Comfort and Loss

My family's dog died today. We've had him since we adopted him when I was a freshman in college. I came home for winter break, and there as a big black lab in my parent's house.

He's been there ever since.

The role of "comfort", or the emotional assumption that someone (Sirius, in this case) will always be there, even though you intellectually know that's not the case, is kind of intense. It seems like it's the crux of the issue. When "comfort" stops existing, and Sirius dies (entirely naturally and peacefully, for context), the overwhelming feeling of loss seems to occur.

Loss is sadness, emptiness. "negative change". It's overwhelming.

loss = status quo - comfort

Anyway, this is rambly, and probably more faux-intelligent than I think at this point.

All this to say: Sirius, you were a great dog, to the point that you instilled comfort in my life. You tricked my parents into preparing ground beef for meals, because you know, who wants to eat dog food? You'll be missed, but thank you for sharing your life with us.

Sun. Setting.

Physicality and loss

A professor in my lab, John Riedl, died today. I didn't know him nearly as well as others in my lab, or nearly well enough. As a 2nd year student, I had relatively few interactions with him outside of group meetings, and when I say "I didn't know him well", I mean I didn't know him well enough. He's most known for his seminal work on collaborative filtering and recommender systems, and (with others) was an author_name of the most cited paper in CSCW history (link is a re-presentation of the original talk). He's also a significant part of the reason I decided to pursue HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) as a field in Computer Science. He was my first exposure to HCI as an interesting and viable direction within CS. When he spoke at MICS (Midwest Instructional Computing Symposium) as the keynote speaker, he presented work on altruism and the social web, and presented an epiphany to me as an undergraduate looking for a way to impact the world with technology. His talk demonstrated to me an inherently human role in technology, and it shifted my perspective on possible directions I could take in life. I didn't know him well (or well enough), he was not my advisor, but he was an integral part of GroupLens. I never saw him portray stress, worry, or anger. He struck me as an incredibly happy, positive, and engaged person. The perspective on his cancer, even as it worsened, that he presented to our group was concrete, grounded, and ever forward-looking. He  articulated a very pragmatic view on what his wet-ware (his term) was doing, and how he intended to approach it – by pressing forward. His physical being was being attacked, but his personality, and approach to the world never seemed to change. To me, that's the essence of who John was: optimistic, intelligent, relentless, and at his core, happy. I don't know how this will affect everyone (me, his PhD students, the lab as a whole, or the larger academic community) longer-term, but I'm very confident in saying that everyone he interacted with will miss him, and will remember his role in their lives. I will remember, and continue to learn. I think that's what he'd want. I'll miss him.

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elehack: RT @summatusmentis: Physicality and loss -


365 Project: Day 2 - Brush / Paste

Day 2 of my 365 project.



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Skatje: Did you fail your 365 day project after only two days?

summatusmentis: Yes, absolutely. I GOT REALLY BUSY OK? :-/


365 Project: Day 1 - Old Dust for a New Year

I'm starting a 365 project this year. Hopefully I'm able to stay on it. I'll be posting photos both here, and to my Flickr account. Some may be cross links, depending on if I'm shooting with my phone, or my real camera.



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cdub: dat macro

summatusmentis: For some definition of macro, it's definitely not a 1:1 perspective, because the phone can't do that, but I like how it turned out.


Differences between a community and unpaid "under the table" labor

So this is perfectly clear: I'm writing this as a response to Jason Perlow's HP: If you want folks to hack the TouchPad, then Open Source it. I do not claim to speak for the WebOS-Internals community, nor do I consider this an acceptance of his twitter offer for a community Op-Ed piece. In this article, Mr. Perlow takes what some would call artistic license with the facts regarding the relationship between WebOS-Internals and HP. Unfortunately, the reality of this relationship does not support Mr. Perlow's statements, specifically:

I’ve learned on the down-low that the WebOSInternals folks are apparently acting as a form of supplementary engineering team for Hewlett-Packard who is using them to exchange code and software engineering expertise as needed to integrate it into their products.

The above text is how the article currently reads. The original article read as follows, and was modified after a request was made to remove the bolded text.

