Marilyn's Cursory Cogitations

The articles below are just a few collected, and chronically arranged, ruminations on a wide range of topics, published with occasional irregularity. This collection of ruminations is just getting started for now, but now that writing and publishing on this site is becoming a more active personal trend, so might the appearance here of these brief missives as well.

Life is sometimes however filled with "interesting times", times that have the ability to generate all manner of distractions and diversions from one's primary aspirations, goals and even life purposes. Sometimes such distractions and diversions intrude to the extent that just trying to maintain course becomes an aspiration in itself. However, since beginning active content production for this site, its sense of direct and immediate fulfillment seems likely to become infectious, thereby producing new missives here.

Marilyn Perry

 

Cultural Catastrophe

A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me what I studied while I attended university. I responded that I had primarily studied symphonic music composition and music theory. This same person then asked me what the word symphonic meant. As my heart sank silently inside me, I very politely provided an explanation of the adjective symphonic, while at the same time my mind was quietly reeling from the implications of such a level of apparent complete and utter cultural and musical ignorance.

The implication was that this person was completely unfamiliar with the universe of symphonic music, or “classical” music is such musical artistry of the highest order is all too often mischaracterized. I then patiently stated that the term symphonic is the adjective form of the word symphony, meaning music written for symphony orchestra, or more generally and accurately in the tradition of music written for the instruments of the symphony orchestra. Having to utter such words was quite a sad cultural experience.

However, it has been apparent for quite a long time that Western culture has devolved into a vapid wasteland of near complete cultural and artistic illiteracy. Apparently this nearly complete cultural illiteracy extends into nearly every aspect of the human experience. It seems that these days the average person’s cultural and artistic awareness doesn’t extend much beyond the pabulum fed them via their giant flat screen televisions by the corporate mass media propaganda machine, the insipid commercial pop music they hear on the radio from time to time and then download from Apple’s iTunes (from Apple reaps most of the profits, not the musicians), and from reading a likely less than yearly trash novel someone suggested they try because it was on the New York Times bestseller list. The giant wall mounted flat screen television as government propaganda intravenous feeding tube, was foretold with nearly prescient accuracy during the long ago 1960s in the movie version of Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451, in which the average non-reading human subject of that novel’s totalitarian government controlled society had flat screen televisions that accurately resembled today’s real life HDTV flat screens.

Contributing to this cultural catastrophe, for quite some time it has been apparent that public high schools are giving diplomas to people who can’t even perform basic tasks like conjugate verbs correctly, who don’t know the first thing about grammar in any event, and who couldn’t solve an algebra equation if their lives depended on it. Western culture is suffering from more than just a massive oligarchical wealth gap, it is suffering from an education gap, a knowledge gap, a wisdom gap, a perspicacity gap, and equally importantly, an extreme acculturation gap. On even the relatively limited plane of musical history, the average person has never really heard much of the foundations of the great common practice musical eras, from Bach, to Haydn and Mozart, and then Beethoven the great revolutionary, then followed by the romantics Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn, who beckoned forth the likes of Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, and Mahler, before the early twentieth century sprung forth not just revolutions in every other aspect of the human experience, the multiple musical revolutions that inspired the works of Debussy, Ravel, and Scriabin, and then the Viennese Berg, Webern, and Schoenberg, until even their ideas were cast aside as a free for all of thinking and invention brought the unlimited range of expression and combinations of expression that inspire the music of our current young century, where anything and everything is surely possible, even if few people may ever know that such fantastic musical creativity quietly flourishes only for an infinitesimally small audience of its connoisseurs.

However, such a mundane moment as one in which someone has to ask what the word symphonic means, implies that on a broader cultural level, something as catastrophic as some scientific claims about global warming has already happened. One deeper implication is that there isn’t even much point in trying to start much of any sort of conversation with such an average person. They don’t even have the vocabulary necessary to begin any sort of meaningful discourse about anything concrete, much less about the conceptual and the abstract. Beyond vocabulary, such people probably lack familiarity with even enough significant cultural symbols and metaphors to have the ability to establish mutual cognitive cultural congruence in a conversation.

Hopefully all this doesn’t sound like a gripe. It surely is a form of lamentation. It is as though what was once culture, not in a snobbish sense, but from the perspective of individual creative people who devote their entire lives to artistic endeavor, exists only by the support of some metaphorical form of life support machinery, gasping its last breaths. Despite such an experience, it seemed like the only reasonable response to such an experience was to walk away and get back to creative work, any form of creative work, with an assiduous focus on ensuring that every creative moment is fully informed by a deep respect for the depth of science that bolsters every form of great artistic endeavor.

Marilyn Perry

Favoring Firefox

Mozilla’s Firefox Browser is this site’s Preferred Web Browser

For a while Google’s Chrome browser had seemed to be the web browser of choice, based primarily on its various ease of use features, some provided however by extension components. Recently however, Google Chrome’s negatives have become more apparent, and more annoying, removing it from its once favorable status. The result is that Mozilla’s Firefox browser has returned as the web browser of choice for now.

