log (2000/01/07 to 2000/01/13)

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Thursday, January 13, 2000

LabRat, of the e/n site moo.nothing, a fellow Codex fan (see yesterday), says a Nice Thing about the Log. Glad you like the site, Jon, and good luck in your quest for a Codex of your own! (M wonders just how rare the book really is; I dunno. Anyone know? I imagine Abbeville alone must have printed at least a few thousand copies.)

On the moo.nothing site, the "hax0ring" section is very funny, if you've ever had to deal with one of Those People on the Net.

I've done yet another Visual Mantra; this one is based on a magnetic toy (called "Kwilt", I think it was, from some Art Museum gift shop) that I got as a present years ago. The three Mantras I've coded up so far outline a space containing at least eight similar toys. So I've got five or more left to code!   *8)

She was standing on the pier, bare-headed, and the cold fog gathered into drops on her hair. I wanted to go outside, put my hand on her shoulder, and have her turn and look at me. To be someone that she knew, that she would welcome there beside her, looking out over the water.

Other gleanings from the referer log: Karen at Mirasol says nice things about both the design and content of this very page (more evidence that laziness, impatience, and hubris are indeed Good Qualities!).

More puzzlingly, a mysterious hit from another e/n site, The Beginning of Nothing, which doesn't seem to have a link pointing here at all. One reader suggests that "some browsers seem to just pass along the url of the previous navigated page, even if it's not strictly a referrer." Ouch! That'd be a bug, wouldn't it? That reader also asks "do you notice it more coming from IE browsers?", but I'm not currently tracking that, so I don't know. Dan at Apathy suggests the same browser misbehavior, and also suspects some naughty proxy might be doing the Wrong Thing somewhere.

Another hit from someone searching Google for "incent erotic stories". And of course as long as I keep mentioning them, they'll keep coming! (I've heard that some sites intentionally use phrases like "oral sex" and "gameboy cheats" just to get the hits; can you imagine?) Welcome also to the person searching for "aunt and uncle sex stories" (do we sense a theme here?).

Rather than ending on that note, I will send you to RubeGoldberg.com for the Real Thing in Rube Goldberg devices, and note that some antisocial (or clumsy) passerby has messed up the design on openlog (hey, you have to at least leave the edit links there!). Tsk.

Current listening: the Acid Jazz channel on mp3.com.

Wedesday, January 12, 2000

It came! My very own, purchased on eBay copy of the Codex Seraphinianus! It's even better than I'd hoped for. I'd prepared myself for a smallish scuffed book with a little odd artwork on cheap paper; but this is a big (9" x 14") book, on wonderful paper, with a great feel (and the "cover wear" and "tear on the title page" mentioned in the eBay writeup are very minor).

And the content! Well, see this page, which has some images, and some links to pages that have images. I also couldn't resist scanning one random page myself (the little thumbnail to the left links to the full image, which shouldn't take too long to load). Note that I couldn't bring myself to press the book very hard into the scanner, so it's not a really wonderful scan (nor is it by any means the best page in the book!).

But mere scans of a page or two don't really do it justice. It's like waking up from a very strange dream, and discovering that someone has left a full journal of that dream on the nighttable. It's like having a really big box of chocolates, and not wanting to eat them all at once. I hope/plan to digest, savor, this huge odd thing a piece at a time, making the novely last for many weeks.

Then of course, the decoding begins!  *8)  I'm guessing the numbering system is base twenty...

"This," Della Street supplemented, "is saving my life. I thought I wouldn't make it. Clothes don't seem to be any good at all against this cold fog."

Cameron lit his pipe. "Goes right through you," he admitted.

He raised the lid of the stove, thrust in two sticks of heavy oak, and was refilling the teakettle when he paused, his eyes peering out through the window.

"Car coming."

"What time is it?" Mason asked.


Man, I love fiction! Just about any kind of fiction at all.

Here is a page talking about some fun Great Unsolved Cryptothings; it mentions the Codex in passing. Can you tell I'm obsessed?

Tuesday, January 11, 2000

Can someone explain the oddities of Referrer: fields to me? Awhile back, the referrer log for WordURL showed some hits coming from geeknews.com; and just the other day the log for this very page showed a hit coming from goodexperience. But when I went to those pages to look, I didn't find any link to the relevant page of mine. So where'd these Referrer:s come from? Are there circumstances in which the browser passes along a Referrer: field that names a page that doesn't actually link to the page being requested?

