log (1999/12/10 to 1999/12/16)

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Thursday, December 16, 1999

Now I have a full-fledged Something Annoying: sore throat, runny nose, perhaps a slight fever during the night last night (I woke up sweaty). Fleaggh! Still, it was worth it.

Prohibition is an awful flop.
We like it.
It can't stop what it's meant to stop.
We like it.
It's left a trail of graft and slime,
It don't prohibit worth a dime,
It's filled our land with vice and crime.
Nevertheless, we're for it.

Franklin P. Adams (1931)

More quotes in the same vein here.

Xeney talked the other day about discovering the reason she was waking up at 0430 every morning. The same thing happened to me the other year: I was very proud of how my body "just knew" when it was 6am and I should wake up for work. Then the people across the street moved to Florida, and mysteriously took my wonderful internal alarm with them!   *8)   (Xeney also has what sounds like the same cold I have; something going around the Web?)

Couple of people wrote in generally agreeing with my offhand remark about blogs being more interesting than magazines. So here's a poll: The best personal weblogs are magazines like Salon and Suck and Slate, because . (Also, slashdot .)

Various previous reader responses are queued up for publication, but I'm too fwuzzy to trust myself with them at the moment.

Everyone's getting all fired up about Echelon (the cooperative project in which the world's spooks try to listen in on everything they can). Wouldn't it be good from the NSA's point of view if someone were to print an exposé saying how underfunded and weak and generally helpless they are? Paging Seymour Hersh.

Silly patent of the day: (from memepool) Method of exercising a cat. Guess I have to stop doing that!

How not to advertise your Website on the radio: every morning, NPR has a spot advertising "doubleyou doubleyou doubleyou dot guilt dot com". Or maybe it's "gilt dot com". Or maybe "gilled". Or perhaps "kilt". Or maybe even "quilt". I dunno! Just before writing this paragraph, I went off and tried various of those, to see which one actually was the upscale boring-stuff site that the spot was written for. But I couldn't figure it out! Ad money down the rathole, there, eh?

I was amused to find that "Real Software Engineers Don't Read Dumps", a joke essay that I wrote years ago, is now scattered around the Web. (A companion piece often found with it, Real Computer Scientists Don't Write Code, was written by David Levine, my officemate at the time.) Both were in reaction to the very popular "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal" (and the similar "Real Programmers Don't Write Specs") jokes that were flying around at the time (inspired, in their turn, by the book "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche").

That's all. You can go back to your normal duties now. Thank you for your time. Brenda will return your shovels to you at the door.

Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Did chaperone duty on the little daughter's class's field trip into New York City; this actually meant just strolling up 5th Avenue from Grand Central to the Park and back with the little daughter and one of her friends, looking at the skaters and the enormous Tree in Rockefeller Center and the cool shop windows, going into FAO Schwarz to buy tons of candy and get stickers with their faces on them, looking at the horse carriages lined up at Central Park, and generally having a great time.

I came home pretty exhausted, and with the beginnings of a sore throat, but it was worth it!

Tuesday, December 14, 1999

2am: this again! I have a pageful of notes for tomorrow's (today's) Log waiting for me in the kitchen, and a bunch of new ideas for the Forked Stick and for a linear novel I plan to start writing Real Soon Now, but I'm resolved not to get out of bed until a reasonable hour.

Eventually a reasonable hour arrives, although there's no sign of the sun yet.

Happiness: finding, while cleaning up, one last chunk of pineapple, red with tomato sauce, stuck in a corner of the last pizza box.

Various interesting domain names are taken, but don't connect. For instance, meatspace.com doesn't work, but it's registered at NSI. Offline.com is, appropriately enough, a Microsoft Certified Solution Provider.

Added a few new rules to WordURL; ExtremeYugoslavia.com is still up for grabs. Act now!

Virginia Postrel is stepping down as editor of Reason Magazine. This is probably OK; I like her stuff, but Nick Gillespie also knows of what he speaks, and I imagine editorship will mellow him a bit. (He still won't be a babe, but you can't have everything.)

