log (2000/01/28 to 2000/02/03)

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Thursday, February 3, 2000

A selection of explanations for yesterday's pharmacy mystery:

it's because... They're from another planet and they have to contact home to get your unique serial number before they can issue your prescription.

Shouldn't they be able to get that from the barcode on the back of my hand?

it's because... they like to keep people waiting

What, the nice old pharmacist? Surely not!

it's because...of queueing theory. You aren't the source of their only activity.

So if people would just stop doing queueing theory... Ah no, I see! So there's a virtual 20-to-45 minute line of people waiting for their Stuff, and I come in at the back of it. Well, that's boring! Probably true, though. Also suggests, practically, that at a slower time of day there wouldn't be a wait. I can't recall that having happened, but maybe I just never come at a slower time of day. More study of this issue is clearly needed.

More Nomic moves have come in; I should decide on a time to week to Process them. How about Sunday or Monday or something? OK, on Sunday or Monday or something I'll process the pending Nomic moves. One hint: to be looked upon most favorably by the Scribe, the Proposal in a Valid Move should be very clear about exactly what modification to the rules it is suggesting. Don't make the Scribe do any interpretation!

The little boy has lost his first tooth! It'd been loose for days, and yesterday M convinced him to let her tug on it, and out it came. I knew you'd want to know at once. *8) We're all bursting with pride.

Briefly noted: If the copy of that crude delta.wav file that I cited yesterday vanishes again, Google has lots of possible alternative sources. Here are many pages about security issues in "Netbios over TCP/IP". Did you know that prostitution is legal in much of Australia? And they're getting ready for the Olympics! Have you heard about the Microsoft AT&T merger? The latest RRE posting is a bunch of very good pointers to all sorts of things, from Phil Agre. And I'll log the Malkovich Malkovich, even though you've probably seen it, just because it's fun.

Wednesday, February 2, 2000

The word "scenic" must always be used ironically.

What do pharmacists do? I don't mean useful things like keeping track of your allergies and drug interactions, and slipping little information sheets into the bag. I mean whatever it is that takes the twenty minutes, or forty-five minutes, between when you hand them the illegible prescription form from the doctor, and the time the plastic jar of pills is ready. What do they do?

I could understand twenty or forty-five minutes if they were getting the fennel and larks' hearts from the big glass jars, grinding them with mortar and pestle, and soaking for fifteen minutes in essence of mint or something. But they aren't.

If they were making the antibiotics from scratch, it'd take days. If they're getting them out of a big bottle, and putting them into a little bottle with a computer-printed label on it (as I suspect they are), shouldn't that take like five minutes? Forty-five minutes is just long enough that one hates to hang around the desolate strip-mall waiting, but just short enough that driving home and sitting around for ten minutes and then driving back seems a real waste of gas.

So has anyone ever worked in a pharmacy or anything, or otherwise have an explanation for this Deep Mystery?

Another Mystery! On the way home from the pharmacist, I heard WNEW play this bizarre pseudo-commercial on the radio. I love the clip (I logged it back in October sometime, at a location that's now gone), but I dunno what it was doing on the air. I came in halfway through, so I don't have the context. Surely it's not a real commercial? Can't be. Is it a musical number or something? Or were the DJs just being strange?

Legal Transcript of the Day: the hearing that ended in a preliminary injunction against (basically) 2600.com's posting of the DVD-cracking code DeCSS. Although long, it's interesting for a number of reasons. It illustrates how informal and chatty many legal proceedings are (especially hearings before trial). It has some good one-liners ("a moat... with litigators instead of alligators"). And it shows why you generally want your lawyers to be in the same state with the judge (hey, they may have lost the motion, but I'll bet they saved a bundle on airfare!).

