log (2000/04/07 to 2000/04/13)

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What flavor are you?
Thursday, April 13, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

What flavors are you? Here are the results, verbatim and in chronological order:

  • chocolate!
  • Cream
  • mango
  • left trouser leg
  • cinnamon
  • You'll have to ask my wife. I don't know myself in so many ways, and this is just one of them. But this morning I am at least part Butterscotch, or the whispery memory of Butterscotch, for I am flavored by what I read.
  • Usually I'm the highest quality exotic vanilla, but lately I've just been bitter.
  • Strawberry
  • green
  • lice
  • still Strawberry :-)
  • cinnamon!

Lice? Anyway, a very nice set of replies, especially considering that Steve wasn't online this week, and can't claim to have written them all.

I told the little daughter about the new pictures page, and she thought it'd be cool to have her favorite Bryce image up there too, so here it is. It's really good (he said, totally without bias).

The end of Ben and Jerry's as we know it:

Earlier in the day, Unilever, which distributes such diverse brands as Country Crock oleo, Ragu sauces and Degree deodorant, agreed to acquire U.S. diet-food specialist Slim-Fast Foods Inc. for $2.3 billion cash.

At least as sad: World's oldest bookshop to close.

Backdoor in ecommerce package: now of course this report may be false and/or slanderous for all I know, but it's very interesting nonetheless. See also these two newsgroup postings.

Dansie.net, armed with the server name and URL to the CGI executable provided by the cloaked email routine, would be able to run commands on any web server on the Internet that has the Dansie Shopping Cart installed. It takes little imagination to dream up the potential havoc and privacy violations this level of access could result in; from stealing private customer records to a full-blown crack of an E-Commerce server.

"Sounded Better While Stoned" Site Of The Day: Are You On The List?

Our goal is to build a list of all the names in the world by having visitors like you, add to the list. No particular reason, other than we think it's a neat project. The list is not and will not be for sale or rental to anyone.

Linkwatcher is back!

From More Like This, webstandards.org is very peeved about IE 5.5 (apparently with good reason).

From Ian (who has got to finish up his blog soon so I can link to it): Fuzzy logic for Perl:

This causes the program to evaluate an expression until such time as it feels reasonably sure of its conclusion. Depending on the system and expression, this may take a fraction of a second or an entire freshman semester.

From Michael Travers, some truly marvelous science songs from the past; take my word for it, you must try a few.

Massive (but trivial) shakeouts in the blogging world: The original weblogs egroups has shut down due to internecine strife, to be replaced (at least for the moment) by Weblogs_reborn. I've also just noticed a weblog-monitor group devoted to things like linkwatcher and weblogs.com. How do you keep track of all the sites you read?

See also the Weblog Madness page on Larkfarm for blogging and blog-reading resources.

Is your Attorney General an extortionist?

Republican state attorneys general are soliciting large contributions from corporations that are embroiled in -- or are seeking to avert -- lawsuits by states.

Apropos of nothing, I was looking for a copy of the famous Jimmy Carter "Malaise" speech, and I found some: here's one. Amusingly enough, the speech itself doesn't use the word "malaise"; apparently Carter used it a few days later, on the same subject.

And finally, a reader writes:

How come the thank you fountain makes no noise?

The answer is that it's only a painting, or perhaps that it's sleeping, or perhaps that it does.

Wednesday, April 12, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Driving home yesterday in the northbound lanes of the parkway, with the southbound lanes maybe a hundred feet to my left, I saw that ahead of me, where the northbound lanes go up over a rise and the southbound lanes cut through the edge of the rise, something had flown over the guardrail from the northbound lanes, and was tumbling down the rocky slope toward the southbound. A moment later I realized it was something large; a moment later I realized it was a car, turning over in a cloud of debris as it crashed down the rocks.

Maybe five seconds later I reached the place where the car had jumped the barrier; I pulled off to the shoulder with a half dozen other drivers, and ran up to the edge of the rise to look down and see what had happened. I'm not sure why I pulled off; my only obvious emergency skills are some long-expired CPR and lifesaving classes. Maybe I thought there was some chance I could help in some important way; maybe I was only responding to the less worthy magnetism of disaster. As I ran up the slope to look over the edge, my sandals came off; the grass was cold and wet.

