The Internet of Goofy Names

There is so much in the news about the “Internet of Things” and its promise and peril. It will, like everything else in our networked world, change everything, except the things it doesn’t. One reliable tech trend that it is here already and showing no sign of going away is the goofy naming of tech services, particularly software companies and their eponymous products.

As I left San Jose last week, a giant conference for Strata/Hadoop, which sounds like something the Sims would order in a coffee shop, “with an extra pump of zim please, and venti,” was getting underway. Hadoop I learned is the way Facebook, Yahoo! and all the rest make happy with our data and it is named after a stuffed animal belonging to the young son of one of the original creators of the software. The original name sake was a rather fetching yellow elephant.

Software names are it turns out intentionally meaningless (and sometimes the fodder for off color jokes). Hadoop has spawned a truly awesome eco-system of cheerfully named nonsense:

HadoopAvro, Squoop, Whirr, Kafka, Oozie, and Flume! Such linguistic wonders evoke those 18th century novels and plays with their colorfully satirical names, or Thomas Pynchon whose fondness for silly names echoes this world and perhaps is informed by his prodigious technical learning.  There is, of course, software just to create a silly name for your company. (Must have some hidden algorithm to get the trendiest double vowel; is any tech name more perfect for sound and sense than “buzz feed”? –it is what it says on the tin, and it’s fun to say!)

None of these is, it seems safe to say,  a “thing” in the sense of tangible item, but I guess as “all that is solid melts into [virtual] air” the names of the programs that will run our Internet of things, and us,  will at least provide a giggle.  Very truly yours, Mahout Yarn Pig.

Musical Words: Lindsay Kemp on the Mozart-Handel Connection

Mozart’s arrangement of Messiah.

Nice piece over on the Gramophone magazine blog about Mozart’s knowledge of Handel. As musicologist Lindsay Kemp points out, knowledge of older musical eras and styles was not as typical of 18th century composers as it became later, but Mozart’s encounter with baroque music was profound.  From the blog piece:

Above all, the realisation of the expressive potential of Baroque music found voice almost immediately in Mozart’s own music, at first in the grandiloquent choruses of the great Mass in C  minor, but also in a four-part fugue, also in C  minor, that he composed for two pianos in 1783, and which five years later he arranged for strings and prefaced with an Adagio much in the style of an overture by Handel (K546). This is no mere exercise in pastiche, but a piece of almost terrifying cumulative power, an acknowledgement of earlier genius that is deeply, almost disturbingly personal.

Here’s a performance of the Adagio and Fugue he mentions:

It may be too facile, but there does seem to be as much that looks ahead to the massive fugues of Beethoven as back to Bach and Handel. Four parts + minor key + 6 minutes + Mozart = more dramatic intensity than most operas or movies for that matter.

Minor Grumbles: “Architects” all about us…

“The 25 best jobs for today!” trumpets some click bait in my social media feeds and email newsletters. Falling for the siren song of the listicle, I found a lot of the expected tech jobs, but also came face to face with just how far the tech world has colonized the once distinctive term “architect.” There are “software architects” (#1 on one list). Networks need “architects” too, and then there is the “security architect,” concerning neither moats nor drawbridges and crenellations, presumably. And my favorite, the “solutions architect.” “Solution” is an approach to some business computing need. It always seemed slightly euphemistic, and a little over eager, “Hi, I’m the cloud-provisioned email services and I’ll be your solution today” it coos with a bright smile. I’m betting it was coined about the time of the advent of that scary yellow smiley.

“Solution” did ‘solve’ a terminology problem at least: what do you call software, hardware, maintenance, training etc. “Package” might have worked, but was too tangible. “Approach” was too vague. In any case “IT solutions” however much an oxymoron have escaped into the wild, kind of like starlings, and now is here to stay. “Software Architect” seems more of problem. I get that networks have an architecture, at least in the metaphorical sense. They do require design and structure, and they are intended to fulfill a ‘program’ in at least a couple of ways. You lay out and design an architecture, and that tells you how to build the infrastructure for the network. But does having architecture really instantiate an architect.?

Maybe it’s Miesonly used figuratively. “Kitchener: Architect of Victory” comes up on Google Scholar with a quick search, and that’s meant as a sort of an upmarket synonym for “planner.” I admit “planner of Victory” would be a pretty feeble squib. The figurative use seems most plausible with some kind of tangible effort, usually of historical significance. Perhaps the first person who makes a completely digital brain deserves the term cogno-neuro-science architect, but figuring out where the routers go or which firewall to buy?

If the ‘architects’ of the virtual are here to stay, and they probably are, then it does raise the question what to call architects of the real? “Architecture architect”? “Building architect”? “IRL architect”? “Architect of atoms (not bits).” “Architect: The Original™–accept no substitute? Now I’m off to be breakfast architect.