We were wondering at lunch just what the movie industry really hopes to accomplish with these massive DVD lawsuits. Do they really think that, contrary to the last twenty years' testimony, they're finally going to make software copy-protection work? Or do they have some other motive? Ian suggests that perhaps they're worried about people decrypting a DVD, patching the region code, and reencrypting it in such a way that any DVD player from anywhere can play it. This would make it harder for the movie folks to charge more for a movie in one part of the world than in another part. I would not be terribly upset by their losing this ability, myself. *8)

I'm sure there is a long rambling thread about this on SlashDot, but I can't bring myself to go look...

Tuesday, February 1, 2000

Yikes! It will never be "200001xx" again! What a thought!

Will the circle be unbroken?
    By and by Lord, by and by.

Women's Portals: are oxygen.com, iVillage.com, women.com, and suchlike actually innovative services empowering modern women, or are they cynical manipulative attempts to garner ad click-throughs? Is there a difference?

On NPR this morning, someone from San Francisco Women on the Web expressed the opinion that women's portals are boring (all about diet, beauty, fashion). Sorta like all other portals!   *8)  With Disney's renunciation of the "universal portal" model for the historically dull go.com, in favor of an emphasis on "leisure and entertainment" (which promises to be at least as boring), the question remains: why would anyone with half a brain visit any of these yawner portals anyway, where there are weblogs and edgy individual art-sites by the thousands waiting out there?

Speaking of oxygen.com, I'll bet you were wondering about hydrogen.com, helium.com, and lithium.com, eh? Well, wonder no more:

Note that the above requires JavaScript; I'm still off of server-side toys today, given the CGI confusion at the webhost yesterday. Everything seems to be working again now, once I'd re-made the changes that got un-made at the host end during the repair (my update scripts are nice and paranoid, and perfectly willing to make the same change twice if it seems warranted). Sigh; isn't complexity wonderful? (This would be a good time to read the Blackberry poems on today's geegaw, and be reminded of universal things.)

Some more Nomic moves have arrived, but I'm going to put off applying any for a few days, to see what sorts of things flow in. Propose away!

Today's featured (non)Weblog that everyone ought to visit, just because it's a nice place to be: Calamondin.

Monday, January 31, 2000

The weekend was lovely and domestic; snowball fights, shovelling, walking around with the little daughter on the frozen lake; reading about manga and trying to teach myself to draw. We'll see how long that last keeps up; I'm such a dilettante!

I think I insulted the computers of the world by largely ignoring them over the weekend; in retaliation, there's now some problem with most of the CGI scripts on davidchess.com. I've written to the Webhost, and hopefully it'll be worked out soon. One person reported a bounce when trying to send mail to a theogeny.com address; that seems to be fixed now, but if anyone else has any trouble do let me know!

A few moves came in for CEOLN Nomic. I don't think I'm going to apply any at the moment, but here are the Proposals:

Change rule 8 to say "The scribe is, and always shall be, David M. Chess. Subsequent proposals to change this rule shall be deemed invalid and ignored."

Flattering!   *8)   But I'm not sure we want it to be impossible for someone else to adopt the game, as unlikely as that sounds?

$title =~ s/Overwhemled/Overwhelmed/;

Quite correct, and elegantly expressed, but since it doesn't suggest a change to the rules per se, I don't think it's actually a Valid Move? Y'all let me know if I'm being overly pedantic, here!

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 applied, and apply it AGAIN.

An interesting suggestion, but it would pretty much put an end to the game, eh, since no Move could ever be Applied that hadn't already been? I suspect this is a subtle attempt to become permanently Champion; an admirable goal! *8)

Manga is cool. Manga is the most common word for the (immense and mind-boggling) Japanese comic book industry. One manga ("Weekly Boy's Jump") is one of the largest-selling weekly publications in the world, easily outselling Time and other mundane American rags. There is an entire subgenre of Manga (which I keep almost spelling "Magna") devoted to gay male love stories, written and read almost entirely by women. There is another subgenre of stories about Mah Jong; another about Pachinko machines.

