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Thursday, January 27, 2000

Quite a few people pushed the "sure!" button in yesterday's entry, so maybe we'll actually start up a Nomic game in the next few days. Should be fun!

Political news: George W. Bush is a cynical coward; but lots of people are apparently going to vote for him anyway. Gore and Bradley get nasty; the main result will probably be thousands of Democrats not bothering to vote in November. Way to go, everybody! (Yeah, I'm not too thrilled with the Presidential campaign, here, I admit.)

Yikes! A weblog called "CamWorld" mentioned WordURL the other day. I've wandered through CamWorld once or twice, and it seems like a fine weblog; I didn't realize it had so many readers! The hitrate for WordURL spiked sharply, and at least three other weblogs followed CamWorld and linked the toy. Kinda fun! Only about a tenth of a SlashDotting, but still impressive.

Steve points out that a page that's sort of halfway between a dairy and a pure weblog could be called a "lairy". I like that! Or, of course, a "dog".

M gave me a copy of William Ewing's Love and Desire for Christmas (probably my favorite present). I've ben savoring it slowly, and just finished it the other day. Review for Amazon:

Give it to someone you love (four stars)

This is a book to savor, to page through slowly, to share with someone you love. As long as that someone is relatively enlightened about the occasional explicit or disturbing image!

The photographs are well chosen and span a very wide range, from interesting early pornography (yes, there was hard-core even in 1855!), to romantic and abstract pictures that wouldn't shock even the dullest U.S. Senator, to Ann Mandelbaum's bizarrely erotic whatsits. Many of them are true gems, images that catch and hold the viewer in that wordless somewhere evoked by the best photographic art.

The arrangement into eight large sections gives a certain amount of structure to the book, and allows the text to cover a subset of the images at a time, but don't look for any very scholarly or systematic division. The format is too small for a coffee-table book, and the text is too general and chatty to constitute a serious critical study; but these are nits. The book is well worth buying, or giving, to anyone that takes in joy through the eyes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2000

From David Brake (who also has a weblog), another "japanglish" page. This one has some discussion and pictures, as well as funny examples.

Phil Agre's posted another Notes and Recommendations in Red Rock Eaters. Here's the eGroups copy (I haven't read it yet, but it's always worth the time). I just got around to seriously reading the Dec 26 Notes and Recommendations, and it was even more brilliant than usual. Think the Internet will tend to dissolve hierarchies, and make companies smaller? Read Phil Agre to find out why your reasons for thinking that are all wrong. That, and a new kind of cookbook. And a dozen other things. Phil Agre has more interesting content per byte than any Web site I've ever seen.

Talking to Dad the other day about colors in Windows, and in particular how to change the colors in Notepad, I twiddled with the Window and WindowText settings in the Registry key

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Colors

to specify "yellow on black", but I hadn't bothered rebooting to see if it'd actually work. I rebooted for some other reason today, and lots of little things here and there are odd! Notepad is indeed yellow on black, but popup prompts are yellow on gray (not easy to read), and radio buttons are these interesting wounded-looking holes in the screen. Input boxes in Netscape forms are black holes with yellow text. Most things haven't changed at all. Kind of fun, really!

Paul Perry of Alamut wrote yesterday and said a word about Nomic (I'd mentioned I used to be a player in Agora Nomic). It occurs to me that it might be Good Clean Fun to try playing a game or two of Nomic here in the Log (that's Steve you hear groaning; just ignore him!).

Here's a sample Initial Ruleset; if you have no idea what a Nomic is or anything, reading these will no doubt help greatly. *8)

Rule 1 Any person (or other apparently sentient entity) in the universe may take part in this game by sending a Valid Move to the Scribe.

Rule 2 A Valid Move consists of an email message or something typed into one of those little input-boxes in the Scribe's weblog, clearly marked as a move, and containing all of: a suggested change to these Rules expressed clearly and unambiguously (the Proposal), an integer (the Integer), and a name or other set of symbols sufficient to more or less clearly identify a particular person or other apparently sentient entity (the Name).

Rule 3 Once a week, or whenever he or she feels like it, the Scribe shall select one of the Valid Moves that have been sent and not yet applied, and apply it. Applying a Valid Move consists of: changing the rules as specified in the Proposal, and writing down the Integer and the Name on the Sacred Piece of Paper. Not very long after Applying a Valid Move, the Scribe shall make available in his or her weblog a copy of the Move, and the new state of the Rules.