I’ve learned on the down-low that the WebOSInternals folks are apparently acting as a form of supplementary engineering team for Hewlett-Packard and the company has an under the table agreement to take and exchange code and software engineering expertise with these folks as needed to integrate it into their products.

The reality here is that WebOS-Internals is an independent group of homebrewers/developers who provide software and functionality above and beyond what HP offers, either in the stock OS provided, or through it's developer APIs. Mr. Perlow's article suggests a couple of different things:

  1. patches and kernels available through Preware make the HP TouchPad run optimally, something which it does not do with stock software
  2. That WebOS-Internals is being unfairly used in the relationship with HP, to the extent that HP is using "double-secret community developers" rather than developing their own software to it's fullest extent.

I'd like to address these two points in turn.

First, patches and kernels certainly are made available through Preware, and in some cases, both patches and kernels can help improve the usability of the stock OS. That's an indisputable fact. However, not all patches, nor kernels, make the TouchPad run optimally, many are intended to extend the functionality of the device to an extent above and beyond what the stock OS provides. The kernels provide, among other things, different power-saving profiles, support to allow use of TrueCrypt on the devices, and yes, over-clocking capacity.

Second, there's an insinuation that somehow WebOS-Internals either is being unfairly used by HP to make the stock software better (by way of HP incorporating WebOS-Internals work back into the OS), or that WebOS-Internals somehow has an agreement with HP wherein they are not employed, but work to fix HPs mistakes. Neither of these things are true. Rod Whitby (founder of WebOS-Internals) has stated a number of different times that the licenses chosen for the WebOS-Internals work are specifically chosen to allow HP to integrate this work back into webOS, should they so choose. This is not an unfairly balanced relationship, but instead an explicit choice by WebOS-Internals to work on webOS in a way that can benefit everyone involved. Further, WebOS-Internals always has been, and continues to be, an independent group of people working on WebOS. This is not some plot by HP to have "double-secret community developers", nor is there an "under the table agreement" with HP around the work that WebOS-Internals is doing.

The crucial point that Mr. Perlow seems to be missing is the concept of community. There is a very vibrant (albeit comparatively small) community that has sprung up around webOS, specifically because of the choices HP made in basing webOS' underlying system on open source software. The work that WebOS-Internals does, and supports (through Preware feeds, public chatrooms, a public wiki, etc.) is done for the community, by the community. The reward for this work comes in the form of further community building, and further platform adoption by those who think the work being done, or the community around webOS, is worthwhile. To be fair, HP has provided, no strings attached, a server valued at $10,000, as well as a number of TouchPads to WebOS-Internals, as an attempt to continue to support the work WebOS-Internals does, and to foster a continued good relationship between the people making the devices, and the dedicated people using them and trying to make them better. This process isn't about WebOS-Internals being exploited, it's about people who love the platform that HP provides, doing whatever is in their power to make it better.

Mr. Perlow, in the future, please make a point to check your facts.

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Pamela Hazelton: Well put. Heck, even Engadget wrote about the server donation...

John Carragher: Mr Prelow obviously has no grasp of the "Open Source" concept. Not everybody is motivated by the dollar in everything they do.

Bryan Leasot: Bad article, great response.

idebenone: The bottom line is this: no consumer wants to have to hack their product using these community-supported packages to make their device work as advertised out of the box. If these patches were actually needed, they should have been applied prior to shipping the OS on the device. And if HP is going to use double-secret community developers to improve their software, then they might as well do the honest thing and Open Source all of WebOS, for real. Because what they are currently doing in my opinion is unprofessional and only hurts adoption of the platform.


More than just superficial meaning

This night we will comfort each other,  talk with each other, and stand together.

