement, I like to know the facts" (as though facts had ever stopped him before).

However, much as it pains me to say it, he has a point when he says "This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next?"

Let's compare Robert E. Lee with George Washington. Both lived in Virginia. Both owned slaves. Both were considered by their contemporaries to be men of great personal honor. Both were talented generals who led their poorly-trained, poorly-supplied armies to surprising victories. Both committed treason by lending their military talents to an armed rebellion by a region that wanted to declare itself an independent nation. But Robert E. Lee lost, and George Washington won. Is that, by itself, sufficient reason to put up statues of one, and tear down statues of the other?

Of course not: people want to tear down statues of Confederate generals because they fought to defend slavery.

I'm not a Civil War historian, and I have no idea how strong a part slavery played in Lee's thought process when he decided to work for the Confederacy rather than the Union (I gather both courted him at the start of the war). In the murky depths of my memory is a possibly-apocryphal quote from Lee to the effect that "a country that can't stay together without war doesn't deserve to stay together". For that matter, I don't know whether Washington was thinking about slavery when he took his job leading the Continental Army. At any rate, let's suppose hypothetically that historians were to find solid evidence that defending slavery was not a significant part of Lee's reasoning, or even that he opposed slavery but chose the Confederacy for other reasons. Would that suddenly make Robert E. Lee worthy of statues again? I doubt it: anything that memorializes the Confederacy and its leaders would still be viewed as a reminder of black slavery and white domination, and a rallying point for people who would prefer to return to that world.

But we must remember black slavery and white domination, or be condemned to repeat them. I see tearing down statues as rewriting history. The fact is, these people were important historical figures, and were at one point considered great enough to put up a statue of. If our opinions of their greatness have changed, let's discuss the new context and new information that have led us to that change of mind. Even a statue of Saddam Hussein or Adolf Hitler serves to remind us that they ruled their respective countries for years, during which they did despicable things (and presumably some good things); removing their statues makes it easier to forget both their rule and their despicable acts. Sure, move the statue to a site not of honor but of historical context -- in fact, I think that's what Charlottesville was trying to do with Lee -- but don't just erase it.

(For those readers in the SCA, I'm also bothered when the list of Kings of the East is read aloud omitting Angus. The historical fact is that he served as King twice, and his subsequent conviction for murder doesn't change that.)

For a contrary point of view, see Talking Points Memo.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
I've spent part of the week moving boxes from my old office into my new office, unpacking things, finding places for things.... There are several boxes that never got unpacked from the previous office move (in part because I was moving into a smaller office and simply never found good places to put things, and in part because I realistically didn't need that stuff); I've found places for some of this, and thrown out some of it. Realistically, I'm never going to read that conference proceedings from 2004, or all those back issues of professional journals going back to the 1990's. And I probably don't need those photocopies of articles my grad-school professors assigned me to read: even if I did need to re-read those things or assign them to a student, I'm sure they're all on the Web.

Thursday evening I gave a talk to the Long Island Java Users' Group on the subject "Functional Programming in Java: Why and How". The Long Island Java Users' Group has, officially, 28 members, of whom about 7 were in attendance; I'm told this was the most well-attended meeting yet. So it was an intimate, informal affair: the pizza arrived about 2/3 of the way through my talk. At least three of the seven people in the audience had previously been to one of my Program By Design workshops, so they already had some grounding in functional programming, but may not have given much thought to doing it in what's not traditionally considered a "functional language". The last section of the talk was a preview of Java 1.8, which when it comes out in 2014 will have a number of features to make functional programming easier. Anyway, there were some good questions and good comments.

I spent Friday pre-cooking for an SCA business meeting hosted at our house. Hummus b'tahini, pasta with garlic yogurt sauce, olive tapenade, carrot slaw, roasted broccoli salad, larb gai, prosciutto-and-melon, and grilled lamb. ([ profile] shalmestere was at work, but she did a lot of the house-cleaning Thursday and Friday, made a batch of comfort-food-from-your-childhood lemon cake, and did most of the plating.) There were maybe twenty people, the food went over well, no last-minute disasters, and even the SCA business discussion was tolerable. And we now have leftovers for weeks, and no room in the fridge or the freezer (which is why I'm not at the farmer's market this morning).
hudebnik: (Default)
Went to a meeting 12 miles away in Brooklyn. There are three ways to get there: the direct way, mostly on heavily-trafficked surface streets through unpleasant industrial neighborhoods; the out-of-the-way way, on the LIE and the BQE; and the even-more-out-of-the-way way, on the Belt and the BQE. The traffic reports for the Belt were promising, so we took that route. It took an hour to get there. Meeting went on for 2-1/2 hours, at the end of which we had agreed on two short paragraphs of policy. Meeting location is about 1/2 mile from the BQE, but it took us 25 minutes to get back onto the BQE because of one-way streets, streets that end abruptly, and a lack of signage. Took the BQE and LIE home; still took an hour in all.

