Jul. 2nd, 2017 02:56 pm
bnewman: (damselfly)
Maybe you've followed me over from LJ or FB. Say hello!
bnewman: (damselfly)
I'm thinking of a lady — a very famous lady — whose story has been retold at this time of year since ancient times. You may have heard of her. According to the story, she ate a fruit she maybe wasn't supposed to, and in so doing entered irrevocably into an awareness of the cycle of life and death, and her place in it.

Was she tricked? Or did she eat of her own free will and with some idea of the consequences, both good and bad? Opinions differ on this point. I prefer to think of her as a heroine with her own sense of agency, and with a powerful lesson to teach us.

That is why, at this season, I am proud to trace my lineage back to her, and will gladly lift up a certain seasonal fruit in her name, and eat, and remember her, and her choice.
bnewman: (explorer)
Gandalf confronting the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, with Hebrew caption

The Hebrew text is a saying attributed to Reb. Nachman of Breslov: "The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the essential thing is not to be afraid at all."

Click the image for a larger version.
bnewman: (explorer)
The songs mentioned in the last song roundup post are now linked from my songs index page. Someday, that page will get a complete overhaul, but not today...

I've also posted new MP3s of Divine Monkey and Ashrei Adam Matza Chochmah, with improved scansion. The "Divine Monkey" recording, in particular, corrects a scansion error that could be considered disrespectful, so in light of the sacred nature of the subject, I recommend replacing any copy of the old MP3 you may have lying around with the new one.
bnewman: (explorer)
SSH access to the server that hosts my website has been down for a bit, which means I can't update it, but I did upload a bunch of things before that happened, and HTTP access is up, so you can still read/listen to them — you just won't find them on my songs index page.

Let's start with some new recordings of old songs...

Red Wings )

The Code of the Goddess )

Dragon for Sale )

And now for some new songs...

Timelord of Gallifrey )

Tamari )

Professor Jones )

Operation Moonshine )

In the Beyond )

Flirting with Trees )

You Are Not Alone )
bnewman: (explorer)

I can't recommend this game enough. It hits a sweet spot between open-ended creativity and goal-directed challenge. The basic idea is that you build factories out of blocks (as many as you need, although you can compete to use as few as possible), and the factories receive input materials (which are blocks) and produce products (which are made of blocks), in order to serve our alien overlords. There's more than one way to complete every challenge, and figuring out the physics of the game is delightful. If this sounds at all intriguing to you, it's definitely worth a look.
bnewman: (explorer)
Shelter and Shelter 2 are video games in which you play, respectively, a mother badger and a mother lynx, and must care for your litter of young in a hostile world. They are both deeply discounted on Steam until tomorrow, and I think both are good buys at the sale price.

In both games the gameplay is disappointingly simplistic, but it's very much made up for by the gorgeous visuals, reminiscent of Eric Carle illustrations in 3D. I encourage you to check out the trailers and get the games if you think you'd enjoy romping through that visual world. If you want both, you can get them in a bundle on the Shelter 2 page.
bnewman: (explorer)
This song is not new, but I don't think I've ever discussed it in depth in this journal, and with Pi Day upon us it seemed like a good time.

So why a Jewish song about π? The claim is out there that the Bible claims that π is equal to 3 — years ago, I saw it come up on two Internet communities, rec.music.filk and a Quaker pagan list, at about the same time. Mostly it's presented in the context of "look, the Bible is wrong about science!" (if you want to show that the Bible is wrong about science, there are of course better disproof-texts than this).

Years later, at the Havurah Institute, I had the opportunity to join a study session with Adam Levine on the topic of what the Jewish tradition really says about π, and — remembering those newsgroup conversations — I jumped at the chance. I was not disappointed. This article cites essentially the same sources as Adam's handout if you want to delve deeper.

Out of that study session came this song (mp3), which I finally had the opportunity to share with Adam at last summer's Havurah Institute, to his profound delight. I hope you will find it just as delightful.
bnewman: (explorer)
Lately I have been buying a lot of video games from the Humble Bundle store — a website which started as a one-time deal (and co-created by a friend of a friend from Swarthmore) and has grown into an excellent retail outlet for Indie games. They often have sales (including right now), a portion of your purchase goes to charity, and a lot of the games are really good, so it's worth checking out.

There are a few games I've gotten recently that stand out enough to be worth a mention/recommendation.

Games that are on sale right now and for the next ~35 hours:

FEIST is an action game where you play a small furry creature in a quest to rescue another of your kind from troll-like beasts who have taken it captive. more )

PixelJunk Shooter is an exploratory 2d shooter with a rich materials simulation — water and lava flow, water plus lava turns to steam plus stone, icicles drip, lava melts ice, etc. more )

Last Horizon is a sweet little minimalist space adventure game where you maneuver a spaceship around and land on planets, lunar lander style. more )

Games that are not on sale right now:

Mushroom 11 is not really like anything else. It's a platform game where you play as a sort of blob, and your only control is an eraser tool stolen from a painting program — more )

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a (local) 2-player cooperative space shooter that reminds me a little of the board game Space Alertmore )


Aug. 17th, 2015 09:59 pm
bnewman: (explorer)
The head of engineering at a major tech company has just come down to the shop to inspect the prototype of the company's latest model. On his clipboard is a checklist on which each feature of the device will be checked against the officially approved specification. And so far it all looks good — this is according to spec, and that is according to spec. But...

Scattered throughout the mechanism are little platforms, and standing on each platform are a few tiny demons standing at attention, singing sad songs and dirges and wailing and bemoaning their terrible fate. This is disconcerting, to say the least, and — what's worse — it's not in the spec.

