log (2000/02/04 to 2000/02/10)

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Thursday, February 10, 2000

Rubik's Cube in four dimensions: download the software here (link from Anton Sherwood). It's real pretty; whether it actually makes any sense will depend on how good you are at thinking in four (spatial) dimensions. I suspect it takes some practice!   *8)

The whole superliminal.com site is pretty neat. Wander around and look at the pretty pictures, alternate renderings of the Mandelbrot set, cool geometric objects, and so on.

I had this dream last night (oh no, you think, not another dream story!) where we were sitting around at work talking about famous sayings, and someone mentioned "a thing of beauty and a child forever." I said it was "a joy forever," and that it was from the Bible. Taking a Bible from the shelf (I don't actually have a Bible at work), I looked in the Concordance under "pearl" [sic], and found the reference; it was I Kings 10: 10-16. I was just turning to those verses when the alarm went off.

Naturally I took out a real Bible and looked in the Concordance. I found neither "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" nor "a pearl of great price" (the former is Keats; the latter is in Matthew 13:46, but for some reason I didn't find it in the Concordance).

The actual text of I Kings 10: 10-16 is all about how rich King Solomon was, and how he and the Queen of Sheba exchanged various expensive gifts. I talked to M about what this might mean, and we agreed that if the Queen of Sheba calls up, we should definitely invite her over.

(Note: for those sensitive to such things, I do believe that the Bible is the world of God, but then so are the Torah, the Koran, the Lao Tzu, "Where the Wild Things Are", the ingredient list on your cereal box, and especially whatever it was that that guy was yelling last night in the street outside your window.)

You're no doubt saturated with news about all these denial of service attacks against Yahoo and Amazon and so forth; I won't even bother with a news link. But this report, from a workshop on the subject back in November of '99, is readable and interesting background material. It'll be a long time, I think, before we're free of this kind of nuisance. I just hope the stock market keeps it in perspective...

Nomic: I have Applied the following Valid Move:

proposal = Ammendment to rule 10: When 2 entities are tied for the championship, the first entity shall be referred to as 'The Grand Poobah', whereas the second entity shall be referred to as 'The Grand Poo-Poo'. If there is a third entity with the same score, they shall be referred to as 'The Grand Pee-Pee'.
integer = 129
name = Bovine

So the "Bovine" entity now has ten points, and is the Champion, and Grand Poobah! That name now appearing twice on the Sacred Piece of Paper, the one with the lower Integer (14) is erased, per Rule 5. The Scribe will, admittedly, accept suggestions to modify Rule 10 in order to clarify just what "first", "second", and "third" mean...

After that, I Applied this Move:

proposal = The game ends when one Name achieves exactly 100 Points.
integer = 50
name = Alamut

Ooohhh, exact count! So the entity "Alamut" gains five points, and is recorded on the Sacred Piece of Paper. Then by Rule 6, the entity "Bovine" receives ten points (since 129 is between 50 and the 768 of "Hillary Clinton"), and all three names are erased. How exciting! See the CEOLNN page for the resulting status of everything.

BTW, the Scribe would appreciate it if suggestions to add a new rule with text T would be worded as "add a new rule with text T", rather than simply "T". Silly Scribe...

Wednesday, February 9, 2000

From Syd Bauman, a good piece on the purpose of copyright, and its proper limitations, by a law professor at Lewis & Clark College. The publication it's in, Open Spaces, looks kinda neat and eclectic (here's some blackberry jam for geegaw).

I just noticed that the Apathy weblog has a whole page with pointers to grid puzzles of various kinds (including my own humble visual mantras). The Zen things (here) are pretty, but frustrating: I want stuff to change only when I click on it, not when I just touch it. Chock-a-Block, on the other hand, fits my cognitive style very well: sort of Tetris without the time-pressure. Potentially addictive; it seemed very easy until I realized I'd just lost!

And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws till Max said "BE STILL!" and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all and made him king of all wild things.

"And now," cried Max, "let the wild rumpus start!"

-- Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

More Nomic moves have been coming in, some quite tempting. Maybe tomorrow (since the generous Rule 3 lets me whenever I want) I'll Apply another one or two. In the meantime read the Rules, and send in your suggestions!

About my complaints on the slowness of the nedstat and extreme-dm stat-gatherers the other day, one reader wrote to say that my own stat-device was taking forever to load. I think that was just a day when the whole server was really slow, so the stat-gathering CGI was also. But if anyone sees untoward delays in the log here that seem to be attributable to the stat-gathering one-pixel image, drop me a line!

Today's Trivia Question: what's the name of the school where the Powerpuff Girls go to Kindergarten?

Books I'm Searching For: I've been hunting for years for a book that does for jazz theory (and/or rock theory) what Piston does for classical theory in Harmony (the early editions!), Counterpoint, and Orchestration. Does anyone know of one? (Amazon has one book. entitled "Jazz Theory", but somehow I'm not quite convinced by it, and I'm mysteriously unable to add it to my Wish List anyway.)

I'd also like a good book on the movie and video industry in India; I love watching Indian rock videos (see VOZ), and I'd like more idea of just what's going on there. Again Amazon has one book that turns up in a search on "Bollywood", but it sounds rather dated.

And finally, for any netheads listening, I'd like recommendations for a book sorta like Comer's "Internetworking with TCP/IP", but covering some of the other protocols at various levels of the stack (NetBIOS, NetBEUI, IPX, and so on). Maybe I just need a more recent edition of Comer? In any case, recommendations most welcome!


Tuesday, February 8, 2000

There's been some very interesting discussion in the Weblogger community lately about the responsibilities and obligations that go with keeping a log. It started out when one Leonard Grossman, in the January 2000 Modem Junkie column took Jorn of Robot Wisdom to task for linking to (or for how he linked to) a controversial account of the history of Jewish fundamentalism.

Various bloggers responded to this in the logs, and an interesting thread on the subject took place on the Medley discussion forum. I posted a couple of Deep Thoughts on the subject there myself.

The February Modem Junkie is now out, and (after pieces on other subjects that are also well worth reading) Mr. Grossman offers a post-mortem on the debate so far. Since he quotes me in the column, he was kind enough to send me a note drawing my attention to it. My main content for today is my reply to his note. This may constitute Weblog Navel Gazing of no interest to the non-logging reader, but I hope not; at least some of the issues here have wider implications for the Net and society as a whole.

Thanks very much for the pointer! The latest ModemJunkie is, as usual, interesting and thought-provoking. I'm glad my comment in the discussion struck you as interesting enough to quote.

I still disagree with you on the issue of whether or not Jorn's original citation was in any sense irresponsible. As I said in my comments, he gave a link, he gave his own subjective impressions of the material at the other end of the link, and he gave some quotes which were quite representative of that material. (Would you have minded less if he'd chosen the *least* inflammatory passages to quote? Surely that would have been worse; misleading the reader into thinking that the material linked to was mild and reasonable.)

Perhaps you could make your case more convincing by saying what you think Jorn should have done instead? Should he have refrained from citing the material at all? But surely it's good that people know there is material like this out there, if only to know what must be resisted. Should he have included more derogatory adjectives in his citation? If he had said that the material was "unconvincing" or "biased" or "probably unreliable" or "false", would you no longer have considered his action irresponsible? Or did he have an obligation to actually conduct some significant amount of research once he realized that the material was controversial, and to present the results of that research along with the citation? I'm curious, I guess, as to just what sort of responsibility *you* think webloggers have.

When you write "Clearly, many of the Bloggers refuse to accept responsibility, whether as a matter of principle or simply by habit. Or perhaps, as Dan Bricklin suggests, careful checking may be beyond the nature of the beast," your second (IMHO correct) sentence contradicts your first. As I've argued, the implicit contract between a weblogger and a reader does *not* include fact-checking; it includes only "here's a link that leads to something interesting, and here is a brief synopsis of my subjective impression of it". Webloggers do not "refuse to accept responsibility" for that contract, and by using such loaded language to suggest that they do, you may well alienate many of your readers. At least the thinner-skinned ones! *8)

I think readers are well able to tell the difference between a subjective personal weblog and a fact-checked news source. I would be surprised if even a single person followed Jorn's link, and assumed that the material at the other end must be true since Jorn linked to it. Your concerns have raised some very interesting discussion in the community. I wonder if any of the discussion has led you to modify your initial views on Jorn's culpability?