Scary Group of the Day: the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is an anti-milk, anti-meat group that seems to be gearing up to sue the meat industry after the model of the tobacco lawsuits. I dunno: do you feel addicted to meat or milk? Will it seem only reasonable when, a year or two from now, they bring suit against Ben & Jerry's for "addicting" you to extra-rich ice cream? Should it be economically impossible to sell any food besides organically grown vegetables?

Speaking of Ben & Jerry's, allow me to heartily recommend Triple Caramel Chunk: "Caramel ice cream with a swirl of caramel and fudge-covered caramel chunks". Of course, you gotta like caramel...   *8)

Happiness: pouring a mug of scalding hot chocolate, being called away to wrestle with the kids, and finding, on returning to the kitchen after several grueling rounds, that it's now the perfect temperature. Thank you, Goddess!

Yeah, happiness often involves food. This is why I go and lift heavy things at the Gym three mornings a week. But it's worth it!

suffer.com (I just link to 'em, I don't hafta understand 'em.)

Monday, December 13, 1999

There are two different things that can keep the water from boiling: low temperature, or high pressure.

This feels like one of those link days, with lots of random phrases set in boldface. Doesn't it?

Did I remember to rave about "Being John Malkovich" the other day? We all went out to see it, and it was great! I stumbled across a pointer to the Web site, which is pretty contentful. See also the other Web site.

I'm quoted in this article in the Nando Times. Next time I'm talking to a reporter from the Raleigh News and Observer, someone remind me of this subtle connection, eh?

About.com has a page about online journals, although like so much else on about.com, it seem to just missing having content.

Odd site of the day: Planetary Activation Organization (PA'O).

The VA Linux IPO story is probably so well known as to be boring by now, but in case you haven't read Eric Raymond's thoughts on being suddenly rich, they're worth the time.

Speaking of Slashdot, the current front cover of suck.com is a cute parody thereof. Although, as one or both of those sites points out, it's hard to tell the parody from the real thing.

Am I uncool in that I find suck, salon, and generally even slashdot pretty boring? I suspect my standards are too high. The Web has for some reason made me long seriously for a constant stream of interesting new ideas. And that's probably not very realistic. Although all you bloggers out there are the closest thing I've found yet!

Sunday, December 12, 1999

Finished Alan Brown's "Audrey Hepburn's Neck"; it was good! I'll probably post something like this to Amazon and/or rec.arts.books.reviews when I get around to it:

This is a very good book. The prose is fine, deeply sensuous, sometimes luminous.

On Shiretoko Peninsula, laundry is carelessly left out overnight, clean sheets snapping in the dark wind. Here in Tokyo's gay bar district, though, neon signs are stacked one on top of another four stories high, and their bright colors bleed together in the rain like watercolors. Toshi and Paul walk past Marine Club, Kings of College, 69, Zip, Morning Tissue, Idol Host Snack Bar. Rain swirls around them like vapor. An umbrella, even if they had one, would offer no protection.

The characters are well-drawn, the settings feel real, the problems are authentic and involving. The length is perfect, and the scenes are well-chosen. While the writing is suffused with emotion, there is no hint of mawkishness.

Endings are always hard; the resolution here is if anything too neat, too hopeful, too complete. But we all need an ending like that once in awhile, to remind us that sometimes people really do get their lives together and end up happy.

Nominally the book is about Japan, about a young Japanese man growing up, his relationship to foreignness and foreigners, to his past and his country's past. And it does that well. But I'm also reminded of Barthes's "Empire of Signs": using Japan to stand for the exotic, to take the reader out of the familiar, in order to talk about the wider universe. So part of the reason this book is so good, and that it doesn't matter that it's written by an Alan Brown rather than a Toshiyuki Okamoto, is that as well as telling us "this is what foreigners can be like, if you're Japanese", it also tells us "this is what the world can be like, if you're human".

Is that too pretentious?

Eating: Choco Leibniz, from the "strange furrin foods" section of the grocery. Who can resist a cookie named after a philosopher?

Drinking: Cider Jack. Good hard cider, boring Website.