SCA stuff

Feb. 7th, 2012 11:49 pm
hudebnik: (henry)
For a very thoughtful take on the current issue and how we got here, please read this post, in which [ profile] cellio refers to the events of 1994. For those of you who weren't around at the time, let me tell you a story....

In 1994, the SCA's Board of Directors announced abruptly that, due to serious financial shortfalls at the Corporation, paid membership would henceforth be required in order to attend any event. There was a firestorm on the Rialto (an on-line discussion group, back when there could be a single on-line discussion group that included most of the Net-enabled members of the SCA). Some people pointed out that, since most of their groups' events were in public parks, they legally could not exclude anybody from attending such an event, nor could they legally charge admission. Others objected that requiring paid membership to attend even a first event would damage the SCA's reputation for openness, and make it look like a money-making cult (which some in the public already feared it was). Some were offended that the Board had issued this edict without even asking its thousands of members for voluntary help in its hour of need. Some pointed out that the Corporation provides services that benefit everybody at an event, so everybody should be expected to pay for those services.

I and others analyzed the Corporation's published financial reports to see why the Corporation was in such bad shape. Several people (including [ profile] cellio, if I remember right) requested more-detailed financial reports from the Corporation, were refused, and sued the Board to open its books; the Board chose to spend some of its scant assets fighting this lawsuit rather than opening the books to its own members.

Several of us -- I think it was Arval, Cariadoc, and me -- suggested that instead of requiring membership to attend any event, the Corporation institute a "non-member surcharge" to cover what non-members actually cost the corporation -- which we estimated at perhaps 50c for a typical one-day event. The Board eventually decided to do this, but they set the non-member surcharge at $3-5 instead, clearly intending not merely to cover their expenses but to discourage people from participating without being paid members. Because you know, more paid members means more revenue, which is obviously good, right?

Many people (I think this started with Cariadoc, too) observed a distinction between the Society and the Corporation: the Society runs events and dance practices and calligraphy workshops and fighter practices and things like that, while the Corporation prints membership cards and magazines, pays the expenses of its Board of Directors, buys insurance that covers its Board of Directors and its bank account, keeps track of who's a paid member, hires lawyers to protect its Board of Directors and its bank account, etc. The Society runs on massive amounts of volunteer labor; the Corporation runs on dues checks and the volunteer labor of about a dozen people. It seemed that much of the money we paid in membership dues went to either keep track of membership dues or protect the accounts holding those dues. As the old saying goes, "the bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of an expanding bureaucracy."

And many people, most notably Cariadoc, pointed out that the more assets the Corporation held, the more-attractive a target it would present to lawsuits. There have been a number of lawsuits over the years, but I believe the Schragger case is the most damaging and expensive to date. There will be more, of course. Every time we create a new Official Office In Charge of Fnord-Twergling, we have made a legally binding commitment that fnords will be twergled properly, and the next time a fnord is mis-twergled, the Corporation and all the local officers will be liable again. What if fnord-twergling were handled between individuals instead, with no Corporate imprimatur and therefore no Corporate liability?

Once you've imagined that, let's imagine a step farther. What if there were no SCA, Inc. at all? What if there were no such thing as an SCA membership card? What if you could subscribe to a Kingdom newsletter by writing a check to the Kingdom for the cost of the newsletter -- or not, if you didn't want to subscribe to a Kingdom newsletter? How much would this impede our ability to run events, dance practices, calligraphy workshops, fighter practices, etc? If the Corporation ceased to exist, how much effect would it have on the Society?


Jun. 29th, 2011 09:34 am
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Woke up in central Pennsylvania, drove all day, went to bed in Bloomington, IN, where dance symposium will start Friday.
hudebnik: (henry)
We spent yesterday at Beowulf: The Event. No fighting, no dancing, no fencing, just food and a tag-team recitation of Beowulf in its entirety (in modern English translations), although a few bits were also done in Old English to give the audience a feel of how that would sound.

