Clueful house

US House of Reps: FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 161, via Derek Willis in private correspondence

OK, no, so I'm not so much of a political wonk that I'm doing the day's mathematics on the voting patterns behind "Making emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, and for other purposes". No, what I'm interested in is the file extension of that URL: ".xml". View source, folks. Surely enough, our caveman congress is savvy enough that they are using XML, DTDs and XSLT in a ridiculously clueful manner. Knock me over with a feather. Next thing Tom DeLay will be running XQuery on these rolls so he could figure out which Dem he can play bogey-of-the-month with. Of course, that would put me in the odd position of feeling sorry for DeLay, for having to use XQuery...

Anyway, see also "Legislative Documents in XML at the United States House of Representatives". Willis says "they've been developing a system for votes and legislation (although that'll take some time to implement), and it deserves attention and support."

Vote for cloture on that, brother.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Need a picture? Got a picture.

CC licensed pictures on Flickr, via blog

Many Flickr users have chosen to protect their work with a Creative Commons license, and you can browse or search through photos under each type of license.

Yeah, f'real, as in 127,100 pictures available under attribution license alone. You can also use the search, so you could, say, find all pictures tagged with "snowboard" with the attribution license. OK. That's the bag of chips right there. I mean, sure you may have to wade through a lot of fill before you find that one perfect picture for your next school report, but that's not much downside.

And don't forget the mother-search: the CC search engine, where you can also find other sorts of media. Nice demo of RDF in action as well. See:

Thinking XML: The commonsof creativity, Uche Ogbuji, developerWorks, May 2003

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Principles of XML design: When the order of XML elements matters

Principles of XML design: When the order of XML elements matters

Subtitle: When to be strict and when to be lax as you decide how to order child elements

Editor's synopsis: When multiple XML elements occur within another element, does element order matter? Whether it's the order in which the parser reports elements to applications, or the question of whether or not to mandate specific order in schema patterns, things are not always as simple as they may seem. In this article, Uche Ogbuji covers design and processing considerations related to the order of XML elements.

This is the latest in my series on XML design. The other installments are:

Also along these lines are my discussion of ERH's excellent book Effective XML, and my article "Keep your XML clean".

[Uche Ogbuji]

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CherryPy 2.0


After several months of hard work the first stable release of CherryPy2 is finally available. Downloads are available here and the ChangeLog can be viewed here.

Remi Delon announced the 2.0 release of CherryPy. It's my favorite entry in the the Python Web frameworks sweepstakes. It's very simple to learn and use, and it just makes sense. Very few surprising conventions. My own endorsement is among the many testimonials CherryPy has picked up

I'm also pulling for CherryPy to form the heart of the protocol server for the next generation of 4Suite. As I said on the CherryPy discussion board:

I have a nefarious agenda: I regret our having reinvented some wheels in 4Suite, and most especially the Web framework wheel. To be fair to us, the likes of CherryPy were not available at the time and it was pretty much Zope, Webware, mod_python or bust, and we didn't like any of those options. But now we're saddled with really not-that-great re-implementations of HTTP [server] framework, session management, etc, all too tightly coupled into the XML database for my liking. I'd like to move to a more open architecture that decouples core XML libraries from XML DBMS from protocol framework (with CherryPy ideally as the latter). That way, [someone] could get CherryPy, and if they liked, a simple XML processing plug in, and if they liked, an XML DB plug in, and so on. If I can get [something] working sweet as sugar with CherryPy, I bet I could convice my fellow 4Suite developers to leave the Web frameworks to the dedicated Web frameworks projects.

I've been plugging slowly away with these ideas, but it's been hard to get to it with all the other items in the work queue. Perhaps this announcement will spur me to get something into shape.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Drive-by on Safire

"Don't do this at home, kiddies!"

William Safire has always thoroughly pissed me off. I see him as a sort of learned dolt. He's stuffed a lot of beans in his noggin, but doesn't know how to take advantage of it for anything but clumsy invective.