There were two very important and quite practical reasons for returning Firefox to its primary browser status. The first is the fact that Google’s Chrome just uses way, way, way, too much memory. The second are various annoying CSS related display problems in Google Chrome’s algorithms that have become apparent while building this web site, www.marilynperry.com.

First of all, there just isn’t any justification for a web browser gobbling up an entire gigabyte of memory just to open it and display an empty browser window. However, Google’s Chrome does precisely that. Until I can acquire a new computer, likely an Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch, with 16GB of RAM, dual booting Mac OS X and Windows 7, any application that gobbles up 1GB of memory just to open it, has crossed the line of reasonability regarding its hogging of memory. In fact, as a seasoned software scientist, I have to believe that such enormous memory usage is the product of lazy, if not inept, programming practices that are simply wasting memory, when better designed data structures could be using less memory more efficiently. Unfortunately, memory gobbling software applications like Google’s Chrome are clear evidence of a shift in software development paradigms wherein traditional values of memory and processor efficiency have been discarded in favor of features at any cost, regardless of performance sacrifices.

The second primary browser preference change factor has been very strange problems with the way Google Chrome displays certain HTML elements when combined with various CSS annotations of them. Google Chrome is giving zero (0) height elements height, in the case of these specific problems, lots of height, when it should not be doing so. In the www.marilynperry.com web site, this problem causes the article headings to have huge vertical spaces between the heading and the article contents, which should not be there (see example image at left). Firefox however, displays the same HTML/CSS code correctly, and as expected. Kudos to the developers around the world contributing to the Firefox browser’s code, for getting such HTML/CSS display and formatting details right.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer hasn’t even been on the web browser landscape for years. After noticing the display problems with Google’s Chrome, a quick trial of Internet Explorer revealed that Microsoft's horrible web browser has even more severe display problems than those apparent when using Google’s Chrome to browse www.marilynperry.com. Consequently Microsoft's browser hasn’t been a consideration for years, and probably won’t be in the future either, and for far more reasons than just its failure to display www.marilynperry.com correctly.

Given all the foregoing, Mozilla’s Firefox is once again the premium and primary web browser of choice. Mozilla Firefox is the preferred web browser to use when viewing this web site. The other available web browsers just don’t do the job well enough, or even correctly. In other words, to have the best web browser experience on www.marilynperry.com, use the Mozilla Firefox web browser.

Marilyn Perry

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Coming to Grips with Gripes

It is extremely difficult to resist the urge to gripe now and again. It seems like there is just so much to gripe about these days. However, might griping have its own positive aspects?

Some people gripe about the weather. It seems that most weather though, and mostly weather's wonderful variations, are more often worthy of exclamations than gripes. Like a cloudy Sunday afternoon when just the lightest hint of drizzle begins to fall, enough to damped sunglasses, but without any dampening of one's spirits. Or the early morning marine layer, whose foggy mist is really just a harbinger of sunshine by noon and an afternoon requiring multiple sunscreen applications. But griping about the weather, for some apparently long forgotten reason, seems to have been for generations a primary means of simply initiating casual conversation, of filling the otherwise empty voids between verbalizations that give many people cause for minor anxiety. Maybe discussions of weather aren’t as often griping about it, but are simply speculations on that which cannot be controlled.

Could it be though, that much of griping might actually be a precursor activity, a first step toward positive problem solving? Might griping be a negative that by its very nature transforms itself into a positive, by its ability to instigate change?

These days though, probably much like the average days of the past few generations, the landscape of potential griping topics seems huge, immense, sometimes potentially infinite. For example, as a symphonic composer, it would be so easy to lament the fact that the average person doesn’t know or appreciate even the first thing about symphonic music. But that sort of gripe would take time away from composing the music itself and time away from trying to find people interested in playing it once it has been composed. It would also be easy to lament life’s limited nature, its finite certainty. But then, even a few more of life’s very precious moments would likely have been lost, instead of having been invested in doing something that later might have felt worthwhile.

Meanwhile, there is of course politics to gripe about. The planet would probably fall off its axis if people stopped disagreeing about anything and everything, and making everything the subject of political battles intent of controlling the lives those with whom one disagrees. But it seems like so much of life has been politicized these days, that one can only wonder if the universal politicization of life is a positive or a negative, or worthy of griping about in and of itself at all.

Then there are the endless aspects of personal life that people constantly gripe about. Might griping about personal life be a clumsy externalized way of trying to problem solve, of casting one’s problems about in search of a solution, without the courage to directly ask for help in solving them? If so, why is griping quite often considered a sign of social irascibility?

