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When do you scream?
Thursday, March 30, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

It's been sort of an odd week, hasn't it? Not much time to log today; busy both with work and with a new silly toy. It's not ready for prime time yet, but you can try out an early version: design-o-matic. I'm using it to learn about style sheets and HTML validation and stuff; you can use it as a huge collection of bad examples of site design!   *8)   Don't pound it too hard, or tell Slashdot about it; the server seems kinda slow today already...

So as not to be entirely without links, I'll blatantly copy what I posted to geegaw this morning, before I became enmeshed in Things:

What is this world coming to? Reform rabbis can officially bless couples of any gender combination, Americans can still burn the flag without being locked up, and the Santa Cruz City Council has legalized medical marijuana without a doctor's note! It's almost enough to put one in a good mood...

(I must also plug the Unitarian Universalists, who have been open-minded on gender for a long time.)

I finished the last four pod races last night! After you win the Boonta Classic, there's this big award ceremony, and then lots of credit screens rolling by over recorded runs of the various tracks. Two hitches: the credit screens can't be killed (without killing the process externally), and the Boonta Classic is the third to last race! Which makes the last two races, after which there's no sort of ceremony at all, sort of anticlimactic, especially after sitting through all those credits. I suspect someone Messed Up.

Yawn, stretch! Nomic tomorrow for sure! Well, almost for sure...

Wednesday, March 29, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Turns out my little "permanent URL for this entry" widget looks just like the one on kottke.org, even down to the ALT text! As Steve says, "all of my best ideas are stolen by telepaths with time machines".

Some very nice insightful answers to yesterday's poll have arrived; keep 'em coming, and I'll summarize eventually.

Finished Louise Rafkin's Other People's Dirt, and despite the 34 reviews that were already on Amazon, I added my own:

A Good Quick Read (three stars)

A quirkily interesting book, worth at least the couple of hours it'll take you to read it. The author, a thoroughly educated sometime-writer, works as a cleaner, cleaning people's houses. She tells us something of what that's like, and she also pokes into other corners of the cleaning world, talking to someone who cleans up after murders, talking to folks who get paid extra to clean in the nude, and spending a week in a spiritual community in Japan that finds sustenance in service, including cleaning.

The book is a somewhat uneven read; now and then we get close to an insight into the human condition, or a lovely bit of prose. More often, though, the text reminds me of Paul Theroux or William Least Heat Moon at their grumpiest: going to interesting places and having a lousy time, meeting interesting people and disliking them. The author of "Other People's Dirt" doesn't really seem to like anybody very much, and her dislike keeps her at a distance that prevents most real insight. On the other hand, she doesn't give in to the dislike enough to really get nasty; while she constantly claims to know lots of little intimate secrets about her clients, and apparently shares them with fellow cleaners, she doesn't share many with us, so we don't even get that naughty illicit fun.

Anyway, the book is worth the read. You may get a laugh, or an interesting wince, or learn something about cleaners and their clients. But don't expect it to change your life.

I'm kind of surprised it generated so much controversy; maybe it's just that most people I know clean their own houses and no one else's...

www. .com

History repeats itself: I'm starting to see Java applets that run faster on faster machines; the lovely shortcut piece that I cited the other day is an example. I'm reminded of ancient DOS programs that, when run on modern machines, go so fast that they're useless (at least one TRON game that I know of is completly unplayable, and one music program produces only brief chirps). Of course, this is easier to fix in a JVM than in a CPU; I picture browsers of the future having options like "run applets at the speed of a typical JVM from [year]"...

Making the rounds: one of the founders of one of the first ISPs talks about it.

A new Meme Update is out (although it's not up on the website yet). Quirky and amusing, as usual. It points to a new Brodie site, profitvirus.com, dedicated to exploiting "viral marketing" schemes, by playing "Snatch the Bait".

This game is being played full force on the Internet right now. You can get all kinds of free stuff from a number of different Internet sites. Should you feel bad about snatching the bait? Well, do they feel bad about manipulating you? I don't think so.

