Friday, September 25, 2009

Bread and Puppet

Bread and Puppet

On the last day of our trip to Vermont, Liberty, Scout, and I went with Dominique to the Bread and Puppet Theater museum, which houses giant masks, puppets, paper-mache sculptures, and artwork with which I am at a loss to classify. The work is, presumably, all from old shows and parades. Here is a link to some of the art in action:

And here is a basic description of what the theater is, from Wikipedia (abridged):

The Bread and Puppet Theater is a politically radical puppet theater, active since the 1960s, currently based in Glover, Vermont. The name derives from the theater's practice of sharing its own fresh bread with the audience as a means of creating community, and from its central principle that art should be as basic to life as bread. The Theater participates in parades including Fourth of July celebrations, notably in Cabot, Vermont, with many effigies including a satirical Uncle Sam on stilts. The Theater was active during the Vietnam War in anti-war protests, primarily in New York. It is often remembered as a central part of the political spectacle of the time, as its enormous puppets (often ten to fifteen feet tall) were a fixture of many demonstrations.

There's more to the "bread" angle. The founder comes from a family that makes old world bread straight from rye berries. Thick, gritty, a meal. Not sissy bread. The shows try to indicate "This is what people used to mean by 'bread', and 'art' should feed your soul the same way."

I was amazed at what I saw, and as my bitter view of all things grows in midlife, there aren't many things I'm willing to say that about. Some of the simple slogans spoke to me in a way that generic leftist propoganda does not. "Art should be cheap, and not the pervue of the rich." "Resist the machine-operated details of life." And the one that really threw me, the most basic possible reproach of patriotism, capitalism, manifest destiny, etc., was this statement in reference to the constitution: "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


"Talitha cumi" - Vermont, to my wife.

Liberty really came alive in Vermont on our recent two-week vacation to see her sister. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen her this happy. Dominique came down to Columbus with her husband and two children to see Eric and Zoe get married a few months back, and shortly after their return, Liberty pined for her lost Vermont very strongly, and I consented to drive up there with her and Scout in order to answer what was clearly a question of importance to her.

Liberty, and me, and Scout. And not Stacey. Middle school had already started for her when OSU's break between quarters started. To say that I was upset about leaving Stacey behind would be an understatement; I was, rather, beside myself with disappointment and fear of further pushing my steadily-growing-up daughter away from me. However, to miss this chance to help Liberty stay connected to her family and revisit the state that gave her the most happiness would have been unconscionable. Unforgivable. And so we went, I leaving my misgivings behind.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Fun with Base64

"I may be a sorry case, but I don't write jokes in base 13." - Douglas Adams

So I coded this new perl script... what, I lost you already?

If you're still reading, so I coded this new perl script to solve the problem of the day. My group was notified that some of our processes are filling up some webMethods server logs with what looks like debug messages. When you're dealing with an environment the size of our's, with dozens of code migrations each month, you run into things like this from time to time. "Oh, I left the test password in the SQL script, crap!" and so forth. You fix it and move on, and occasionally offer up a sacrificial lamb if there is a business disruption. We calls these "lessons learned" meetings.

Anyway, in this case we were able to check the timing of the log messages with the record of what services were called at what times, and found a match. The webMethods service at fault was invoking a java service that had as one of its lines:
output = Service.doInvoke( "pub.flow", "debugLog", input );

In theory this type of thing should be commented out or removed prior to code being migrated to production, but in the webMethods IDE, you have to sort of go out of your way to see raw java code, selecting each java service in turn, and visually scanning. There is no function in the IDE to search java code.

The question I wanted an answer to was "how many other services call debugLog this way?" The lack of a search feature in the IDE made this unanswerable, so we went to the filesystem to search the source code directly. Alas, the java services were XML files whose java sources were MIME encoded elements. Before I lose you completely, a little background...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

7 Creative Leaps in Zombiedom

To define the beautiful is to misunderstand it. - Fernando Pessoa

Zombies are pretty popular these days. Having been a fan of the genre long before it was as mainstream-popular as it is now (I was zombie when zombie wasn't cool, so to speak), I try to see all the zombie films I can when they come out, and lately I've even taken to reading zombie fiction. Most of it is great, and like bedroom antics, even the bad is pretty good. Not much of it, however, adds anything new that's truly interesting. Here are some exceptions:

Herbert West - Reanimator