The hall had been prepared to feel (if you didn't look too closely) like a Scandinavian mead-hall during a long winter night. Curtains were hung to block out most of the sunlight from the windows, and the overhead lights were off, so the only light was fire-colored (variously from colored electric lights and Sterno flames), and everyone sat on wooden benches around a long central "firepit". A structure of thick "wooden" beams (actually cardboard or plastic tubes, but painted with wood grain, knotholes, cracks, and runic graffiti) appeared to hold up the ceiling.

The poem started around 1:00 PM and continued, with potty breaks and a dinner break, until around 9:00 PM. Each of twenty or thirty different performers from five different Kingdoms took a segment, each in his or her own idiomatic style, so the event also served as a showcase for the storyteller's art. Most declaimed in prose, walking up and down the hall around the firepit, a few chanted or sang, a few accompanied themselves on frame drums or harps. The audience were encouraged to chime in when something especially dramatic happened, so there were sincere sighs and laments when an innocent victim got eaten, hisses when treachery was done, and cheers and foot-stomping when a good guy triumphed.

[ profile] shalmestere and I weren't among the scheduled performers, although I had been asked to prepare one section as an "understudy". But we brought a Romanesque harp and a Parma-baptistry citole, and noodled around on the earliest repertoire we could summon to memory whenever there was a break between storytellers -- Cantigas de Santa Maria, Carmina Burana, etc. We, like most of the hundred or so people in attendance, abandoned our usual SCA outfits and wore some attempt at pre-1200 clothing -- in our cases, costumes left over from the St. Nicholas play we put on six years ago.

I don't know that this was the most "medieval moment" or the most enjoyable event I've had in thirty years in the SCA, but it was certainly in the top 5%. Once in a while one is reminded that things like this can be done.
hudebnik: (Default)
Let's see...
Dec. 18 we hosted an SCA business meeting cum Xmas party. Grilled lamb, carrot slaw, broccoli marinated in fish sauce and lime juice, artichoke quichelets, "heroin" wings, hummus, tapenade, and I forget what else. Lots of cookies, of course, and the chocolate fountain with dipping-stuff (strawberries, bananas, pretzel rods, starfruit, ...).

There were probably some mentionable meals in the following week, but I've forgotten what and when.

Dec. 24 we roasted a duck and served it with roasted brussels sprouts in balsamic vinegar and a baked wild-rice dressing with dried cranberries and hazelnuts. And Xmas cookies.

Dec. 25 we made beef Wellington, which (we learned) is a hunk of tenderloin topped with sauteed mushrooms and paté, wrapped in puff pastry, and baked. We actually made four single-serving Wellingtons, two of which are now in the freezer (we'll find out how well they survive freezing, perhaps for my birthday). Served with baby potatoes roasted in leftover duck fat. There was something else, but I don't remember what -- perhaps leftover carrot slaw? And Xmas cookies.

Dec. 26 was the Day of Snow, so we started a batch of "June-Bug Chili" [in which the distinctive ingredient is whole almonds, which do bear a disturbing resemblance to beetles] in the crock-pot in the morning, and ate it with macaroni and grated Cheddar. And Xmas cookies.

Dec. 27: the Day of Shoveling. (Not really: each of us did maybe an hour at most.) Lunch was chili, macaroni, and leftover broccoli from the 18th. Dinner is to be a casserole of leftover wild-rice dressing mixed with the meat I picked off the duck carcass last night. And Xmas cookies.
hudebnik: (Default)
Scene 1: night, a street in a residential neighborhood of New York City, lit by the occasional streetlight. A man and a woman are walking their greyhounds, and they notice a large styrofoam cooler left out on the corner for trash pickup. It seems in good condition, and reasonably clean, so they take it home and adopt it.

Scene 2: some years later, they take the styrofoam cooler to Pennsic, pre-loaded with a 22-lb. block of dry ice. It lasts for about five days, and they conclude that a cooler with dry ice is a Good Idea. If only it weren't so ugly and blatantly modern-looking...

Scene 3: on the way home from Pennsic, they stop at a pizzeria to re-enter modern society and make a list of projects for next Pennsic. One of them is building a wooden chest around the styrofoam cooler.

construction photos and narrative )
hudebnik: (pipe & tabor)
OK, I'm a few hours late to the party on this, as I've been grading final exams. But Marian of Edwinstowe has left the building.