More on the mystery Kafka quote. D. Fitch writes:

"Reflections on Sin, Pain, Hope and the True Way" was initially published in the collection of short pieces "Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer" and later translated into English as "The Great Wall of China: Stories and Reflections" (again, of which "The Great Wall of China" is only one part) . . . That book is out of print and I've only managed to find a few of the ~1933 first and second editions selling for $300-$400. I'm sure there have been more printings (with the associated cheaper prices), but damned if I can turn any of those up. (Actually, a search at Barnes and Noble's rare section turns up plenty a deal.)

Okay, okay, okay. Everyone raise your hands if you think these two reader letters were probably written by the same person:

There does not seem to be any clear standard for vegetables which are neither green nor white. With green vegetables, there is a range of acceptable color. You can clearly tell that something the color of, say, broccoli is edible. But who would have thought that you could eat beets and avoid swelling up in great, fulminous blood-red bubbles? Or purple basil, which looks for all the world like some demonic marriage between Beatrice and the Crayola Corp.? One is forced to wonder where God was on the day they ground out the first eggplant, isn't one? And I won't even go into orange bell peppers, and neither should you.

I once had a pet squid named Mahalia. She was very fond of peanuts, which I would feed to her with chopsticks, twice a day.

Yeah, me too.

On validation: first, on the HTML sort of validation, a reader writes:

Sorry, David. I validated you, but http://www.htmlhelp.com/tools/validator/ doesn't have much that'll cause you to feel grateful.

This is true; I once tried halfheartedly to bring some of my pages (including the log) up to spec, but gave up pretty quick. I was using W3C's validator, I think it was, and it wasn't very helpful ("well, why isn't a P tag allowed here???"). Maybe someday I'll try again.

On the more interesting sort of validation: we all look for validation sources that are neither too easy nor too hard. That is, if someone praises everything I do, they aren't being very useful in helping me figure out what to do, so I lose interest. The same for someone who condemns everything I do. On the other hand, if I have one validator (perhaps an internal one) that condemns (or praises) nearly everything I do, perhaps I'll tend to seek out other validators that praise (or condemn) most things, just to strike a balance.

I suspect there are interesting psychological insights to be had from looking at what kinds of validators different people seek out, and what balance of positive and negative feedback they seem to be looking for.

Oh, and I bought Bryce! A reader asks what it is: it's a fancy 3D rendering program, specializing in outdoor scenes, skies, terrains, and so on. In a cynical mood I once opined that it ought to have a "create unicorn" button, with options for the curliness of the mane and the cup-size of the attending elf-maiden; but I think it'll be a fun toy for creating strange scenes from my imagination even when they don't contain any Hobbits. I got it from Amazon. See the official Bryce page on the vendor's site, and these two simple images that I made while playing with the demo (hence the watermarks). It hasn't come yet, but expect either bunches of images, or complete silence, from me once it does!

Apropos of which, a reader writes in response to my previous mention of Bryce:

You are doomed. I foresee you spending $200 in the very near future (if you haven't already) and losing all semblance of professional and family responsibility, skipping meals, forgetting to shave, missing house payments until, in the end, we find you living on a subway grate in New York, having not bathed in months, staring wild-eyed at the laptop screen, beside a small cardboard sign hand-lettered in crayon: "Please Help Me Create New Worlds". It's sad, really.

Tomorrow: Nomic?

Tuesday, March 28, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Well, the Kafka quote doesn't seem to be from "The Great Wall of China" (I suspect the Melrose Place site's citation was at the end of a long chain of imperfect copyings), and none of my Kafka books contains "Reflections on Sin, Pain, Hope, and the True Way" either. A mystery. (Hey, it's Kafkaesque!)

Speaking of Kafka, one reader writes:

What about Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life, starring the *dreamy* Richard Grant?

The title alone provides considerable sustenance.

