bnewman: (damselfly)
Lots of songs here — some new songs, some old songs I finally got around to posting.

Fantastic songs

"Antarctica" (mp3) is what happened when I got Toto's "Africa" and Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" in my head at the same time. I'm a little surprised by how much of the original song I was able to keep. I also have dim, far-off plans to write "Antarctica" ttto "America" by Paul Simon and possibly "Antarctica" ttto "America" from West Side Story.

"When Windmills Return" (mp3) features a bygone hero awakened from long slumber to once again fight for justice against impossible odds. And since his foe is global warming, what more natural allies for him to summon to his aid than... windmills! Ah, windmills, whose prowess he knows all too well, for our hero is none other than— but I'll let you discover that for yourselves.

Space songs

"The Highlands of Fra Mauro" (mp3) are where Apollo 13 was supposed to land, but they never got there, just like the captain of the Nightingale never got to Bermuda in Stan Rogers' "The Flowers of Bermuda". And, likewise, they had just one craft available as a lifeboat, but the number of crewmen to be saved exceeded (by one) the designed capacity of said lifeboat. Only, in the case of Apollo 13, NASA engineers and a roll of duct tape were on hand to make sure everyone made it safely home.

The "Goldilocks Zone" (mp3) is not too cold, and not too hot, but just right — you want your porridge to be in the Goldilocks zone, and you want your planets to be there too, if you want your terraforming to be a success.

What's "Brighter than the Sun" (mp3)? A supernova! I got that popular earworm in my head and this was the only way to get it out.

Computer songs

"B-Tree Nodes" (mp3) is about one of the essential elements of database architecture, the B-tree, a kind of index that allows fast access to rows of a table as long as they can be sorted into a definite order.

"The Wonderful Thing About Triggers" (mp3) is not about the things you pull on to fire a gun, nor about the things that remind you of past trauma, but (again!) about a piece of database architecture. In databases and other systems, "triggers" are subroutines that will run whenever a certain thing occurs. And that's a wonderful thing — unless you're stuck debugging them.

"Little 3D-Printed Boxes" (mp3) is about 3D printing! The wonderful thing about 3D printers is that you can print a hundred little twisty things, all alike, and then turn around and print a hundred little twisty things, all different. This makes an interesting contrast with Malvina Reynolds' "little boxes" and universities from which people come out "all the same". The specific reference to twisty puzzles is inspired by YouTuber OskarPuzzle.


"David of the FTC" (mp3) was written in honor of my father's retirement. He worked for the Federal Trade Commission on antitrust and consumer protection for nearly his entire professional career, and his stories were an inspiration to me even when I was too young to understand the legal details. Nicely done, Dad. And yes, there was a case involving caffeinated leggings.

"Philosophiae Doctores" (mp3) imagines the scholars of the Renaissance restoring the foundations of what would become modern academia. This song was written a long time ago, but I felt at the time that I should hold it in reserve until I earned my own PhD, which at the time seemed likely to happen eventually. Since I'm no longer working towards a PhD myself, I offer this song in tribute to all of my friends who embody the best of the academic spirit.

Video game songs

The "Materia Girl" (mp3) is Final Fantasy VII's Yuffie. Materia are mysterious orbs that are FF7's magic source, and Yuffie wants to steal them all.

"Cid's Song (The Magitek Factory)" (mp3) is another Final Fantasy song, this time from FF6. I wrote this song a long time ago and thought it was finished, but there were some plot gaps, a too-abrupt tone shift, and an instrumental bridge I could never get to work, so I rewrote the end and I think it's much better now. The Magitek facility, of which Cid is the chief engineer, is devoted to the scientific study of magical beasts. Unfortunately, its chief discovery so is that energy drained from said magical beasts (ultimately at the cost of their lives) can be used to power the Empire's deadly war machines... The tune here comes from the background music heard inside the facility.

"Chicken to Ride" (mp3) was written yesterday, after hearing "Ticket to Ride" on the radio — Sarah started singing "she's got a chicken to ride," and reminded me of a long-ago conversation about a possible Baba Yaga parody, but all I could think of was the scene early in Final Fantasy VI when Terra and her companions escape from Kefka's troops on chocobos (basically, giant chickens that you can ride on).

"Triforce Invocation" (mp3) is an incantation invoking the power of the Triforce, the relic holding the powers (wisdom, power, and courage) of the three goddesses of the world of The Legend of Zelda. Such an incantation might be used by the sort of eclectic pagan who would be so silly as to build a ritual around a theosophical system that was invented solely to sound cool in a video game. Know anyone like that? The melody here comes from the intro of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Religious songs

"Every Inch of This Thread" (mp3) is another invocation, this time of the Spinner of Fate. In a number of mythologies, Fate is spun as thread by one or three women, who are usually regarded with an awe tending towards dread — the idea that our end is fated is an uncomfortable one. But thinking of this myth, and of that parable about the footprints in the sand, and of having seen for myself the tender care with which a spinner must handle every inch of thread, put me in mind of looking to Her with an awe tending more towards gratitude.

"Paradise Revisited" (mp3) is a journey through "paradise", which means literally "orchard" but also refers to the world of mystical experience. It can be confusing up there — as you stroll through the orchard, depending on how you turn your head, you may see one tree, or many, or none. And you may notice, or the snake may remind you, that the tree has two sides. Just be sure to remember the way home.

"Thirteenth Birthday" (mp3) is a filk of Vixy & Tony's Thirteen — a mystical number, a number of thresholds, such as (in the Jewish tradition) the threshold of being recognized as a fully responsible member of the religious community, a bar mitzvah. But what does that mean when you're not sure what your religion means to you? When you're pulled between a commitment to reason on the one hand and, on the other, a budding half-formed mystical sensibility, and your teachers aren't (yet!) giving you the tools to reconcile them?

"David, Beloved" (mp3) is an invocation (lots of those today) of the archetypal figure of the Biblical King David (lots of Davids today, too). David is a fascinating character, both in the Biblical narrative and in later more symbolic, archetypal, and mystical traditions. Warrior, peacemaker, songwriter, doing good and yet still making mistakes, and intriguingly, although male, closely associated with the divine feminine. Definitely someone I'd like to get to know.

"Vatikach Miryam" (mp3) is a setting of a verse (and a half) from Exodus (15:20-21), which may be more familiar as the source for Debbie Friedman's Miriam's Song. After the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, "Miriam the prophet took her drum in her hand and all the women went out after her with drums and with dancing."


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, 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)
[ 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

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, [ 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... )
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