log (2000/02/18 to 2000/02/24)

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Thursday, February 24, 2000

This has got to be one of the most blatantly slanted "news stories" I've ever read (if the site asks you for a userid and password, using "cypherpunks" for both still works). See how many loaded words and phrases you can find! Start with "scare" and "entranced", and if you get less than a dozen, read more carefully. What jerks...

The great thing about getting in real early in the morning is that you can play your new CD as loud as you want, and there's no one around to be bothered by it ("It wasn't a rock; it was a rock lobster!!").

They stood at the edge of the square, watching the Temple of Tanik-Abaran burning furiously in the dawn. Every few minutes something else in the ruin exploded, and scraps of smoking rubble pattered down from the smoky sky.

"He wasn't a bad God, as Gods go."

"True enough."

"But now he'll have to find a real job."

Does it feel to be you about like it feels to be me?

Several times in my life, I've found myself briefly in or near a different subculture, a differently-scented community, a foreign planet, and kept in my memory the (what?) the general feeling, an inner icon for that other bunch of people, and that icon has for whatever reason hung around in my memory, sometimes even after I gained more direct experience with the other that it (originally) signified. Once in awhile the original icon gets aroused by something and it's like seeing someone you live with in a mirror, and not recognizing her for a minute, and realizing that as a stranger she looks entirely different.

You know what I mean?

When I was a kid, there was a family that was good friends with my family, and that family's previous generation was very well off, house in Scarsdale, fancy cars, and one Christmas I went with the current generation to visit the previous generation, and it was very strange. All this casual wealth, undercurrents of social expectations and family history that I couldn't hope to understand in one evening, sudden feelings of foreignness contrasting with the entirely-at-home expressions of my friends.

We went and sang with the carollers on the green.

In college, I went home once with a girl from a very preppy (do I mean preppy?) background, Dad's country club a few blocks away, pictures of my friend's horse on her walls, everything just a bit more expensive-looking than I was used to, and smelling entirely different. We went to the club and she talked to the bartender by first name, and we had Bloody Marys (they were awful!). It wasn't a shiny classy club, more the elegantly-shabby kind, prosperous and comfortable; a different world. I can still sort of imagine the smells (should I be saying "scents"?).

Once in high school, and once in college (lying hung over on a big soft chair in an almost-empty public space) I listened to people playing Dungeons and Dragons or similar role-playing games, and it was fascinating. Hidden maps, dwarven kingdoms, lost heirs. The phrase "magic user" got lodged in my memory as something strange and alluring.

Now later on in college I joined the Simulation Games Union and got relatively heavily into RPGs, had various characters (including Magic Users), designed and ran my own universe. But that experience never erased, and also never assimilated, the earlier more exotic memories, and once in awhile something still tingles them, and I remember the maps and kingdoms and heirs as though they were still something mysterious, overheard through a sleepy haze.

It's like seeing someone you live with in a mirror, and not recognizing her for a minute, and realizing that as a stranger she looks entirely different.

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Not having seen any further play for the horrifying story that I mentioned on Friday, I called WKSU and talked to the reporter. He says that the indictment is still in place, and that there has been some major media interest in the story. I hope it gets wide enough publicity to humiliate the prosecutor involved (I know, I shouldn't judge so harshly without more detailed research, but really).

For anyone upset enough about this to send support without knowing any more about it, the address is apparently:

Cynthia Stewart Legal Defense Fund
Post Office Box 332
Oberlin, Ohio 44074

I do hope this shows up on 20/20 or something else that I don't watch sometime soon!

More Understanding Comics: Doug of Waiting for Bob points out that Will Wright cites it as an influence on "The Sims" in his recent Salon interview; and an inchoate voice named Judith urges me to drop everything and read it! So perhaps I finally will.

Finally watched the video of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" that I bought the other month. It's quite a film! (See this very contentful fan site for all you ever wanted to know about it.)

In the small, it's an amazingly well-done film that deserves to be a Cult Classic. The retro-modern technology is marvelous (mechanical typewriters with tiny displays mounted on top behind blurry Fresnel lenses, baroque and hostile heating systems, television everywhere, routinely broken home appliances), there are one-liners galore to be scavenged for in-group recognition signs ("Do you have a 27B-stroke-6?" "We're all in it together!"), and every little background touch and barely-heard voice is perfect.

In the large though (you knew this was coming), I didn't really feel like Gilliam had two hours and twelve minutes worth of stuff to say. The film kept almost ending, trying to end, but not quite managing to. And when it finally did, after a terminal segment that was way too long for its narrative role, the only message seemed to be "look, it's a dystopia!". But we knew that two hours and nine minutes ago.

Not that I didn't enjoy it! But I would have preferred it shorter, or (preferably) meatier, enough to support the length.