But the gripe, be it in the form of a grousing grumble or even a formal grievance, maybe isn’t quite so bad a phenomenon. Even the formal forms of gripes, for example within a courtroom, as in an objection, has the positive purpose of trying hard to right a wrong in the name of the fleeting goal of justice, whatever that might be. And then, without a protest now and then, as in political protest, of marching through the streets by the thousands, of people calling for change, would so many of western society's improvements of the past many decades ever have become reality? Even in the gripe's most miniscule form as well, the nonverbal moan, maybe gripes are just inevitable, possibly tolerable, even acceptable, if viewed from a positive perspective.

Marilyn Perry

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At Whose Expense

Wondering about the karmic consequences of wealth acquisition

The modern mass media propaganda machine enjoys telling the lofty tales of people who’ve acquired fortunes, especially enormous fortunes. Meanwhile, one of the questions that seem worth asking whenever there is a news story about some person or a group of people acquiring such wealth is - at whose expense - did that person or those people acquire it?

The question, “at whose expense” is a question that is sometimes answered easily. For example, among the technology moguls of the past few decades, the source of their wealth is often readily apparent. For example, Microsoft founders Paul G. Allen and Bill Gates, (mostly their employees actually), developed, and redeveloped, personal computer operating systems that convinced nearly every person and corporation in western society of adequate means to buy them. By taking just a few hundred dollars out of the pockets of each of hundreds of millions of people, possibly even a billion or more people, Bill Gates is now the wealthiest person on planet earth. Similarly, Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle Corporation, acquired his fortune by convincing large corporations to buy his database management software systems. The fortunes of Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin seem far less about having developed an internet search engine, which people mistakenly believe, and are more about having found a way to market advertising on search engine result pages to millions of companies from the tiniest to the largest. Certainly in those cases, the formula for amassing fortunes comes from finding ways to acquire just a modest sum from each of hundreds of millions of people. Wireless communications and pharmaceutical company executives appear to have developed similar insights.

Sometimes wealth acquisition stories aren’t quite so savory and appealing as are the now such legendary tales as the fortunes of the Microsoft founders. At the opposite end of the spectrum between positive and negative, good and evil are the obvious sorts of blood money stories about Latin American cocaine kingpins whose lives exist at knife’s edge and the business end of a gun barrel to survive. Alternatively, it seems like nearly every average person in western society is responsible for the wealth of thousands of middle eastern oil sheiks, as westerners gladly line the coffers of such Arab emirates via fossil fuel energy consumption, while the sheiks despise and deride the very “infidel” oil dependants whose money they have gladly taken, at the same time they happily consume the fruits of western labor and invention themselves, which they simultaneously condemn.

Alternatively, consider the example of the wealth generated for a privileged by the stock market. Consider that every time someone boasts of having scored a win in the stock market, there is somebody on the other end of those transactions that lost their money to that person. The images of people like Warren Buffet surely shine a little less under such scrutiny. Imagine as well the recent invention of the predator “pay day” lenders who bleed the poor dry with fees and interest rates that often exceed the threshold of financial usury by orders of magnitude. Take notice also of the manner in which Hedge Funds managers scoop twenty percent off the top of the profits from their investors, or that the CEOs of Wall Street firms almost invariably become billionaires, by operating like the proverbial biblical money changers so intensely demonized in that mythology.

Ironically, the world’s wealthiest people are often largely forgotten by history, and are even less often truly enamored, even as the average person reaches outward first for that brass before many others. In the long range of history though, it seems like attributes such as creativity, inventiveness, and altruism, are most memorable qualities of human beings. Consequently, when it comes to wealth, it often seems worthwhile to ask not how much, but better to ask by what means, and from whose pockets, in other words, “at whose expense” was someone’s wealth acquired, before envying whatever karma may accompany the spoils of their acquisitiveness.

Hit by the Google Search Engine Kiss of Death

My web site has been hit with the Google Search engine kiss of death. Google doesn't even show the root of my web site, its home page, in its search engine results for the search query "marilyn perry". The result it does show appears about forty or fifty results down in its list. That one result which Google displays is from the Drupal system's own internal indexing engine called the taxonomy. In Google's standard ten (10) result per page layout, my web site doesn't appear at all until it shows an obscure internal reference to the site at the forty-nineth (49th) result. The image at the left is a screenshot of the Google search results with that obscure internal like to my site as the 49th result.

I have read about this mysterious kiss of death in the mercurial and ever changing Google search algorithm. These quirks in Google's algorithm have spawned entire web pages, even entire professional businesses that provides services to business trying to save their web site from Google kiss of death, which causes a web site to nearly disappear from existence within Google search results.

The fact is, I don't believe I did anything too special that I know of that would cause this problem to occur. Since my web site is built with the Drupal CMS, it has all sorts of internal tools that are supposed to improve a web site's Search Engine Optmization (SEO), not penalize it. Curiously, other search engines such as yahoo.com, bing.com (see result image at the link) and so on, haven't buried my web site. The other search engine display my web site in position three or four, along with the other notable "Marilyn Perry" women who have a web site presence on the internet.

Google's search engine algorithm is quite annoying and definitely perplexing.

Marilyn Perry

 

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