So it's fun to watch Language Log take Safire to task for his expressive prescriptivism in the matter of "which" versus "that". Language Log has been one my favorite sites ever since I learned that the entertaining Geoff Nunberg from NPR's Fresh Air pitched into a blog (I also appreciate that Nunberg is on the usage panel of the best American dictionary: the American Heritage).

[Uche Ogbuji]

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The Scotsman

"The Scotsman"

Fun little ditty, indicated to me by John Cowan. Snippet:

About that time two young and lovely girls just happend by
And one says to the other with a twinkle in her eye
See yon sleeping Scotsman so strong and handsome built
I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh
I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Wiktionary, via Sean Palmer on IRC

[...]Wiktionary, a collaborative project to produce a free multilingual dictionary in every language, with definitions, etymologies, pronunciations and quotations. Wiktionary is the lexical companion to the open-content encyclopedia Wikipedia ( In the English edition, started on December 12, 2002, we are now working on 68055 entries."

Around the time this reference came up, we were discussing the various senses of the word "shibboleth", and on a lark, I checked the Wiktionary. It nails it nicely:


  1. A word which was made the criterion by which to distinguish the Ephraimites from the Gileadites. The Ephraimites, not being able to pronounce sh, called the word sibboleth. See Judges xii.
  2. Also in an extended sense: the criterion, test, watchword, or password of a party used to distinguish membership.
  3. A slogan, jargon word, or catchphrase closely associated with a particular group and not used very much, or at all, outside of it. Can also apply to ideas, customs, and uses of language.
  4. A common belief or usage that is questionable or incorrect; truism, platitude.

It's really wonderful to discover gems from the amazing world of on-line collaboration. Wiktionary doesn't yet have as much mind share as Wikipedia, but I suspect it shall as time goes on, and this will make it better in some ways, and worse in others.

I do hope it evolves some means of exporting/querying though XML or RDF, similar to WordNet. See:

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Your current frequencies of understanding outweigh that which has been given for you to understand.
The current standard is the equivalent of an adolescent restricted to the diet of an infant.
The rapidly changing body would acquire dysfunctional and deformative symptoms, and could not properly mature on a diet of apple sauce and crushed pears.
Light years are interchangeable with years of living in darkness.
The role of darkness is not to be seen as, or equated with...ignorance...but with the unknown, and the mysteries of the...unseen.

--Saul Williams--"Coded Language", Amethyst Rock Star

And this passage, of course (and the rest of the blistering start of "Coded Language"), is but a prelude to Saul Williams tearing into his famous and raucous invocation of pan-cultural men gods, heroes and muses (including a few tin wreath wearers) new and old. Like most snippets I feature on Quotidie, this poem/rap is to be heard, not just read.

Williams is one of my Hip-Hop heroes. He effortlessly crafts weaves into sharp assault that leaves you keen, rather than numbed. There is more poetry in one Saul Williams song than in most entire anthologies of middle 20th-century verse. It's not metrical, but then again, remember clause three of the Imagist manifesto:

As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

Decades of poetasters didn't take those words literally enough, and as a result produced lukewarm prose chopped into lines, calling it poetry. I believe this clause has little practical use in criticism except in griot traditions of, which have only really come into the commonplace in the West with the emergence of hip-hop. Williams is skillful enough to use all the griot's kit, including allusion (not in the snippet above, but elsewhere in the song), vivid surrealism, personification (without pathetic fallacy), word play (the pun of "crushed pears" and "crushed peers" is especially neat), and contrapuntal caesura, as in the emphasis of "ignorance" and "unseen".

Some of this tradition informs the current world of "spoken word" performance, although most spoken word is weakened by lack of instrumental accompaniment. recently had a very interesting interview with Common (see an earlier Quotidie) and Saul Williams about this genre.

