7QT: How Composing, Covers, and Costumes Work

7QT: How Composing, Covers, and Costumes Work June 12, 2015

— 1 —

Hi folks!  Did you want to read a novella-length article on how software development works?  I thought you might!

I enjoyed the heck out of Paul Ford’s “What is Code?” for Bloomberg Businessweek (and it’s one of only a couple articles I can think of that makes excellent use of being on the web–letting you play around with little snippets of example code, animations, etc).  I’d say check it out and see if you wind up enjoying it!

(Because I have a little background on this, I’m not certain it’s layperson friendly, but it’s certainly intending to be, and it helped me understand the concepts in it that I hadn’t seen before)

— 2 —

But if you’d like a much shorter tour through a technical topic, I also recommend DarwinCatholic’s post “Small Groups Are More Likely to Excel, and That Means Nothing.”  It’s a great explanation of why you’d expect small schools to wind up at the top of the rankings, even if they’re not really any better than large schools.  He did a great job making some visualizations that let you get the point intuitively, rather than burning too much effort on text.

I was really pleased and have been sharing it around.

— 3 —

Speaking of The Way Things Work…. I was so happy when a friend of mine sent me this video of Jason Robert Brown giving a speech in honor of Stephen Sondheim.

I mean, I’m always happy to hear people praise Sondheim, but what’s particularly great about this video is that Jason Robert Brown is also a composer and can talk me through some of the mechanics of what’s brilliant about Sondheim’s work.  I’ve sung “Good Thing Going” with my voice teacher and I still was unaware of what Sondheim is doing in the accompaniment to shape what the progression of the piece feels like.

I’ve got pretty much no background in music theory, so I really appreciate it when someone walks me through how a composer has had such an effect on me.

— 4 —

Still in the vein of how artists ply their craft, I enjoyed this essay on book cover design (including in a age of ebooks) a lot.

Seth Godin’s Domino publishing imprint embraces and codifies the diminishing cover.

The first Domino book, Poke the Box, has no words on the cover, just a line drawing of an excited man. To which Mr. Godin explains to readers confused by the lack of words:

“Who needs them? When you see the book online, it’s always accompanied by lots of text. You read the text on the screen, the cover is the icon.”

This is an ethos embracing book covers in the context of an Amazon.com sales page.

— 5 —

Finally, in the how-craft-works genre, I liked this piece from Nautilus on the kinds of imperfections and impurities that make materials stronger:

The act of applying mechanical force to metals not only causes existing dislocations to move—it also causes new dislocations to sprout in the metal. The new dislocations run into and interfere with each other, and anything that gets in the way of the movement of dislocations (including other dislocations) makes the metal harder. Bending metal to get this effect is called work hardening, and you can feel it yourself by unfolding a paperclip and then bending it back and forth at a single point—it will be easy at first, but then will get more difficult as more and more dislocations appear and interact with each other. Because the dislocations are lines that are effectively only one atom thick, that bent-up paperclip can include hundreds of feet/meters of dislocations, in much the same way that the nucleus of a human cell, only about 6 micrometers in diameter, contains strings of DNA that are nearly six feet (two meters) long when uncoiled.

— 6 —

Now that Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers that Even I Can Offer has been out for a month, my friends have been joshing me about what I could do for a follow-up.  This was definitely the best suggestion:

In Ms. Libresco’s new book a freak bolt of lightening during the climatic confrontation between Jean-Valjean and Javert send the two hurtling forward in time and onto the campus of modern day Yale. When Valjean becomes a star YPU member Javert decides to also join the debate team, hoping to force Valjean to break on the floor and confess to his crimes. But can Javert’s rigid moral code hold up to hours of debate and epistemological scrutiny? As the novel hurtles towards its touching Discworld-Meets-Company conclusion on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, Javert begins to learn that exposure to altruism…can be very, very effective.

And if you’re hoping to snag a copy of Arriving at Amen for free: Pete Socks at The Catholic Book Blogger is running a giveaway you can enter.


— 7 —

Now that it’s summer, it’s time to get cracking on my Halloween costume.  I’ve finally landed on who I’m going to be and ordered a pattern that I think will suit (as long I pick out good black and red fabrics).  This is McCalls M6940.


Yes, it’s modeled on Cersei’s dresses but that’s not who I’m going to be.  Here’s your hint (aside from the note about the color scheme):

I plan to style my hair with a lot of fake blood and crow feathers.

Any guesses?


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