Marian wasn't a close friend of mine, but a fond acquaintance, who always had a smile and something interesting (and impeccably well-informed) to say about cookery.

Some tributes from people who knew her better:
Vissevald, and

There has been Too Much Death this spring.


Dec. 13th, 2009 11:04 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
A rainy, stay-at-home sort of day.

We made six batches of cookies today. [ profile] shalmestere wrapped some Xmas presents and prepared them for mailing. Walked the Things twice so far (one more walk as soon as I post this), but it was raining so we didn't get to the park. I was sorta thinking of getting to [ profile] greenman73's class on bow and arrow maintenance, but we were on a roll baking cookies.

Tomorrow, back to grading. Two of my students contacted me today (one by phone, to my home number, which I have not given out!) to ask questions about the take-home final exam that's due Tuesday. So I expect to see a couple of panicked students in my office tomorrow too.

Tomorrow night we might get to dance practice, if we think we'll have time to adequately clean and cook for the SCA business meeting cum Xmas party we're hosting next Saturday.
hudebnik: (Default)
For those of you familiar with the SCA, but not from the greater New York City area,...

The Crown Province of Ostgardr holds a monthly business meeting, called "Commons". Since we don't have any free sites at colleges, churches, etc. for meetings, it happens at people's houses, rotating from month to month, and for the last several years [ profile] shalmestere and I have claimed the December meeting, which turns into an Xmas party as well. This year I gave my last final exam at mid-day, then caught the next train home and started cooking and cleaning; [ profile] shalmestere took half a day off so she could come home early and start cooking and cleaning too. Grilled butterflied leg of lamb, hummus, tapenade, pita bread, carrot slaw (which we made from multi-colored carrots from the farmer's market), six kinds of Xmas cookies, mushrooms stuffed with an onion/Brie/pesto mixture, mulled cider, veggies and dip, Brie tarts, "heroin" chicken wings... and that's not counting the stuff other people brought to contribute to the table (some soda pop and a bunch of desserts).

Anyway, it's over. Several bags of trash have gone out, the second or third dishwasher load of the day is running, the leftovers are put away, and we found people to take home the most egregious of the desserts so we wouldn't have to have them in the house. Tired.

In the morning, I have to finish grading my last final, and a few homework problems from that class (which I really should have graded weeks ago!), and assign letter grades, and my semester is over! I have no shortage of "to-do"'s, of course: read and referee a few high school science papers (some of which, in past years, have been really good), choose a textbook for one of my spring classes (this should have been done at least a month ago), test software and send it to the Computing Center for installation before spring semester starts, write up a glossary of assessment lingo (what exactly is the difference among "goals", "outcomes", and "objectives"?) so the various committees on my campus are speaking the same language, write more exercises and chapters for my nascent programming textbook (and update the existing chapters to agree with the latest software release), shop the aforementioned textbook around to some publishers, prepare for next semester's classes....

So those are my "to-do"'s. The joint "to-do"'s are more fun: the obligatory pre-Xmas inspection of holiday lights and storefront displays in Midtown, wrap and unwrap Xmas gifts, write checks to Worthy Causes, see some movies (there's a sizeable backlog of recent offerings: Beowulf, Enchanted, Golden Compass, Sweeney Todd, Persepolis, and the DVD of OotP, all of which have been postponed until my final exams and Ostgardr Commons were over).

Da Weekend

Oct. 28th, 2007 09:20 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
After the aforementioned shopping trip to the nearby farmer's market, [ profile] shalmestere and I packed the car and went to the von Halstern "Winter Wolf Tournament". We're not in Haus von Halstern, and we have very little interest in the average SCA tournament, but [ profile] murieldechamay's husband was doing the dayboard and feast, so.... It rained for much of the day, which scared off a lot of tourneyers, but for those of us who had planned to spend the day indoors, it was a pleasant, laid-back day. We chatted (with [ profile] murieldechamay, [ profile] tashadandelion, and a bunch of other people some of whom surely have LJ accounts but I don't remember them) about music, Renaissance clothing, and the usual SCA gossip. Every few minutes we would get up and grab some more food from the fabulous dayboard, or [ profile] shalmestere and I would play some music... we even watched a few bouts of fighting, which had been moved from the soggy soccer-field onto the less-soggy asphalt but were still fought in the rain.