How earnest I sound! *8)

A reader writes to ask what's become of the Quest. A good question! It has indeed been awhile. Three very apposite texts were received for Move 5. I present them in what I swear is the order in which they were received.

The path into the forest is guarded on both sides by rows of flowers. Their blank faces seem to follow you as you make your way down the muddied path. The sun is out and shining, and the sky glows with a golden light. Off in the distance, a thunderous boom is heard, and another one, and they repeat rythmically. You pay them no heed, as the sound is far away.

Though it is a dry day, you begin to feel cool dampness settle on your clothes, and a misty cloud settles around you. The fog seems to have come from nowhere, but you have heard of this happening before. The fog rises from the flowers themselves, you curse yourself as a fool for not realizing the intent of those botanical beasts, waiting hungrily by the side of the road for you to get lost and wander without direction. They have come to confuse you and make you lose the path, but you refuse to do so, you will continue on. Through the impenetrable soup of clouds, you see the shadowy form of the Raven, its absolute darkness seems to shine forth as a beacon. You feel for the mud beneath you and make way towards the telephone pole up ahead, which now serves as the Raven's perch.

Suddenly, a roaring crack erupts behind you as a tree is felled with great force. Those thunderous sounds you have heard before are much closer now, and you did not bother to notice. You look behind you, but it is too obscure to find the source of the racket. Another boom, this time much closer, it causes the earth to tremble beneath you, you slip in the mud. As you get to your feet, you realize that those are the sounds of footsteps, giant footsteps. Another earth-shaking thud and you can feel the concussion mere feet from your position.

You fall again and look up, there you see the sun, shining gray through the mist. Suddenly it is eclipsed by a giant head, many hundreds of feet high. Connected to that head you can see a long, craning neck. The head and the neck pass you by, and the sun is eclipsed by the creature's much larger body, you can barely make out mishappen, pink creatures clinging to the bottom of the body. Another footstep, this time in front of you. It is passing you by, you think with relief. And indeed, in moments the lumbering creature is gone. You look ahead to see the creature has blocked your view of the telephone pole up ahead. You realise to your horror that the creature has come to knock down the pole. The black form of the Raven is forced to lift off, squawking angrily at the unheeding beast. A tremendous crack, and the telephone pole is no more.

You are now stranded on the muddied path, no landmark to guide you. On both sides of the path lie an army of carnivourous flowers, patiently waiting for you to make the one mistake which will land you within their reach.

It may take some doing to get out of this, eh? Then:

The fish, bored with all of this, promptly turned into a plate of battered cod and chips, which tasted Strangely like cod and chips.

Well, at least we aren't hungry! Then, even more succinctly:

Where can I find love on the internet?

The answer to that, horrifyingly enough, is that even Love has been swept into the recent string of Big Mergers: love.com (air-sickness bag recommended).

But in any case, what about that giant and those nasty old flowers? How can we follow the Raven in all this muck? What shall we do?!

Monday, February 7, 2000

Like us, they sit with their families on Sunday mornings, on the big bed, eating bagels and lox and watching animated anthropomorphic animals delivering moral and behavioral messages projected on glass. At night, they paint bicycles red by the light of dripless candles. They march in circles, carrying signs. "No more," they chant, "no more." Their earlobes are long as chickens.
-- from They

Seemed appropriate somehow, although it was only three of us on the big bed on Sunday; the little daughter had a friend sleeping over, and they were off in some other room gossiping and making cutouts. This morning I was Class Helper in the little boy's kindergarten class; it was fun. Nothing as memorable as the Sports Bra Incident occurred; I was stationed at the Math Must-Do, helping the kids add up the numbers on the caterpillars, and draw lines to connect to the corresponding butterflies.