R-Files: I suppose everyone but me already knew that David Duchovny (Agent Mulder of the X-Files) was also the main character and/or narrator in the soft-core artyrotica Red Shoe Diaries. (I mention this solely because I thought "R-Files" was a cute subhead; I'm shameless.)

Confess quickly. Before they get into the expensive procedures. If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating!

One of the writers of the Brazil screenplay, by the way, is Tom Stoppard. Of Shakespeare in Love, but also of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Which explains a certain amount.

SAM: Give my regards to Alison and the twins!

JACK: Triplets.

SAM: Triplets?! God, how time flies!

Steve White suggests that the most relevant part of the Whitman poem he suggested for the Problems of Consciousness pages the other day was actually this, which is indeed quite to the point:

It avails not, time nor place -- distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refreshed by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refreshed,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemmed pipes of steamboats, I looked.

Does it feel to be you about like it feels to be me?

MSN will no longer carry Usenet newsgroups (story on Yahoo). I dunno; have times changed enough that MSN can get away with the closed-content model that AOL was forced to abandon all those years ago?

Molecules with silly names (from LarkFarm). I like "megaphone" and "curious chloride".

Braitenberg Vehicles: neat subject, and (more importantly!) it mentions me. Someone noticed it and wrote me to ask about the vehicle of mine cited, and I had to dig up an 11-year-old file to answer the question. How dusty!

Wonder what really happened at the recent White House summit on Internet security? Gene "spaf" Spafford was there, and provides a very good first person account. It's always good to smuggle someone technical into these high-level meetings (maybe it should be a Federal law).

Whoa, and here I thought I didn't have much to write about today! I'll write some more tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 22, 2000

I keep running across references to Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. People talking about manga mention it, people talking about visual design mention it, and I'm sure I ought to buy it. But so far the inchoate voices have suggested putting it off; maybe I'm going to find a copy under the couch or something.

Scott McCloud

Scott McCloud has his own web site that's reasonably content-dense. (Although having your own website called "www.firstnamelastname.com" is so gauche, don't you think?)

The little daughter found a dollar bill on the sidewalk yesterday, when we were wandering around town. She found another one a few seconds later, but I told her to put that one back. Don't be greedy with luck, I said. That was probably silly of me!

Nomic: the Scribe is lazy; suggestions that would require him/her/it to do some particular effortful thing at some particular time interval are unlikely to be adopted.   *8)   I'm also ignoring (at least for the time being) some suggestions that would add decorations to moves (smiley faces, fruit, limericks).

A number of suggestions, including these:

If an entity wishes, he/she may sacrifice 20 points for a veto. A veto may be used to cancel any established rule with an integer value larger than 10.

If the Grand Poobah is the same for three consecutive turns, then the Grand Poobah will forfeit 20 points from his/her score.

Any proposal bearing an integer that is has a factor of 3 will incur a 5 point penalty on the submitter of that proposal.

require and/or assume infrastructure that we don't actually have, and that I'm not willing to take it upon myself to create ex nihilo. How exactly would an entity do that sacrificing and that using? What's a "turn"? How to determine the submitter of a proposal? Suitably concretized versions of these moves would be welcome.

The moves that have been accepted are these:

proposal = The Link Rule: The Grand Poobah shall have the right to specify a link to be associated with his or her Name on the home page.
name = Garrett
integer = 50

(This causes another Rule 6 event, again to the benefit of the "Bovine" entity; it's tempting to invoke Rule 759834 here, eh? In any case, "Bovine" now has the right as stated!)

proposal = Change rule 17: Rule 17 does not exist.
name = Gerph
integer = 17

This is an interesting one! I'm to change rule 17 so that it doesn't exist. But it already doesn't exist! Hm. Alternately, it could be suggesting that I embody this as a rule, stating that Rule 17 doesn't exist. OK, that's fine. And the resulting Rule is of course Rule 17; very nice!

proposal = If the entity who submits a valid move is the devil, and his move is added to the list of rules by the scribe, an extra 10 points will be added to his score. If an entity claims to be the devil, and it is found later in the game that he is in fact NOT the devil, 20 points will be deduced from his score.
name = Bovine
integer = 666

Again I would encourage people submitting suggestions to add new rules to begin their Proposals with something like "add a new rule with the following text:". But I'll assume the obvious. I will also assume that entities are not the devil (although the assumption that entities in general are the devil is about equally appealing). What if it turns out that there is more than one devil? Are any of them "the" devil? (A pedant might also doubt the possibility of deducing any number of points from a score, but I tend to doubt the necessity will arise anytime soon.) So, we forge ahead; as always, see the CEOLNN page for current status.

Monday, February 21, 2000

A lovely Presidents' Day weekend: weather good, computer use minimal. Years ago, when we were lying around racking our brains for some fact about the universe, I would say "in the future, we'll just be able to turn to the computer next to the bed and look this up." Now how eager am I for that to be true? No DSL yet...