The head of engineering turns to the build team and gestures at the tiny sad singing demons and asks, "What are these, and what are they doing here?" And the nearest build team member grins and says:

"Oh, those... I wouldn't worry too much about them — they're just imp lamentation details."
bnewman: (damselfly)
[livejournal.com profile] fiddledragon told me excitedly that she had seen a tee-ball parade across the street, but I heard "tea ball parade" and was momentarily confused, until I thought of this charming fictional tradition:

At the appropriate season, the townspeople gather in the square outside the herbalist's shop. Each person has a large tea ball on a string on a stick (like a fishing pole). People select herbs and flowers that symbolically represent a wish or prayer that they have (and that are non-toxic to aquatic life) and put the herbs in their tea balls. Then everyone marches together down to the river (this is the parade part), gathers at the shore, and steeps their tea balls in the current for an appropriate length of time. The wishes are believed to be carried down the river to the sea and out into the universe, where they may be fulfilled.

SQL haiku

Feb. 18th, 2015 09:18 pm
bnewman: (explorer)
At work there are some whiteboard walls. One of them used to be covered with puns, but recently the puns were erased and replaced with haiku. Since our company writes so much SQL, I thought it would be fun to contribute some haiku in SQL.

create view rainbow
as select distinct color
from meadow.flowers;

select count(flowers)
from meadow where wind is null
group by color, shape;

insert into heart
(select feeling from moment
where timestamp is null);

We also write an awful lot of Perl.

foreach $flower (@field) {
$rainbow{$flower->{HUE}}++ };
print sort keys %rainbow;
bnewman: (explorer)
I had a great time at OVFF, and came out of the con with a great burst of energy that allowed me to get a lot of songwriting done — more songwriting than I've gotten done all at once for a long time. I finished some songs that had been partially written for a while, and I started some songs that are almost finished and which you will see soon. Here are the songs from this week that are ready to go...

AI Psycho Guilt for Two, Hitchhikin', My Lady Is an Apple Tree, Weiqi )

Several other songs remain in the pipeline and will hopefully be finished soon, and I also haven't given up on the project of posting older songs that I haven't gotten around to yet.
bnewman: (damselfly)
Sometimes I dream about luggage. Usually, there is too much of it. I'll be moving, or leaving a convention, or — more often than not — changing trains. Usually I wake up before I manage to schlep, or even zip up, all the luggage. I don't know what it means. Maybe I'm trying to tell myself that I have too much stuff (probably true), or too much "stuff" in some inner sense (probably also true).

Which brings me to the High Holy Days.

Officially, the old year ends when the new one begins, at the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. In my head, though, it makes more sense to think of the old year ending ten days later, at the close of Yom Kippur. The ten Days of Awe derive their special quality from belonging to both years. It's as if the new year has pulled up alongside the old one at the station, and we have ten days in which to transfer our luggage — and to decide what to leave behind.

This also suggests a (much less creepy) reading of that most haunting line from the High Holy Day Liturgy: "On Rosh Hashanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed." Our fate for the year is written at the beginning of the year, because everything that might happen already exists in potential, and sealed, not ten days later, but a year and ten days later, because at that point it has already happened. Yom Kippur thus represents a last chance to change the meaning of the year that has gone by, to "put a good seal on it".

Wishing everyone a good, sweet new year, with just enough luggage.
bnewman: (damselfly)
I've occasionally seen a bumper sticker or button asking, "What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it's all about?" Recently, I googled this phrase to see if I could find a source or context for it, and what I found was a touching, almost midrashic commentary on almost the complete lyrics of the Hokey Pokey — definitely worth reading.

But maybe you want to learn the whole Hokey Pokey while standing on one foot (tricky, I know). Here, in the spirit of the High Holydays, is my summation:

You put your whole self in,
And you turn yourself around;
That's what it's all about.

Shana tova.
bnewman: (explorer)
And now, a handful of songs about movies, TV shows, and video games. Most of these songs have been on my website for a while, but I haven't yet gotten around to discussing them here. click for "Droids, Clones", "Shadow of the Colossus", "Thornberry Child", "The Dark World", "A Wanderer Still", and "Coroutine Declaration" )
bnewman: (damselfly)
As a songwriter, there are some subjects that I keep coming back to over and over again. One character for whom I have written a large number of songs over the years is Galadriel. There's just something about her — dignity, power, grace, kindness, an air of mystery... yeah, I totally have a crush on her. And I finally wrote a song about that, but first, a tour of my other Galadriel songs )

Galadriel! (mp3) is the song where I admit that I have a crush on the Lady of Lorien. Naturally, it's a parody of another song about having a crush on an elf, [livejournal.com profile] quadrivium's "Legolas!". I can't imitate her piano stylings, but I did brush up my blues shuffle and hopefully did some justice to the tune.

Finally, no discussion of Galadriel songs would be complete without mention of my favorite one by the Grateful Dead, Ripple... )
bnewman: (explorer)
From one of the same twisted minds that brought you the Snow Crash wassailing song comes a carol of the third kind, er, of three ships, "Close Encounters of Three Ships" (mp3), mashing up the carol of three ships you may already know with the story and musical theme from the classic science fiction film. Aren't they both about something wonderful that arrives in a way that is at the same time foretold and utterly unexpected? Also, the musical tag from Close Encounters just fits there so nicely, and I'm very pleased to have been able to keep the line "all the bells on Earth shall ring".
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