This quote was spoken (and translated) as part of the address to Norway after the attacks that occurred. It was directed at the people of Norway, urging them to remain together in light of the attacks. However, I feel there is broader meaning here. This needn't be limited to Norwegians, nor to people of any one country. We're all human. We, as humans, ought to comfort each other, talk with each other, and stand together. _I came across this speech on Facebook, the original link can be found here

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Nic McPhee: Nicely put - thanks for the link.


judging tree fish

running from the fraud police

i promise you, you will get to a point where the fraud police will come knocking. and you will open the door. and when they accuse you of being a fraud, you will honestly be able to say, "you're right. i still have no idea what i'm actually doing. i am making this shit up as i go along, but it is working out just fine. and also here in behind me is an incredible party with awesome people, a bumping sound system that we built ourselves out of salvaged parts, with a giant electronic glass bubble bath installation filled with escaped pandas and dancing girls that we found on craig's list, and you are not invited."

-- Amanda Palmer


passed through the foot-deep frame,  felt so final you.  fixing the world. me. here. words won't come I'll be here when you get back

sneak attack

it sneaks up on you this longing missing remembering. every Year another reminder. good dog.

the valiant return

It's been a while since I've posted, pretty much all semester. Life has been hectic, but I've decided I should start writing again, gives me a place to vent. This blog mostly has always been me writing, venting about social and political issues that bother me (back before The Great Server Move). Most of the readership are people that agree with me, so there's usually not a lot of discussion. That's mostly ok, but it means that my ranting/venting goes mostly unheard. I don't claim to think that I'm this great political visionary, because I'm not. However, in the past couple days, I've been pondering how I can affect change. There's too much going on currently that I'm unhappy with. There's too much the people we have put in power are doing to a) maintain their own power and b) continue to support the wealthy special interest groups. This needs to change. As such, I'll likely be shifting the focus of my posts away from the problems, and perhaps start proposing solutions to the best of my ability. I've all but lost faith in the system that we have, but I'm really unclear on how to affect change outside the system. At this point, I'm too livid to think properly, but I needed a place to say this. For those of you who read, we can change things. To steal Obama's slogan, "yes we can". Yes, it was mostly happy rhetoric. Yes, the Obama administration has essentially decided that mediocrity (or worse) is an acceptable way to deal with issues. Accepting this is accepting defeat. That's all there is to it. Expect to see and hear more from me in the future. That's all I've got tonight.

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Eric: I can't agree more; every day I see more things going on that I abhor, and nothing gets done that I support. I'm a sad, accepting believer that every human being can only give so many shits per day and mine are usually used up by lunch.

summatusmentis: I haven't figured out how to fix everything. I haven't figured out which things I need to spend my effort on. All I know is this needs to change, soon.

Colin: I would disagree with your statement, "Yes, the Obama administration has essentially decided that mediocrity (or worse) is an acceptable way to deal with issues." Well, not completely. I think you have a point on issues like net neutrality, DOMA, prosecution of war criminals, and climate control. But not on things like health care and the tax deal. Why? Because those latter two are mediocre solutions that can be improved upon. Something mediocre that stays mediocre is probably bad, because it isn't improving. But something that starts mediocre and becomes much better is definitely good.

summatusmentis: While I agree they can be improved upon, the Obama administration and the Democratic Senate had a chance to do it right the first time, but instead felt the need to maintain bipartisanship. They messed it up. The Republicans fought them every. single. step. of. the. way. and the Democrats just kept saying "well, ok, you can have this point". Have they done good things? Yeah, for the $however_many million Americans that are now going to get better insurance (and therefore healthcare), the healthcare reform was a good thing. I don't believe that the Obama administration is horrible, they've clearly done a lot better than Bush and his people. Does it mean they've done well? Not in the slightest. While I agree they have the chance to improve upon what they've done, I'm not sure they have the political wherewithal to do it. Particularly not as the Senate swings back to remove their super-majority, nor as the House goes Republican.


it's all just an elaborate...

all it takes is words

I went to a Poetry Slam tonight, it was apparently a practice session put on by these guys to get ready for some Poetry Slam happening in St. Paul/Minneapolis. 5 poets performed, covering a range of topics from humor to views on life to relationships to personal experiences. Listening to people who are good at poetry deliver their own poetry (or "spit their words" as they would probably say?) makes me wish I were better at writing. Their command of language, rhythm and overall feel for it is pretty impressive. Everything I've ever written doesn't even come close to comparing. It's a shame they only do their thing once a month here.

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Thomas: One of the things I dearly miss about Ames is the monthly poetry slams.