Why the Universe Exists

When the Big Bang occurred, it created equal amounts of matter and anti-matter. Why didn’t the anti-matter simple consume all the matter? Because of a difference in the properties of matter and anti-matter known as the charge-parity (CP) violation.

[Scientists are still working it out.](http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/02/evidence-for-antimatter-anomaly-.html)

Wikileaks Needs Your Help

So I have been a fan of the *realpolitik* musings of the folks at StratFor, the freely available parts that is. It turns out that the StratFor folks are *realpolitik* in the usual crass sorts of ways as well: slopping at the fear trough, setting up offshore investment funds that profit from other people’s misery, and the kind of general bribery and revolving-door shenanigans we have come to expect from our government and corporations.

How do I know this? It turns out StratFor did a pretty good job of documenting themselves. All it took was the work of a group of hackers to “free” the materials and turn it over to Wikileaks.

[Wikileaks has a nice write-up.](http://wikileaks.org/the-gifiles.html)

But you should also [donate](http://shop.wikileaks.org/donate). Why? Because transparency is central to democracy.

Leap Days

We have them every 4 years, but not every 100 years, except when it’s every 400 years. [The Bad Astronomer has the explanation.][1] Here’s what it comes down to: our day is not really 24 hours long.

[1]: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/02/29/why-we-have-leap-days-2/

MacJournal versus Day One

There are two things that Day One currently has going for it that MacJournal needs:

1. First, syncing through DropBox is dead easy, and, more importantly that means syncing **all** your devices, including iOS devices.

2. Day One offers a minimalist user interface for writing that doesn’t require one to go into full screen mode.

I know full screen is all the rage, but sometimes I want nothing more than a neatly-styled text box to type into that will then expand into a fuller UI if I want it. Scrivener almost gets this right except it doesn’t know how to adjust its width accordingly — this may be a function of Mac OS options than the app itself. I really like apps that grow and shrink their size modally, e.g. iTunes.

**UPDATE** (July 2012): I have returned to being a loyal user of MacJournal, which will shortly be beta testing syncing options, including through DropBox. My return is precipitated on a few things:

1. The developer of MacJournal is amazingly friendly and helpful and has been for years. I contacted the developer of Day One once, and I thought very respectfully, and his response was, well, to use an old-fashioned word, *churlish*. (It’s more polite than the first word that came to mind.)
2. MacJournal already offers almost all the functionality I want: tags, the ability to post something from the app to a variety of blogging platforms, the ability to include graphics in posts. It’s not perfect in this regard, but it’s got a lot packed in it.
3. I still prefer the UIs of the two Day One apps: they really are lovely, and I hope MacJournal’s developer has the chance to try some things out. It may be that his user base largely prefers things as they are — and since I am only one voice in a larger market, I have to respect that.

The Re-Emergence of a Craft-Based Economy

In an article in the *New York Times*, Adam Davidson synthesizes a number of recent events into a larger phenomenon that he calls a “craft-based economy.” He points to Sam Adams beer, Starbucks, Apple, and the various products offered on Etsy as facets of what is apparently called “happiness economics”, which argues that “once people reach some level of comfort, they are willing — even eager — to trade in potential earnings at a lucrative but uninspiring job for less (but comfortable) pay at more satisfying work.” Another dimension of this view is that other individuals within this economy, and presumably enough of the middle class to matter, are willing to be price insensitive on certain consumables.

That is, even in these tight economic times, some individuals are leaving good jobs for jobs that pay them less well, and often require more work, but make them happier, and some consumers are choosing not the commodity version of an item but the one that satisfies some other dimension. Davidson, and I guess happiness economists too, ignores the fact that there are other quantifiable dimensions of a product than its price: e.g., organic produce.

But the larger point is an interesting one, and I like that Davidson included in his examples a micro-manufacturer who saw a niche for precisely-milled metal alloy parts and now has contracts with Boeing and General Electric. There is, as Davidson points out, always the danger that a bigger player will decide that the niche is large enough to be profitable and to displace the smaller player, but this is something of which smaller players, like the fabricators that I study, have long been aware.

→ Nicholas Carr: Why publishers should give away ebooks

Carr’s argument is, in part, that the music industry is already doing this: buy the atoms (the physical copy) get the bits (the digital copy). It is also, in part, the sense that many of us have: why do I have to pay twice for the same content?