And in more navel gazing: this log, along with the Eagle Quote, is mentioned on Josh Quarterman's page about blogs.

The Quest continues! We have the following moves queued up:

Turning your back to the stiff breeze, you take a step away. Another. Thought is useless; repeat it to yourself. Step. No need to consider. Step. No need to worry. Step. The raven matters only to those who fear they must wind through the serpentine tunnels. Step. No need to fear all of this flimflammery on satisfaction. Step. Forget it all as you walk backwards... see, for you've already forgotten Helen. Step. Why is it that everything must be continuous? Step. And where are you walking?

A good question. Also:

You shake your head once more and finally the mist clears. Everything falls into place and you realise what has happened. The temporal vortex has Helen, the help desk and the Raven all in the now instead of their respective Past, Present and Futures. Helen is in the past, the help desk is no use at the moment, and the Raven is your Quest for the future. "The only way is onwards," booms Treguard's voice in your head, "You must never turn back". The path is clear now; you spot a muddied track that could only be seen once your mind was cleared. It leads away from the beech, away from the past, deeper into the forest and parallel to the mountains. You head onwards...

which seems to be progess. And, very pithily:


While that one's hard to beat, we did have one person enter three funny non-ASCII characters that I will not attempt to reproduce here, and one who simply pushed the button without entering anything into the box, which is nice a Zen-like, if not entirely original.

Now it's all up to You!

Monday, January 10, 2000

Master, how may I comprehend the One?
Have you finished your coding?
Then go and compile!

Last night I put together a two-color version of yesterday's toy. Anyone who hasn't tried clicking on the image (rather than on the Click button) should try it.   *8)   The general n-color version, like in the hand-colored image I put up in the McNabb, looks to be a bit harder (well, less trivial). Maybe someday when I've learned more JavaScript!

You probably already know this, but two of the most boring content companies on the net are planning to merge. This should make it easier than ever to identify Web content as not worth a second glance. Maybe there should be a PICS code meaning "approved by the AOL Times Warner editorial, legal, and marketing staffs"; then I could tell my browser to pretend that any such page simply doesn't exist!

WebTV has security holes. Raise your hand if you're surprised. I suspect these problems are just the usual JavaScript object-model implementation flaws, although WebTV also has some custom markup that could similarly be broken. There's a webTV developer's page that talks about what the WebTV client does, if anyone's interested.

In response to massive public outcry, the government officially dropped the proposed "Know Your Customer" regulations last year. But as the ACLU points out, that was just the tip of the iceberg: your bank spies on you in various ways already. And a new proposal would encourage banks to notice your race when applying for a loan. The Libertarians do not like this.

Oh, and I must apologize for all the "Dr. Chess"s in that Economist article the other day. I ain't a Dr. of nothin', but I got tired of mentioning it to reporters, so I'm probably silently complicity in the error. (I have, in fact, a mere Master of Science in Computer Science; people have tried to persuade me to do the PhD Thing, but it's never really looked worthwhile to me.)

Paul Perry does really interesting artwork. The cell-fusing piece is reviewed here; his overall Projects page is here.

Sunday, January 9, 2000

Speaking of Science News (we mentioned it in passing yesterday), last night I coded up a new meditative toy for the TOYS page. It's the JavaScript version of a box full of graph-paper squares that I made in my youth, inspired by the background of a cover illo in an old Science News. It's kind of fun; I colored up one image, and hung it in the McNabb. Vain, aren't I?   *8)

(It's not nearly as cool as my favorite Ellen toy from the other week, but then what is?)

Just in the last few days, three of my favorite "must read" blogs (Alamut, Geegaw, and Bovine Inversus) have linked to this page. This makes me happy! (Not that I'm doing this with the audience in mind, or hoping lots of people will link to me, or dreaming of fame and fortune or anything; this is purely an artistic endeavor, without any thought of personal aggrandizement. It says here.)

Are you a Turing machine? Heck, I don't know! I've made more progress on the Problems of Consciousness pages, but only one is standalone enough and finished enough to tell even you folks about today. Here it is:

What if someone claimed not to have subjective consciousness?