When do you / What makes you scream?

when I get so excited I can't say all the words fast enough


In my youth, I channelled a codex or two of the Book of Lies (the immortal authorless holy book that appears spontaneously on every inhabited planet of the galaxy). One passage:

Count the shadows in your face. Is there a multitude, there silent in the darkness?

The world is One, you are One. Your negotiations are on equal terms.

What do you think?

From in here, I'd say my inner world is the world outside, and also that .

Tomorrow, maybe some actual links (once again, LarkFarm has been very good, if you're hungry).

Monday, March 27, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

What makes you scream?

I let out a little yelp last night when I got my nose pierced.

Bologna, 2010. Aaaaaaah!

When I find people more stupid than I thought was possible.

I scream when I've retyped the same word seven times in three seconds and still can't get get the right letters into it!

Possible sources for the Kafka quote from the other day: one reader says it's from "Reflections on Sin, Pain, Hope, and the True Way", while another points to (dissonance alert!) this Melrose Place page that says it's from "The Great Wall of China". I can't find either work on the Web, and of course when I'm at home near my Kafka books I forget to look for it.

Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.

-- also Franz Kafka

Lots of good Kafka links out there, though: lots of other Kafka texts online, a readable transcript of a radio story on Kafka, and even The Kafka Society of America (not at www.kafka.com).

I mentioned my pod-racing addiction over on geegaw. I finally beat the d-rned second Invitational course, but not without cost. "This is very distracting," I said to M after we turned out the lights last night and I had a chance to see what was being projected on the insides of my eyelids, "I hope these movies of pod-racing tracks stop soon." They must have eventually, as I did fall asleep, and I don't remember dreaming about racing again...

Saturday, March 25, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Bologna, 2010

My bologna tastes like melons,
  or beef or prawns or beer.
My bologna's not from animals
  it grows in vats, I hear.

I love to eat it ev'ry day,
  and if you ask me why I'll say:
'Cause Oscar Mayer has a way
  with ar-ti-fi-cial D-N-A!

Thank you very much

Must be ten, fifteen years since I wrote that, and I still know every word. I ought to add it to Proper Lyrics, I suppose; but it's a tad silly.   *8)

The Masked Surrealist writes:

What's the difference between a gyroscope and a small beaded glove?

which is certainly a good question; and here's one final Favorite Fear that I suspect many of us share:

My favorite fear is that when I go to the bookstore there will be something I simply must have. Of course I also have the fear that when I go to the bookstore there will be nothing there that I want.

From /usr/bin/girl (shouldn't it be "/usr/bin/grl"?), a lovely piece of art; let it run forever and your mind will unwind for sure.

Friday, March 24, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

A pleasant unremarkable Friday. A good day for sitting by a stream dangling my feet in the water. Why am I not doing that?


Worse than eToys; but it's harder to threaten a massive boycott of a French financial firm...

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

-- Franz Kafka

Unlikely he had the Web in mind. That quotation is all over the place, but no one cites the actual work it's from. Does anyone know?

A good day for low-energy variations on a theme:
www. .com

Geegaw's experiment in small-group weblogging seems to be going nicely; the log still has a very geegawish flavor, despite being contentified by different people.

There's a woman in a long skirt sitting on the thick stone railing of the bridge, with a notebook, or maybe a sketch-pad, and a pencil.

She writes something on the paper, and then tucks the pencil behind her ear and starts tearing tiny pieces off of the paper, one at a time, and dropping them down into the river. Some pieces she crumples up even smaller before she drops them, some she just drops; those float a little before they hit the water.

from Park Street Café
(note: naughty content)

Like the new little widget up by the date, there? I think I do.

OK, so it suddenly occurred to me that, rather than messing about in Bryce for many minutes sitting at my desk, to create an image of an irregular piece of red glass sitting on a hillside in the sun, I could go out and get an actual piece of red glass, find a hillside, put the glass down on it, in the sun, and lie there looking at it. This approach has certain real advantages...


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