Saturday, December 11, 1999

Saturday morning, early. A good time for introspection. No one else is awake but the cat; if he keeps meowing like that, though, everyone else will be up, too. Windy this morning; cold out, I bet.

Reality is so complicated! My programs that go for verisimilitude are all sadly limited. SLIGE is perhaps the best; the micro-worlds that it generates are plausible and familiar. Jaiku and Pattan are both pretty thin. It's because they represent the world at too low a level. Jaiku just glues words together with no idea what it's saying; I want to give it more conceptual knowledge, have it actually have some objects or ideas in mind, and pick gluable words to describe them. Pattan just glues notes together, with a bit of stochastic patterning. I want to give it more of an idea of what it's doing also, teach it about chord progressions at the very least, cadences, higher-level things like expectation and surprise.

I had some smarter music-composition programs, but that was a very long time ago, and they were in Pascal. I'm not even sure if I can find the sources. I hope I can; they were pretty good sometimes. Here's an extra-good sample from years ago (you may have to turn your volume up a bit).

The secret to an omlette-shaped omlette is, I've decided, to get the buttered or oiled or PAMmed pan quite hot before pouring the (pre-scrambled) eggs into it.

Cat, you are not allowed on the table!

Friday, December 10, 1999

medianstrip.net has updated after a long haitus, including a letter from me on the letters page! (Thanks to geegaw for the link.) Returning the favor to the world in general, we have a bunch of reader submissions today, for your reading pleasure.

Someone typed "www.rockprophecy.com" into one of my fill-in boxes. Since it's spam, I won't reward it with a link; on the other hand, it's a novel-enough form of spam that I'll give you the URL in case you want to cut-and-paste it.   *8)   The site's mildly cool, but nothing really extraordinary as schizomimetic sites go.

Much more creatively, someone typed this into one of the forms (doesn't really matter which one):

Blank blank. I'm your doom. My mind melts the sloping forest into a jagged heap of compressed carbon. I rotate the sun with my alpha waves, but you are too ignorant of the sun to notice my manipulations. I call down fire and ice upon the sea, but cannot change the surface. It mocks me with its calm crashing, the smooth overture of nature blending chaos to something I fail to achieve.

I remember once typing "What are all these petunias doing in here, Mr. Kingfisher? I am a prune. Help, help!" on an old manual typewriter, in college, while drunk. But I suspect I was just kidding. And it may not have been petunias after all.

We have two explanations of how memory works:

How it all works: Little gnomes run through tiny hallways, carrying buckets of thought which they place on small elevators (rather like dumb waiters) which ship the thoughts elsewhere in your head. This explanation accounts for mistakes in memory (dropped bucket, mismatch) -- drunkenness (obviously the gnomes are hammered) -- imagination (the gnomes just mix buckets and puke something out) -- and all those damn voices.


You have a chain of thought; everything stems from this chain of thought, like the main line of a railway station. Subconsciously, your mind is working out how to get to that memory, but it can never go directly there, it has to go via London Waterloo, or the Circle Line before it can get to Paddinton. You may experience this consciously if you try to 'make' yourself remember something; you remember where you last where, what you were doing then, what you were going to do, how your hand reached to pick up the object. However, you're mind can only occupy one space at a time, so to think of two things at once, your mind has to keep running between two places. And as you may know, two closely related things are easy to think of at what appears at the same time, but thinking of two unrelated things means your mind occupies one thought for a while, then switches over to the other. Is that good enuogh for you? :) Damn, this text box is tiny. I need some more work room. From:
Asp (not my real name, of course, but you may've wanted to know for some weird reason :)

Both of which are greatly appreciated!   *8) (Would it be rude to shout "Mornington Crescent" at this point?)

And finally, we make some progress, of a sort, in the Quest:

There is someone else with her. You try to run from him, but find your feet are weighted down by lead. Thankfully, he does not follow. You manage to run for years, hiding from him, avoiding contact, but eventually he catches up with you, even though he does not wish it either. You realise that you can only run for a while, but sooner or later you have to face it head on and resolve the situation. He won't go away until you do. What do you do? How do you do it? What will you do after?

A rather serious question, really.


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