[ profile] murieldechamay had warned us "This is a von Halstern feast: it'll be meat, meat, and more meat." There were a reasonable number of non-meat dishes, but the description was basically accurate. The special theme for the day seemed to be "Bambi": I had about three slices of ground-venison pie with lunch, a bit of venison jerky in the afternoon, a bowl of venison-and-barley stew with dinner, and we brought home some leftovers of both the pie and the stew. There was also roast pork (which went nicely with the very spicy apple-garlic (?) sauce), and fall-off-the-spoon-tender beef, and spinach, and other good stuff, of all of which I was unable to eat as much as my tastebuds wanted because I was so full from dayboard.

No after-dinner dancing was scheduled, so we packed up and got home at the unheard-of hour of 8:30 PM.

Today (Sunday) was gorgeous, clear, and chilly. I was going to make pancakes or waffles for breakfast, but found we were short of ingredients, so I had to run to the grocery before finishing breakfast prep. We walked the Things for about an hour in the park (did I mention it was a gorgeous day?), then spent a less-pleasant hour at Home Depot and a hectic time at Trader Joe's (which I gather opened two days ago, so it was jammed). Once home, I tried to install a new ceiling light fixture in the bedroom, giving up because there didn't seem to be any way to attach the thing without an outlet box already installed behind the ceiling (I don't think there are any ceiling outlet boxes in this house, just wires and the occasional threaded rod coming out of the ceiling). As a fallback, I installed it in the enclosed porch, where the ceiling is (I think) solid enough to put screws into. Anybody know how difficult it is to install outlet boxes?

Da Weekend

Sep. 17th, 2007 06:03 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
So... Friday afternoon we took the Things to the sitter, packed the car, and drove to Crossroads at Canterbury, the Chaucer-themed SCA event we've been looking forward to for a year. After that build-up, it couldn't possibly live up to expectations, but overall it was quite a good event, and some parts were incredible.

It was of course burdened by the addition of the Kingdom Rattan Champions' tourney, which predictably brought in a lot of people who had no interest in the theme of the event... but on the other hand, their presence covered the site rental, and left the organizers with less to worry about financially, so I shouldn't complain.

Blow-by-blow account of the event )

misc. news

Jun. 22nd, 1998 04:38 pm
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Let's see, what's happened recently?

I spent four days last week at the Computational Complexity Conference in Buffalo, where I renewed contacts with various complexity theorists. I also gave a "rump session" talk on my work on "Delayed Binary Search, or Playing Twenty Questions with a Procrastinator". The audience seemed to enjoy it: I got more questions than the previous two speakers combined, I was invited out to a bar by two of the research gods of the field, and by 11:00 the next morning two of the audience had made significant additions to the theory: David Schweizer found a recurrence that seemed to correctly describe the delay-2 case, and Andris Ambainis found a proof that the optimal algorithm took time logψn + O(1), where ψ satisfies ψ3 - ψ2 = 1, exactly what would be predicted by Schweizer's recurrence. I decided this was significant enough to invite them to co-author. I told them I was busy for the next week, but wanted to submit the thing for a conference deadline July 7; I hope they're working on it now.

Thursday night I returned from Buffalo. I spent Friday grocery-shopping and pre-cooking for the SCA feast we prepared and served on Saturday. Various things went wrong: there was no firewood until over an hour after we arrived, so the legs of lamb started cooking later than they should have; we didn't know where to get water on site, so the rice started cooking later than it should have; the autocrat suffered a car accident; a misunderstanding led to me ferrying a search party up and down Flatbush Avenue searching for her while she was safely at the site and [ profile] shalmestere was doing last-minute preparations; a rainstorm hit just as we served the first course; etc. etc. But everybody seems to have enjoyed the food, nobody went hungry, and I'd call the whole thing a qualified success.

Unfortunately, we couldn't stay around for the night or the morning: we had dogs at home to feed and walk, and I had to catch a plane Sunday afternoon to Houston, where I am now and until next Sunday morning, attending a workshop on how to teach beginning programming using Scheme. Most of the participants don't know the Scheme language, so they're struggling to learn it; I, on the other hand, am primarily trying to learn how to teach from Scheme from someone who's been quite successful at it.


hudebnik: (Default)

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