[Saul Williams]: Poetry has a much longer oral tradition that it does a written tradition. So that's one of the ways that Hip-Hop is very connected to the history of poetry; in that poetry was always recited since before people even knew how to write. In Europe, Asia, Africa, you name it; poetry was recited before it was written. So in many ways, it helps not to have the formal training in poetry because the formal is often misinformed.

The best training is not being lectured and brow-beaten by bureaucrats in workshops, but deciding for yourself what you like to hear and working like a slave to imitate it. Clearly this has worked for Williams. I'm grateful not to have ever taken a single course in literature or criticism. Instead I've read widely and practiced strenuously.

But thinking about the potential of the movement artists like Saul Williams and Common represent is a matter of pondering two simple questions:

1) What will Poetry do for Hip-Hop?

[]: The influences of Hip-Hop, The Last Poets, and the Black Arts movement also helped to shape the 90s' spoken word or "slam poetry" movement. After shining for years at poetry clubs like the Nuyorican Poet's Café, the style has now reached new heights of fame through Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam franchise. Arguably this is the form that has done more than anything to bring a new generation back to poetry.

A lot of slam poetry is just plain loud, sloppy whingeing, but to Simmons' defence, he's done a good job of picking the best for his show. Lori and I enjoy it immensely. I think of it as not so much poetry, and not so much music. It's a very energetic form of dramatic monologue that takes rhetoric from poetry and form from music. Artists attuned to this genre have formed the backbone of the camp that has been quietly preserving real Hip-Hop from the decadence of the bling/bitches/hoes era, and who are slowly emerging from the underground into the mainstream in the form of Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, MF Doom and more.

2) What will Hip-Hop do for Poetry?

[Williams]: I think [the poetry establishment are] slowly opening up to [Hip-Hop]. It'll take a few more ventures from us onto the written page for them to really embrace it. Once we find a balance between the stage and the page, the academics will realize the importance of what's happening right now. Because we are definitely the ones who have brought poetry back to life.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Frères humains qui après nous vivez
N'ayez les coeurs contre nous endurciz,
Car, ce pitié de nous pauvres avez,
Dieu en aura plus tost de vous merciz.
Vous nous voyez ci, attachés cinq, six
Quant de la chair, que trop avons nourrie,
Elle est piéca devorée et pourrie,
Et nous les os, devenons cendre et pouldre.
De nostre mal personne ne s'en rie:
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous veuille absouldre!

François Villon--"L'Épitaph (Ballade des pendus)"

It's Tuesday again: French day. As usual I spent a good portion of my pre-matinal regime in French reading and revision to get ready for conversational practice this evening. I was feeling particularly fresh, so I wrote a poem based on the first two stanzas of Villon's (I ran out of time for finishing the third stanza and envoi). It's a near translation, and you can get much of Villon's basic sense from it, but I purposefully make some departures. If you want a closer translation, try Swinburne's "Epitaph in the Form of a Ballade", from Poems and Ballads. I shall say that Villon is almost impossible to translate faithfully. He was an incomparable craftsman, and used every resource of his native tongue. It's actually fairly easy French to follow (especially, for me, after Les Symbolistes), so if you paid attention at all in high school, give the original a try (you must read it aloud).

Anyway, the first half of my modest effort:

Brother souls who live beyond our days,
Don't turn towards us hearts of hollow stone,
For if you pity us, such wretched strays,
Goddess redeem indulgence you'll have shown.
You see a hand or so of us thus strown:
Bodies once well fed of ill-got gain
Now ravened by rot and beasts upon the plain
We, the bones who speak, turn dust and ash.
None should deign to laugh upon our pain,
But wish all ghosts kind Fortune's calabash.

--Uche Ogbuji--from "Epitaph (après Villon, maître)", 3 May 2005

The only real thematic change is from the European gallows to the "evil bush" of Igbo custom, reserved for criminals who have committed abominations.

I've been working on and off on getting Cara Musis, my literary site, back in shape, so I can publish some of my work. I think I'll have to make that a priority this weekend. «Aaaaïïïïïe, nooooon!», do I hear you say? Ah, hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère... Va t'en.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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