I am a big fan of both [Pragmatic Programmers][pp] and [O’Reilly][op] because both will bundle bits with atoms, or atoms with bits, for a discount that varies by title. In fact, O’Reilly deserves an especial tip of the hat for their recent move to make buying eBook versions of some of my shelf favorites so easy and so affordable. ($5 for a number of my favorite titles.)

Sometimes I want paper, sometimes I want my phone or my Kindle or my computer. The publishers that give me that choice will quickly become my favorites. (And so I am buying more books from [O’Reilly][op] in particular.)

[pp]: http://pragprog.com/
[op]: http://oreilly.com/

Some Preliminary Notes on This Year’s Mermentau Mardi Gras

I have been following the Mermentau Mardi Gras run for twelve years now, missing only the one year they ran a week early in order to avoid the Super Bowl, and, except for the first year when my colleague and Mardi Gras mentor Barry Jean Ancelet taught me how to follow runs, I have followed the Mermentau run without any other folklorists or filmmakers or photographers present. What cameras were present were either my own, those wielded by the Mardi Gras themselves, or by their audiences. I occasionally have wondered why this is, given how much attention other runs garner locally in the form of long queues of cars and trucks that follow them like a snake wandering through the Louisiana prairies or more globally in the form of folklorists, anthropologists, and journalists.

At one point in my writing about the Mermentau Mardi Gras for the [EVIA Digital Archive][1], I noted that, compared to the Tee Mamou Mardi Gras or the Grand Marais Mardi Gras, which are its two neighbors to the north, the Mermentau Mardi Gras often lacked dramatic shape. That is, there are plenty of years when the runners simply tumble out of the trailers, approach a house, and begin socializing right away. One of their few dramatic forms has been their performance of “Make Your Body Talk”, which is always a crowd pleaser.

But all that changed this year. I don’t know if they have added a few runners from Tee Mamou or if some folks who run in Anse Lejeune joined or what happened this year, but the approach to the house changed considerably. A brief description of what happened at the Thibodeaux’s captures things I think:

First, their captain had a much more distinct approach to the the house. He came alone and with an empty soup pot in his hand. He clearly conferred with them, and, being Brian Cormier, he immediately shares a laugh with them. He then turned to the Mardi Gras, who knew they had permission already to be there, and signaled them to approach the house, but he gestured them down onto the ground, making them crawl across the limestone gravel of the drive to get to the small crowd of onlookers, who, I don’t think, were quite prepared for this new, more ferocious Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras crawled and, like the run in Elton, took advantage of its lowly status to focus on people’s shoes as a target for foolery. There were even a few whoops, which is not something I have heard before.

This lasted a short while before the Mardi Gras moved into its more sociable approach to things, but the playing among a few runners continued. One runner in particular was constantly at work, and a few others joined in using garbage cans to turn themselves into Jacks-in-the-Box, who would pop out and start to dance with a lot of hip action, like the gopher from “Caddy Shack.”

The Thibodeaux household is usually a place where some of the younger runners test themselves against the captains. There is plenty of room for running and playing. This was not as pronounced as it has been in the past, but there was some playing. Some of this quietness may have been anticipating what was to come at the Hargroves or it might have been that the audience never really shifted from the front of the house to the side yard to watch the chicken chases. Perhaps without that audience, there was less impetus to cut up.

What happened at the Hargroves was incredibly moving, despite the fact that I knew the complete plan ahead of time: it was still incredible to see the entire Mardi Gras with their hats and masks off, walking quietly down the lane. They approached while “Amazing Grace” sounded from a lone accordion. Cormier cried as he walked toward Lynn Hargrove, who lost her husband Burt this past year in a traffic accident, and folded her into a huge hug as he gave her a bouquet of flowers. Then Burly Deshotels approached with a memento from the Mardi Gras and also hugged Lynn. Finally, Dale Trahan came to give her a hug. There was a muted conversation among them. All the while the Mardi Gras continued to come forward and fill the space in front of them. Those in the front kneeled.

The somber moment lingered, and then Cormier whistled the Mardi Gras to begin, calling out “Come on, Mardi Gras.” Lynn herself said, “Yes, let’s remember Burt the way he would want to be remembered.”

[1]: http://www.eviada.org/collection.cfm?mc=7&ctID=68

Make Your Library Visible in Mac OS X

I understand Apple’s need to make sure user’s don’t shoot themselves in their feet by mucking about where they don’t belong, but it’s too often the case that I actually need to add something in user library, `~/Library`, and having to go to the Finder’s **Go** menu while holding down **Option** is a pain. My answer? Return things to the way they were with the Library always being visible:

chflags nohidden ~/Library

Your thanks are noted.