I'm currently reading Dreamland Japan, a very readable 1996 book on the subject, and yesterday I ordered Comics Underground Japan, Fresh Pulp: Dispatches from the Japanese Pop Culture Front (1997-1999), and an actual manga (in English translation): Oh My Goddess! : Terrible Master Urd. Boy, do I buy too many books!

It'd be cool to be able to send someone a little money, and get like a dozen Manga (in the original Japanese) selected at random from what one would find on the average Tokyo subway newsstand. Anyone know a place that'll do that for me?

www.manga.com isn't a manga site at all; it's an anime site. Which is to say that it uses "manga" to mean "animated cartoon" rather than "still comic". But I suppose that's OK; all these words are wildly ambiguous anyway. Isn't culture wonderful?

Saturday, January 29, 2000

OK, I hereby officially open the Curvature of the Earth is Overwhelmed by Local Noise Nomic! The initial rules are just slightly different from the proposal the other day. To read the rules and play the game, go to the CEOLNN page.

So I'm reading the stories in the latest Fantasy and Science Fiction, and in this one story someone's stealing many of the world's greatest artworks.

"Ah," I think to myself, "time-travellers from the future, stealing them in order to preserve them during the fall of civilization."

Well, it's not time travellers, but it is in order to preserve them during the fall of civilization. So maybe I've read too much science fiction. In fact, it occurs to me, maybe there are only a finite number of basic stories, and they've all been written. I don't really believe this, but it might make a good story itself.

Then I remember that I read a story with roughly that premise, years ago.   *8)

Everybody's doing it: there's a new issue of The Journal of Desire out (caution: adult language and situations), and in the links section the editor mentions that he has his own Pitas page. Another liver saved from the eagles.

Speaking of Pitas, the design on openlog is lovely at the moment. I'm almost afraid to twiddle around with it.   *8)

Friday, January 28, 2000

I've gotten more good reactions to the Nomic game signup button from the other day, so barring heck or high water I'll probably put together a page for the game over the weekend (don't want to clutter up the log too much). It'll be mentioned here when it's ready, of course.

In the meantime, David Haan has sent in a link to Mornington Nomic, which is just what it sounds like: a cross between Nomic and Mornington Crescent. Two of my favorite meta-games, although it'd never occurred to me to combine them! (Credit: David says he saw the site mentioned on memepool.)

I've always liked the notion of eternity. There's a classic (what?) paragraph that I can't seem to find on the Web anywhere. Roughly, it asks us to imagine a steel sphere the size of the Sun, and an immortal butterfly flying in slow circles around the sphere. Every thousand circuits, its wings lightly brush the surface of the sphere just once. Imagine how long it takes for the sphere to be entirely worn away, and then realize that that amount of time is not the tiniest fraction, not the billionth part of a billionth part, of eternity.

That's a nice image, albeit a rather static one. Imagine every person who's ever lived on Earth, and every person that will live on Earth in the next ten thousand years. Imagine living every one of those lives, in all of its richness and complexity, beauty and horror. The subjective time it would take you to experience all that, all that any human has ever experienced, would be, again, not the billionth part of a billionth part of eternity.

So what's for lunch?

Bovine notes that Nomic sounds sort of like the Glass Bead Game. A nice pairing! The Glass Bead Game is a wonderful novel by Hesse (it was one of the formative works of my late adolescence), and is also the fictional game that provides the spiritual structure of the novel. Here is a good page of links related to the Glass Bead Game (with an emphasis on people who've tried to somehow implement it in real life).

Back in the mundane, it seems I now really must stop telling people that cookies are only theoretically a privacy exposure. See this issue of PRIVACY Forum for some of the details, and pointers to ways to opt out of some of the major snoops (doubleclick is apparently the worst; their opt-out page is here). I know, everyone else is logging this one also, but it's unfortunately important.

Was that a cat that followed behind her, its tail in the air?
Was that the moon that went before her, smiling its oval smile?


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