Rule 4 When a Valid Move is Applied, the person (or other apparently sentient entity) named by the Name in the Move shall receive five Points.

Rule 5 Whenever there are two Integers recorded on the Scared Piece of Paper which have the same Name, the Integer/Name pair with the smaller Integer shall be erased from the Paper (if the Integers are equal, one shall be erased at random).

Rule 6 Whenever there are three Integers recorded on the Scared Piece of Paper which have different Names, the entity picked out by the Name associated with the second-highest Integer shall receive ten Points (or, if two or more of the Integers on the Paper are equal, the entities picked out by each of the Integers in the set of equal Integers shall receive twenty Points), and the three Integers and Names shall be erased.

Rule 7 The entity which has the most Points at any given instant is the current Champion of the Game, and has the right to brag.

Rule 8 The Scribe is David M. Chess.

Rule 9 The name of this Nomic game shall be "The Curvature of the Earth is Overwhelmed by Local Noise Nomic".

Comments and suggestions welcome (maybe I'll mention this possible game to the Agora folks). Would anyone be interested in actually playing this?

The great thing about Nomic is that depending on the inclinations and creativity and whims of the players, the game can become anything, from a round of Tic-Tac-Toe to a Web Treasure Hunt to an insult match to an ongoing community. All games (all human activities?) are really just late rounds of Nomic...

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

If you haven't started your own weblog yet, go at once to Pitas. There is no excuse for silence!

A wonderful collection of Japanese English Advertising Slogans (Pure Sports Mind! Power of suit! Music lagoon!). Cited by Avram Grumer, from which one can wander to Morgan's Tarot, which is sorta New Age, but neat anyway. (Avram Grumer also has a weblog; see?)

I love driving in snow! They're predicting up to a foot. The windows of my office are completely covered in snow (this is because they're slanted and the snow has built up on them, not because the snow is twenty feet deep!). I've opened the blinds all the way, so now I have a pair of lovely complex snow-surface artworks looming over my desk; they change gradually over time, as more snow builds up, and once in awhile a slab gets too heavy and falls off down the face of the building. Very nice.

Speaking of professional weblogging, Yahoo has a whole page of clipping services (don't you love Yahoo URLs?). They're targetted at corporates, and their roots are in dead-tree clipping, but in a few years who knows? The Web's supposed to reduce costs of entry and make all sorts of new things available retail, eh?   *8)   See the last couple entries to give me your opinion on whether or not weblog-like things might ever be a profitable business for someone.

Did a little neatening up and filling in on the Problems of Consciousness Bibliography. One vexing question is whether to try to include some significant fraction of the reams of stuff that have been written on the subject, or to list only the best stuff. The latter sounds good, but relies on a correct judgement of what's best. I am of course terribly modest, and may not be comfortable making such a judgement. *8)

Yow! A couple of big clumps just fell off the righthand window. I can actually see out! Temporarily. A few cars and trucks creeping by on the highway, a big plow merrily beeping and plowing down in the parking lot. Merry Christmas, every one!

On the CD player: Laurie Anderson, Strange Angels.
Pretty loud, too, since there's no one to speak of around to disturb...

Monday, January 24, 2000

Comparatively lots of answers to yesterday's poll! I guess we all like to gaze at our navels. *8)

Most of the responses are along the lines of "no, Weblogs will never make money, and it's a good thing, too, as they're supposed to be personal expressions, not commercial vehicles." I'm sure there will always be free journal sites full of personal expression, but I'm thinking more along the lines of weblogs in the "list of interesting links with commentary" sense. Ian points out that SlashDot, for instance, is to a large extent just a weblog, and it makes money (gross, at least, if not net) from advertising.

So, if someone were to say to you, "for a mere $4.95/month, I will give you access to a page every day that contains most of the interesting stuff, and none of the junk, that you would have found spending the day surfing". To prove they can do it, they let you access corresponding pages for a month ago; when you go and look at those pages, they do indeed seem to be roughly what's advertised.