Poetic Word: Robert Herrick

The Times Literary Supplement has had a run on good pieces lately but Paul Davis’ review of a new collection of the poetry of Robert Herrick was a particular pleasure. Here’s the lead:

Lyric poetry written in the first half of the seventeenth century is full of little things – Richard Lovelace has his snail and his grasshopper, Andrew Marvell his drop of dew and his glow-worms, Edmund Waller his garters, gloves and ribbons – but Robert Herrick’s appetite for the miniature was uniquely gargantuan. A brief selection of the nano-phenomena, animal, vegetable and mineral, in Hesperides (1648), his only collection of verse, might include: amber beads, ants, apple cores, beans, bees (or just their honey sacs), beetles, beets, crickets, cherries (often just their stones), cowslips, earlobes, earwigs, flies, gnats, mice, newts, nipples (usually reduced to “niplets”, one of several diminutives Herrick coined), nuts, pansies, pearls, peas, robins (Herrick liked shortening his own name to “Robin”), seeds, smallage (his herb of choice for his gravestone), spiders, tears (always singly, never in floods), violets, worms and worts. Then there are the poems themselves. Hesperides contains a massive 1,402 lyrics – 1,130 in the main body of the collection, and 272 in a second religious corpus, His Noble Numbers or Pious Pieces – but only three dozen or so are longer than fifty lines, and a mere eighty-five even get beyond twenty, while more than 1,000 come in at two quatrains or under, including 465 distichs. Poems in pentameter are hugely outnumbered by those in tetrameter or trimeter, and Herrick was not above writing whole poems in dimeter and monometer.

This extent of miniaturism can make reading through Hesperides a strange experience, at once gruelling and unsatisfying, like surfeiting on canapés or climbing an Everest of molehills. For a long time, readers ducked the challenge. …

I certainly did, at least beyond the anthologized greatest hit or two of his.

But TLS sent me back to the poems and here are a few that caught my eye.

Delight in Disorder
By Robert Herrick
A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness;
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthralls the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribands to flow confusedly;
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat;
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.

The Present Time Best Pleaseth
by Robert Herrick

Praise they that will times past; I joy to see
Myself now live: this age best pleaseth me.

Matins, or Morning Prayer
by Robert Herrick

When with the virgin morning thou dost rise,
Crossing thyself come thus to sacrifice;
First wash thy heart in innocence; then bring
Pure hands, pure habits, pure, pure every thing.
Next to the altar humbly kneel, and thence
Give up thy soul in clouds of frankincense.
Thy golden censers fill’d with odours sweet
Shall make thy actions with their ends to meet.

Cabinet of Curiosities
“The Cabinet of Curiosities” a glass sculpture by Steffen Dam in the collection of the Chazen Museum of Art at UW-Madison. Like Herrick, full of tiny wonders, and bigger on the inside.





Chef Watson

After you win at Jeopardy!, I guess you’re mad hungry. Spotted in the Guardian.

Touting such eyebrow-raising combinations as an Indian turmeric paella, a Turkish-Korean anchovy Caesar salad and a Creole shrimp-lamb dumpling, a new contender for hottest cookery writer of 2015 is preparing to elbow aside the likes of Jamie Oliver, Mary Berry and Nigella Lawson: IBM’s supercomputer Watson.

Four years after beating two human champions to win the US game show Jeopardy!, IBM’s cognitive computing system is set to release its first cookbook – with the help of a few human specialists.

Full (and nicely done) story at :

Mary Frances doesn’t need Watson it seems, but I wouldn’t turn my back on that spatula thingie if I were her. (A children’s cookbook from MSU’s historical cookbook archive.)

It turns out good recipes are yet another problem that give up the game to “big data”–although, as of yet, it doesn’t seem like Watson can actually take a bite from the simmering sauce pan and “adjust seasoning to taste;”  surely some lab is working on that interface.

One thing I’ve wondered about is a “reverse engineering” recipe search engine, where you can put in good things you’ve had at restaurants and you get the info (the late lamented Gourmet Magazine used to do this  years ago). There also are some search engines that let you put what you have in your larder in and display what you can cook.  Just tried a search and learned I could make something called Eggy Teddy Belly Toast. A mildly disturbing prospect.

Beautiful Music: Mompou

MompouThe Catalan composer Federico Mompou has sometimes been termed a sort of Iberian Satie, but that doesn’t do either of them justice. He had an idiosyncratic way with the piano, modern and antique at the same time–and often very haunting.

Here’s the marvelous Jenny Lin playing “Secreto,” one of his “Intimate Impressions:”