What would you say to him? (More "poc" pages to come in later days.)

Saturday, January 8, 2000

Started drafting some pages on the Problems of Consciousness (snappy title, eh?), but haven't gotten quite far enough to put anything up. We haven't solved all the problems yet, but I think I can lay the questions out reasonably well, and put together a basic bibliography.

The reason I haven't gotten too far with that is that I've frittered away most of the day working on a redesign of my web site on the company intranet. Which is a silly thing to do, but web design is kinda fun. I've done a green-on-black scheme (in tribute to my beloved and long-departed 3270 terminal, and without I hope stealing too much from /var/log, whose design I like very much). That's a thumbnail of the new front page over on the left there.

Got quoted in the Economist (the online version, at least), and the piece was Slashdotted. More of the 15 minutes of fame used up! (If you read the Slashdot piece, note that we don't call it an "autoimmune" system; that means something else entirely!)

Sent off a postcard to Science News for a subscription (note that sciencenews.com is something else entirely, although it would like to fool you). We subscribed while I was growing up, and I remember browsing through the stacks of thin pages sitting around on the living room floor (how old was I?). I'm hoping they'll also help with the something interesting problem. We'll see!

Random bookshop links: I mentioned Avenue Victor Hugo Books yesterday. See also alibris, bibliofind (which searches a gazillions different stores that have signed up with them), and Edward R. Hamilton (they send us a juicy Bargain Books paper catalog now and then, which I browse through but somehow seldom buy from). Of course in my case it turned out that eBay was the best bet!

I Hate Windows! The little daughter's Oregon Trail game, which has been working more or less fine, suddenly got sick: the animations got impossibly slow and jerky, and the map pages are all blank. Reinstalling it didn't help. No doubt some other game we installed lately has changed some critical system setting, or replaced a DLL, or something, and there's no way to systematically figure out what it is. Sigh! Fortunately, a friend's come over, so she doesn't want to play it right now anyway.

A few reader submissions are queued up and deserve to be posted, but I'm too lazy at the moment. Maybe tomorrow, over bagels and lox.

Friday, January 7, 2000

Were you ever out in the Great Alone,
      when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in
      with a silence you most could hear;
With only the howl of a timber wolf,
      and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world,
      clean mad for the muck called gold;
While high overhead, green, yellow, and red,
      the North Lights swept in bars?--
Then you've a hunch what the music meant . . .
      hunger and night and the stars.

Wuff! Robert W. Service is The Man! Not subtle or anything, sure, but you can't argue with "hunger and night and the stars".

Greg Chaitin confirms that adding a random number generator to a Turing machine doesn't give it any interesting new abilities, citing an old theorem to that effect which is I think in another old paper I'll have to dig up:

K. deLeeuw, E. Moore, C. Shannon, and N. Shapiro. Computability by probabilistic machines. Automata Studies, Annals of Math. Studies, 34:183--212, 1956.

So unless someone can come up with a convincing realizable "oracle" of the kind we've been talking about for a couple of days, we're either Turing machines, or we're magic. You Decide! *8)

Most weblog/journal things are either "what happened to me (and my boyfriend and my Mom and my son and my coven and my cat) today", or "useful links I found on the Web today." Both of those are fine, of course, but I can't help thinking that there must be lots of other interesting things we could talk about. (Hence, perhaps, my attempts to solve the Problems of Consciousness online, while quoting Robert Service.)

Come to My Senses is an example of Another Sort of Thing that's definitely worth a look (found on openlog, copied to glog). Well worth the seconds it'll take you to read it!

An alert reader noticed that I'd spelled "deity" as "diety" in various places all over Theogeny. Now that's embarassing! I've fixed the ones in the text; I'll probably leave the URLs misspelled (since URLs are uninterpreted magic words anyway, eh?), at least until later.

That same reader sent along a copy of a newsletter from Avenue Victor Hugo Books that contains a pointer to WordURL. Isn't fame wonderful? Avenue Victor Hugo is a wonderful bookstore (we manage to get there every third or fourth visit to Boston), but I'd never thought to look for them on the Web. That old XXth-century brain again!

That's all for today, kids! Come back tomorrow (or maybe Monday or something; I don't know) for another Exciting Episode of Neurons in Space!!   *8)


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