So, do we have a business model here?
Choose one:
Comment (optional):

Word of the day: nacreous. While its actual meaning ("pearly") is perfectly upbeat, when I first heard it I thought it meant like a kind of slime or decay or something; eeeeew! Even grown-up now, I always have to stop and think for a minute when I hear it. Also, lugubrious should clearly mean "oily", not "mournful".

Art: superbad.com. Spend hours wandering about! (Cited on LarkFarm.)

Indignation: I forget just what cereal box or junk mailing this "Get OverLoaded on Toys and Candy!" abomination came from (hit the thumbnail to the left to get the (big) full image), but I would love to have those responsible alone in a small room for an hour or so. With the door locked from the outside. It's not that I can't do a reasonably good job of helping my kids maintain their resistance to this sort of garbage; it's that I shouldn't have to. Grrr...

Sunday, January 23, 2000

This was on page one in the New York Times, so everyone's probably already logged it, but just in case: in the Yorkshire Dales (that's like England), a local chapter of the Women's Institute decided that they might raise more money for leukemia research if they spiced up their annual calendar a little. Rather than the usual pretty scenery and flowers, the calendar this year features the ladies themselves, eleven women between 45 and 66, wearing the traditional pearls and nothing much else to speak of.

According to the Times article, not only did they raise a bit more money than usual through this dignified nudity (they were hoping for $2,000, and in fact raised $550,000), they also got a barrage of letters from similarly grown-up ladies, thanking them for raising their self-esteem and furthering the cause of real people with bodies everywhere. I think this is a great idea! Not only should everyone in the world post their daily thoughts to the Web, they should post their naked pictures, too. Then maybe we'd stop accepting anorexic waifs as the norm of human beauty. (Um, maybe you can go first, eh?)

The ladies' Web site is at http://www.daelnet.net/rylstonewi/. Unfortunately, the calendar seems to be sold out!

That's the end of the interesting stuff; lots of Web navel-gazing follows. *8)

Why is Web-page design so much fun? (He asked, having spent a few precious hours designing yet another Web page that may never actually be on the Web anywhere, just for grins.) It's just layout, really. I guess layout is fun, then. And now we have a reasonably easy layout language (HTML) with a big enough user-base that there are lots of cheap and usable design aids, and a very cheap publishing channel (the Web) that doesn't require Knowing Anyone. A massive network effect.

And, as I suspect a really important part of that network effect, the publishing method is inherently open-source (View Source), so it's comparatively easy to actually access the Secrets of the Layout Experts, without waiting for someone else to distill them for you. (Sorry, nothing profound here! Just Sunday musings.)

Related woolgathering: for a number of years I've been expecting professional filters to become an important phenomenon. People or agencies that you pay, and that in return for that payment provide you with a view of the Net (the Web) that has a high density of Things That Interest You.

Clipping services do this in the dead-tree world, but most of us don't use clipping services. Newspapers and magazines (both dead-tree and online) do this in a sense, but it's a very loose sense; you get news and interpretation tailored to a huge audience, of which you are probably more or less one. The audience is truly huge for the mass media (and therefore the expected density of Things That Interest You is comparatively low unless you're smack in the middle of the demographic); niche media target a smaller audience, but it's comparatively harder to find one pointed in your direction.

There are various tailorable news pages (My Yahoo, My This, My That) what let me adjust what appears by what (broadly) I'm interested in. They're free, and pretty boring. There are some Web sites here and there that will take money to do more specific filtering, but as far as I'm aware they have not Taken Off in a Big Way.

Weblogs are filters. But of course weblogs are free! Is there a path that leads from the current bunch of free weblogs, to some kind of money-making filtering service? What do you think?
Choose one:
Comment (optional):

Reading: Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, "Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design", recently arrived from Amazon. Looks promising so far in my pursuit (last mentioned all the way back in November?) of some explanation of how images work. Expect a review if and when I finish it!

Saturday, January 22, 2000


Still real cold. Took the kids skating (excuse me, "rollerblading") at the local school. Lots of fun: the little daughter was zipping around as usual, and the little boy surprised me by not wanting to hold hands, just striking off on his own, clomping around on the skates (sorry, "blades") mostly, but making great progress and only falling down now and then. (The little ones fall down and bounce up so easily!)