When a sign says "PUSH HERE", are you supposed to push on the "PUSH" part, or the "HERE" part?

Friday, February 18, 2000

Ashamed to be on the same planet: a county prosecutor in Lorain County, Ohio is bringing charges against an amateur photographer because, among hundreds of pictures she's taken of her (now 8-year-old) daughter, one set shows her taking a bath, and one of those shows her washing "the genital area". Apparently it's a felony in Ohio to take almost any nude picture of your child, but the prosecutor (upon whose motives one can but speculate) only actually brings charges now and then.

WKSU story (brief text and an audio stream); NPR story (audio only).

The news reports say that there is a legal defense fund for the poor woman (who could have her child taken away over this!), but I haven't been able to find any more concrete information. In a fit of public-spiritedness, I called the Lorain County Prosecutor's office (+1-440-329-5389) and confirmed that the prosecutor (Greg White) has in fact indicted this woman for this crime. The very nice secretary even took my number; I can't imagine what I'll say if Mr. White himself actually calls me back!

Words fail.

Steve White suggests that we link to this Whitman piece from the Problems of Consciousness pages somewhere. I haven't figured out just where yet, but poetry of consciousness is certainly a worthy genre.

The simple, compact, well-joined scheme, myself disintegrated, everyone disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others.

What did Bill say? Everyone is floundering around amusingly about whether or not Bill Gates really offered to open-source Windows. Tell you what: you can be the one to read the code; that's the night I wash my hair.

Bread: I can't give you the recipe for Golden Bread from the other day, but here's a very good other bread:

Canonical Cheese Bread (three loaves)

Grate up three to three-and-a-half cups of colby and/or cheddar cheese. Get out about eight cups whole-wheat flour and about eight cups white flour (high-gluten bread flours if you got 'em), and half a cup of cool butter.

Dissolve three-quarter oz. (three packages) active dry yeast in 6 cups slightly warm water, add one cup sugar and two one-quart packages of nonfat dry milk powder. Gradually fold in whole-wheat flour until the mixture is thick and muddy.

Beat and fold thoroughly, about 100 strokes. Let rise in a warm place, 45 minutes. Mix and knead in remaining flour until dough, gradually kneading in cheese and pats of butter until everything is incorporated.

Knead agressively for a long time, but don't worry too much about some remaining lumps of cheese or butter. Put back into bowl in a warm place, let rise one hour or more. Knock down, knead briefly into bread-shapes, put into buttered or greased pans.

Let rise in pans about fifteen minutes, while oven preheats to 350°F. Bake one hour at 350°F until somewhat dark, hollow, and done.

That recipe is a homebrew, based on various breads and advice from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book and The Tassajara Bread Book, both of which are way cool.

Years ago, I wrote a program that produces random bread recipes. It was the obvious thing to do; I'd been reading lots of bread books and starting to become aware of the logical space they were mapping out. The program is kinda fun, although far from perfect. I haven't actually tried more than one or two of the recipes myself! There are two hard problems: getting it to generate recipes that almost always work but are sometimes interesting, and getting it to print them out as convincing-looking recipes.

Here are two random samples. I take no responsibility for the results if you actually try either of them...

Golden Onion Bread

2 Tbs double-acting baking powder
5 1/2 c. white flour
1/4 c. honey
1 c. nonfat dry milk
4 1/2 c. warm water
1 Tbs salt
1 egg
1/4 c. onion, diced

Sift baking powder into flour. In a bread bowl, dissolve dry milk and honey in water. Slowly add about half the flour. Sprinkle in salt. Add egg. Now add onion, and the rest of the flour; stir until well mixed. Pour into lightly oiled pans. Cook on the center rack of a 325 degree oven for 60 minutes.

That's right, a baking-powder bread with onion. At least it's interesting!

Granola Bread

4 c. warm water
4 packages active dry yeast
1/4 c. honey
5 c. whole wheat bread flour
1/2 c. granola
1 tsp salt

In a large bread bowl, combine yeast and honey in water. Gradually add up to half the flour, until the mixture is thick but still very wet. Stir vigorously, folding in air, with a wooden spoon. Cover with a damp cloth, and allow to rise about one hour, in a warm place away from drafts. Fold in granola. Sprinkle in salt. Gradually work in the rest of the flour, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a wood or marble bread board. Knead firmly, ten minutes, until the dough is firm and elastic. Allow to rise in warmth and moisture, 50 minutes, until about doubled. Cut into two equal halves, shape into loaves, and put into greased bread pans. Allow to rise in pans for 30 minutes while the oven preheats. Cook on the center rack of a preheated 350 degree oven, 50-60 minutes, until bread sounds hollow when turned out and tapped.

Way too much yeast, I suspect, but somewhat more plausible! *8)   Maybe someday I'll port the program to Java, make it a little more reliable, and stick it on the Website...


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