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t e l e m e t r y


t e l e m e t r y

transmissions from the galores

archive for November of 2005

why you should support the EFF reason #1

posted by janet on November 22, 2005

EFF Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Sony BMG

It's not only the XCP "rootkit" issue:
"...The MediaMax software installed on over 20 million CDs has different, but similarly troubling problems. It installs files on the users' computers even if they click "no" on the EULA, and it does not include a way to fully uninstall the program. The software transmits data about users to SunnComm through an Internet connection whenever purchasers listen to CDs, allowing the company to track listening habits -- even though the EULA states that the software will not be used to collect personal information and SunnComm's website says "no information is ever collected about you or your computer." If users repeatedly requested an uninstaller for the MediaMax software, they were eventually provided one, but they first had to provide more personally identifying information. Worse, security researchers recently determined that SunnComm's uninstaller creates significant security risks for users, as the XCP uninstaller did."

I've been getting sick of CDs lately... this just fuels the fire.

Give me WAV or give me silence.

metrosexual ed part 2

posted by janet on November 20, 2005
We visited the "Metrosexual Market" again recently and I grabbed some nice shots of Ed playing the part. (See previous post on why Ed is not a metrosexual.) I think these might make nice lightboxes.

at the metrosexual market (c)janet galore
Study for a lightbox

Note the addition of the essential yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet.

listening to air traffic

posted by janet on November 19, 2005
While I'm working on an animation or otherwise fiddling on the computer, I like to listen to live air traffic controllers talking in the background. It's also a way for me to revisit places I've just been, like Dublin (the Irish accent of the controllers is so comforting!).

On the way to Dublin

You can listen to live air traffic control audio feeds from all over the world at LiveATC.net. The feed from JFK Tower in New York is one that is usually busy and up. English is used worldwide for ATC communications.

I have old, fond memories of being on a flight and listening to the pilots up front with those little blue plastic headsets that plugged into the armrest. The sound came out through plastic tubes that you plugged into your ears. I guess now with in-flight internet service, you could call up the ATC feed for your destination airport, and at least listen to the last part of your flight!

You might hear jargon like this:
  • heavy - a large transport airplane that might cause wake turbulence
  • wake turbulence - rough air resulting from the passage of an aircraft, which can be very dangerous to smaller aircraft coming behind a heavy
  • squawk - a four digit code given to pilots use with their transponder (the onboard part of a radar tracking system)
  • ceiling - lowest layer of clouds or obscuring phenomena below 20,000 feet
  • clearance - tower says it's ok to proceed as requested or instructed
  • go ahead - proceed with your message
  • go-around - order given to pilot to climb away from the runway after making an approach
  • holding pattern (HP) - aircraft is kept circling within a specified airspace while awaiting further ATC instructions
  • deadstick - landing with engine(s) and/or propellers shut down
  • flameout - combustion failure in a turbine engine resulting in power loss
(well, hopefully you won't hear the last two)

You'll also hear the phonetic alphabet. If you really get into it, here's some goofy ATC humor.

technical communication and the protestant reformation

posted by edward on November 17, 2005
After reading "Montaigne and the Word Processor," by Daniel Chandler, I speculated that a contributing factor to the prevailing scientific writing style was the Protestant Reformation.

Many of us are familiar with the writing common to scientific journals, instruction manuals, and miscellaneous bureaucratic and legal documents. In addition to being laden with jargon and technical terms intended for a very narrow audience, scientific and technical documents are generally written in such a way that the voice of the author is completely silenced. Muting the author is done intentionally to provide the semblance of objectivity. The author isn’t presenting their findings, rather Nature itself is speaking through the conduit the author provides. This pseudo-objectivity is achieved through the use of tools such as the passive voice, the avoidance of personal pronouns, and writing in the third person.

I suspect that the suppression of the author’s voice in scientific and technical writing is due in part to the ascetic practices of Calvin and his followers. While Christian asceticism was quite old by the time of the Reformation, its significance changed considerably following the work of Luther and Calvin. The following is my attempt to explain this connection and the “author evacuated” prose that developed following the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

It’s true that self- denial and punishment—forms of asceticism—predate the Reformation. Christian asceticism predates Christ Himself, if one considers John the Baptist. However, pre-Reformation and Catholic asceticism tended toward the mystical and was contemplative and inner directed. Asceticism was a way to purify the body with the goal of making it holy. Protestant Reformation as embodied in Calvin looked askance at such mysticism and considered heretical the idea that humans could do anything to earn even a small measure of holiness.

Both Catholics and Protestants believed that Christ alone could confer grace. However, Catholics believed that while Christ’s salvation was necessary, one could take action to mitigate one’s sins (be it self-flagellation or praying the Rosary). Protestants, on the other hand, believed that Adam’s sin was so great that no such mitigation was possible.

Pre-Reformation asceticism resembled Eastern yogic practices. It was about denying the flesh so that the spirit could be liberated. The key here is that it was denial of our flesh--our carnal selves. It was not denial of the self per se . A rather radical change occurred post-Reformation. Protestant Christians, and Calvinists in particular, maintained that because not even a small measure of grace could be achieved by fallen man, punishing one’s body would not achieve anything. However, by denying the self altogether and supplanting one’s will with the will of God, one could then become His instrument and lead a profitable life. (Although, not the kind of profit that is preached in the Prosperity Gospel.)

Why does this matter to technical communication, you might ask? (Me too, but bear with me.) Because Calvinist asceticism, fertile ground of the Protestant ethic, encouraged self-effacement in pursuit of God’s will. This denial of self is manifested in post-Reformation writing where the self is obscured through pseudo-objectivity. As Montaigne says, “Custom has made all speaking of a man's self vicious, and does positively interdict it, in hatred to the vanity, that seems inseparably joyned with the testimony men give of themselves” (quoted in Chandler). I love Geertz’s term, to refer to the “author-evacuated” academese of which Montaigne wrote. The writing conventions of the Royal Society and of the Enlightenment in general as epitomized by Locke, owe their origin to the Reformation.

So in summary, Adam’s fall led to God offering His only Son to pay the wages of sin. Over the centuries, people got a little confused about their role in salvation and tried to buy their way into heaven. If they couldn’t afford a dispensation from the Pope, they flagellated themselves and contemplated their situation. Luther and Calvin had a problem with this, who was the Pope to sell tickets to heaven? But Calvin thought that the flagellation bit wasn’t bad and decided to keep it, albeit with a twist. No longer would one self-flagellate to purify oneself, but would now do so to suppress one’s own identity in the hope that one could become a vessel for God’s will.

In the process of orchestrating the Reformation, Luther and Calvin left a legacy of Biblical exegesis that sought to divine the Truth through God’s word alone and not through the mediation of man (even if that man was the Pope). Well, it turns out that this technique had some sound reasoning behind it and could be used to explicate other texts, and would in turn form the basis of scientific language in the West. However, one must never lose sight of the fact that it was God’s truth that was sought, and therefore when referring to Nature, one should “evacuate” oneself from the scientific treatise so as not to “toot one’s own horn.” Thus, we are left with passive, unreadable techno-jargon to this day.