Sunday, September 24, 2006

Land of the Free

From a review of David Brion Davis's Inhuman Bondage in the London Telegraph: "The story Davis tells is strikingly at odds with traditional accounts. Those used to thinking of New World settlement in terms of a widening of horizons and a breaking free from European constraints will be surprised to learn that, before 1820, African slaves outnumbered European settlers by a ratio of more than five to one. This is not to deny that some Europeans did find the experience liberating, although it is worth remembering that many of them arrived themselves as indentured servants or transported criminals, and so were hardly in a position to feel liberated. The picture is certainly very different from that painted by those who like to think of early America either as a refuge for the oppressed or a gigantic adventure playground. If numbers are what count, the “typical” American settler was neither a swaggering conquistador nor a Bible-quoting Puritan but a miserable African slave toiling on a sugar plantation."

Friday, September 22, 2006

CEOs are Vile

I was cheerfully reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback while I snarfed my Thai fish cakes, and nearly spat when I came to the passage below. Perhaps I'm naive, but what "market forces" are operating on behalf of a CEO who's about to quit?

Much news and sports commentary focuses on the ever-larger paychecks of professional athletes. But even Peyton Manning is a day laborer compared to the modern Fortune 500 CEO. In May, Exxon Mobil shareholders passed the first resolution in company history to be enacted over opposition of the board of directors; at issue was shareholder fury regarding the $168 million retiring CEO Lee Raymond awarded himself in his final year. "There's some unhappiness about the way Raymond's compensation was handled," new Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson dryly told a news conference. During the summer Hank McKinnell was ousted as CEO of Pfizer. Over his last five years at the helm, he got $162 million, even as Pfizer earnings faltered. Carol Hymowitz of the Wall Street Journal reported that the head of Pfizer's "compensation committee" defended McKinnell's windfall on grounds of market forces in executive pay -- which in this context appears to mean, "CEOs at other companies are picking shareholders' pockets, too." There just wasn't anybody who would have taken the Pfizer job for less than $162 million? McKinnell's pay for his tenure atop Pfizer equates to $130,000 per work day.

African Pop

Ok-Oyot Project live at Iota in Arlington, VA: should be beautiful!

...and it wasn't. Why did the sound engineer insist on mixing them like some stupid rock band, with the thudding bass all the way up, obscuring the interlocking guitar figures?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

xUnit for Scheme LISP

After a bit of pain, caused by my trying to install the SchemeUnit 2.0 download available on SourceForge, I managed to locate the 3.0 download here. I'm a novice when it comes to LISP, and to DrScheme, so the sparse installation instructions were inadequate for me. After some trial and error, which included messing up my DrScheme installation enough that I had to reinstall it, I found the happy path. First, I downloaded the .plt file and saved it an arbitary location (Firefox insists on showing the contents of the file as text, which is not what you want; I had to resort to IE).

Noel Welsh, the author of SchemeUnit, has dropped hints about how to install the .plt using planet, but my only goal is to learn a little more about LISP, and I don't want to be distracted by another utility. Noel's also turned out to be slightly inconsistent with the original documentation, as we'll see. In any case, Dr. Scheme's File menu has an Install .plt File... option, which seemed like the right method, so I clicked it and saw the dialog on the right. Which path to pick? After some trial and error, including a reinstallation of DrScheme, I noticed another dialog that had been concealed by the file selector. It turns out that I needed to navigate to C:\Program Files\PLT\collects, and make a new directory called schematics, after which I'd click OK and be happy forever. Oops! When I typed (require (lib "" "schemeunit")) at the DrScheme console, as SchemeUnit's Quick Start page says, it responded, "collection not found: "schemeunit" in any of [the paths displayed below]." D'oh! So, just to be one the safe side, I reinstalled DrScheme again, then followed the same steps as before to install the .plt file, but this time created a schemeunit directory within my PLT installation. It works! Now I actually have to write some LISP.