I'm not sure what I think about actually making kids do things in Kindergarten (if you don't finish your Must-Do's, you don't get to have Snack Time). How early do we want to start kids thinking of learning as something that you do to avoid punishment? On the other hand, parenting has convinced me that a huge amount of what a kid is like comes from inside the kid. A kid's going to have a love of learning, or not, and I suspect that the Kindergarten curriculum doesn't really have much to do with which way a given kid turns out. So I'm willing to let the school system do whatever they think best; so far anyway...

CEOLNN: As Scribe, I hereby Apply a couple of moves. First:

proposal = The Grand Poobah rule: The current champion of the game at any time shall be referred to as 'The Grand Poobah'.
name = Bovine
integer = 14

Seems innocent enough! That adds a new Rule 10 with the given text, and gives the entity "Bovine" five points, per Rule 4. Bovine is thus Champion of the Game, per Rule 7, and shall be referred to as "The Grand Poobah", per Rule 10; how appropriate!   *8)   It won't last, though...

proposal = Add a new rule after all the other rules, reading "the King is a fink!"
integer = 768
name = Hillary Clinton

That adds a new Rule 11 with the given text, and gives the entity "Hillary Clinton" five points. I suspect that there is no longer any Champion of the Game, although Rule 7 doesn't say explicitly what to do if there is a tie for first; the Scribe will entertain suggestions for rule changes that address this. I picked this Valid Move to apply, because it nicely illustrates a couple of key things: the proposed change to the rules is very explicit and tells me exactly what to do, and the Name associated with the Valid Move is not (I presume!) the name of the person sending in the Move. This is perfectly legal under the current Rules.

The other submitted Valid Moves I'm ignoring for now. The submitters are invited to resubmit, being especially careful to word things explicitly and correctly. There were some Valid Moves that talked about "rules" being "submitted" or "declared", but I don't know quite what that means; the only things that can be submitted are Valid Moves, and Valid Moves don't contain rules, they contain suggestions for changes to the Rules. (I know, I'm being persniketty; but Nomics tend to dissolve into chaos otherwise.) There were also two separate suggestions to require all Valid Moves to have titles; they didn't quite manage to convince me. And there was one proposal that involved recording on the Sacred Piece of paper the difference between two equal integers; I'm afraid I failed to grasp that one, and the submitter is encouraged to submit it again, with more explicit and detailed instructions.

Thanks to all submitters! See the CEOLN Nomic page for the new status.

Friday, February 4, 2000

What do you get if you cross Madonna with an iguana?

So having made themselves look like cynical cowards by trying to keep McCain off the ballot, the Bush people in New York are now saying "never mind".

The obvious suspicion is that the Bush campaign is entirely a red herring, intended to self-immolate right around now and make the populace feel better about McCain ("He's so much better than Bush!"). Bad things about McCain can of course be found all over the net, but the Bush stuff is so numerous that it tends to hide them...

Subtle folks, these Illuminati!

More snow last night, but not enough to delay school. Funny; I can't remember the last time the schools in the counties next-door were delayed or cancelled but ours were open as usual.

Another notable explanation of pharmacy delays; this is the most likely one yet!

It takes easily 10 minutes for them to draw the circle on the floor with chalk, then mark it up with all of the arcane symbols commonly advocated by the medical establishment. Than they have to annoint the instruments of the art, take the standard ritual bath, and commence with the barberous terms of evocation. All this (at least 30 minutes) before the proper spirit has been evoked to visible manifestation. Within a mere 15 minutes, they have to provoke the spirit to manifest the sacred healing powder, which has to be linked on the astral plane to the little pills that go into the little bottle that is marked with your name among other things. It's a wonder it all only takes 45 minutes! Moo.

There you go!

Dangers of letting visitors contribute to your Website (or visiting websites that allow that): new CERT advisory. IMHO it's not necessary for everyone in the world to turn off JavaScript (especially Netscape users, heh heh), but the advisory is still worth reading, especially if you run a website, and especially if it has reader-input features.

Madonna iguana sin(theta)

Happy Friday to all!


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