I was persuaded to rent some skates (not blades, just skates) myself and give it a try. It was great! I haven't been on wheelskates for years, but I can iceskate a little, and it was sorta like that. Some internal voice kept giving me good advice: "keep your feet closer together," "get your hands out of your pockets." Didn't fall down once. Prolly looked sorta doofy, though!

An friend from highschool saw the Advertising Non-consumption page, and sent in an idea of his own. I did some light editing and added it to the page; it's this one.

I've also added yet one more image to the McNabb, and a frame or two to the Taffy thread in the Forked Stick, but nothing to write home about.

The little daughter is sleeping over at a friend's house tonight, so it's just the three of us. We're watching the little boy's brand new Digimon tape. Digimon's an obvious ripoff of Pokemon; so far without the amusing campy elements. A nice relaxing evening of bad TV.   *8)  

Friday, January 21, 2000

Cited on geegaw, an intriguing Philosophy Diary. The writer is reading deep and interesting books, and writing stuff about them. The stuff is a bit heavy on postmodern jargon for my taste (too far from the atoms), and some of the parragraphs are Kinda Long, but it's still nice to see serious philosophy being done on the Web.

Speaking of which, the zeroth draft of the full Problems of Consciousness pages is now officially available. Give it a read, and let me know what you think! The great thing about this area is that just stating the problems is hard enough to be interesting; think how much fun solving them will be...

Various bits of good reader input are queued up. Keep those cards and letters coming! I don't post all the contributions I get; some I save for my own private delight.

Music and reading suggestions that I haven't pursued yet myself:

  • Fanfare DFCD 9020 (a CD, apparently!)
  • Blake Linton: Songs of the Starry Skies
  • Savage Garden "Affirmation"
  • "Play" by Moby
  • Somewhere a Master by Elie Wiesel (not a CD)

And a more extended book suggestion:

i just got in the mail a book i absolutely loved as a kid, dougal dixon's "after man: a zoology of the future", and i realized that the little daughter might enjoy it too if she is a science fiction fan as well as interested in biology...

The description of that on Amazon looks way cool (sort of like the "animals" section of the Codex Seraphinianus, only with comprehensible text). I'll probably order it soon (at the moment I'm trying to cut down on the number of books I order per hour). I suspect the little daughter will in fact like it. She and I are working sporadically on our own Codex; she made up the letter-symbols herself.

It sounds like you have an awesomely fun job, Dr. Chess. :)

Well, yeah.

This is a very small box.

Well, yeah! *8)

Two comments on the last few log entries that are more fun out of context:

My favorite part is the way it wraps towards/into the invisible seam. That makes me a little less nervous. The bulge is nice, although it's not a very nice bulge. Can a part be a way?


I would love to hear soothing hippo music - if you know where any can be obtained, let me know ASAP :^)

On my complaints about delays caused by the extreme-dm.com and nedstatbasic.com stat-trackers:

nedstatbasic wasn't so bad before a few weeks ago. I suspect they're having Y2K problems.


Switch to IE5! Unless of course you're running on Unix, in which case you might as well use lynx. -- anonymous Microsoft drone
I prefer Netscape's interface (perhaps just because I'm so used to Communicator, IE always feels annoyingly paternalistic to me), and IE's fancy features like ActiveX and VBScript are just so utterly insecure. Sorry!   *8)

Finally, on yesterday's discussion of the Tao Te Ching, a reader writes:

I know nothing of Lao Tzu, but from the pairs of translated lines I prefer the latter: it's not a question of good or bad, better or worse, rather that the first pair decries a perpetual state of the observer or actor (as the case may be) while the second allows that the observer or actor may have different states depending on the condition of the moment. Also "desireless" is an awful word, a negative word, and it ought to be plucked at the seams until it splits and empties its bleak feathers into the world of whirlwinds.

We obviously have different priorities and tastes here; that's fine! The timelessness of Muller's translation doesn't bother me, and neither does the word "desireless". But the normative implications of the Mitchell version definitely does bother me. It bothers me, I think, both because it doesn't fit my perception of the rest of the work (not that the work is utterly self-consistent; most interesting documents aren't), and because it doesn't seem justified by the original text (I don't see anything there corresponding to Mitchell's "caught" or "only").

On the other hand, I very much like "empties its bleak feathers into the world of whirlwinds."   *8)


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