Down below us, the car had come to rest upside down on the near shoulder of the southbound lanes, surrounded by stones and glass and bits of metal, the top crushed in but the structural elements apparently intact. Southbound drivers had stopped to help; one of them was just worming his way out of the window opening on the driver's side of the wreck, helping the driver extract herself. Miraculously, she stood up, shakily, her arm around the shoulders of the other driver. Behind me someone talked urgently into her cellphone, telling the story to 911. From the attitudes of the people below, there was no one else in the ruined car, plenty of helpers, no need for anything I might have been able to offer. So I got back in my car and went home. I want to know more about this person, if she's really okay, if there was really no one else in the car, if her insurance will cover it. But of course having been nearby when she had a serious accident gives me no right to a window into her life.

I felt vaguely ill for the rest of the evening; probably my body re-absorbing the adrenalin. I also felt I should have drawn some insight, some perspective, from the accident. But mostly I felt vaguely scared, and at the same time vaguely comforted at how well the car had protected its passenger.

I dreamed last night that I was bicycling home from work, through the snow, and the clouds were doing wild mesmerizing things, like lava-lamps, like flocks of birds, like dreams. Then they melted away in a second, and the sky was breathtakingly blue.

"This is something for the weblog!" I thought to myself, in the dream.

This issue of Flux Redux says some wise and true things about mates and mating, and gets me thinking about validation again. I was thinking the other night, listening to loved ones breathe, that there are validators and validators. That validation has things to do with love. That some (many / most / all?) of us need, as well as all our internal validators and our ordinary external ones, one special one, one that knows us intimately, one that can reassure us when we need it that we are acceptable, that we haven't overstepped any critical lines, that we don't need to radically alter our courses. (Or perhaps, for some of us, a small number greater than one.)

As children, there are caregivers that we come to to show our artwork, to have it evaluated and praised, to get our mudpies stamped acceptable. We internalize those caregivers. What happens to our need for an Ultimate Validator as a result of just what those caregivers do?

This isn't exactly a new thought ("love is important, film at eleven"). But I hereby note down to myself that love is allied to, and casts light on, validation; so I won't overlook it later.


Another new Bryce image on the Pictures page. I won't take up the space talking about it here; see the notes for the notes. This image stuff is kinda fun!   *8)

Ftrain has a wise and funny piece about design and content, and the potential of Weblogs. (Have you noticed how the sites that say the truest things about how design is less important than content usually have the best designs?) He also casually mentions this here Log as a sample Weblog; this makes me smile.

Tomorrow: what flavor are you?

Tuesday, April 11, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

I've added some notes to go with the 3D images on the new pictures page. I'm so addicted to words that I even have to make words about pictures!   *8)

The question you will invariably be asked is, "What is the mission of your group?". You must respond, as tradition dictates, according to the practice of your origin. We of Northumbria reply "I am not at liberty to respond." Those of Roger in Flames mumble unintelligibly. Those of The Million Jade Summer simply glare at the questioner and stalk by, nose in the air. All these responses are acceptable.

Naked Eye links very flatteringly to the Log, reminding me of some of the older and more profound parts of my site. I don't feel like I've been living up to them terribly well lately. Insight comes when it will, I suppose; but I should afford it more opportunities! Naked Eye itself is, as always, thoughtful and worth reading.

From Flutterby, Eric Boutilier-Brown's Photo Diaries; interesting, engaging, sometimes lovely, notes of a photographer who knows what he's doing (both technically and artistically), and how to let us see some of it. Worth a very long afternoon (if only I had one!).

I don't ordinarily find Microsoft all that fascinating, but I've tripped over a few noteworthy things lately:

  • a joke about the antitrust suit that's actually sorta funny,
  • an interesting CNET article about a story that the Wall Street Journal "accidentally" posted, and quickly pulled,
  • a New York Times story about MS hiring Ralph Reed (former head of the Christian Coalition, and a man I suspect is deeply evil) to lobby George W. Bush on its behalf. Shudder! (As usual, if the Times wants you to log in, giving "cypherpunks" as the username and password will probably work.)

From Bird on a Wire, an interesting if brief Boston Phoenix article about third parties in the U.S..

From Bird on a Wire, to dack.com, to this sadly funny image of the future of Amazon.com. I like Amazon. But I wish they'd concentrate more on books and less on lawn furniture...

The Quest continues! Unlike last time this came up, the majority favors heading east, toward the light and away from the sea. So be it!

Turning your back on the sea and your face to the dim light in the east, you slog onward through the mud, picking your way between the flowers, which watch your progress sardonically. As the night starts to close down, the ground rises slightly and feels firmer. To one side, a patch of somehow more benevolent-looking flowers catches your eye. To the other side, a dark shadow against the sky suggests a shed or small house on a low rise. Ahead, impossible to tell how far ahead, the light is still dim, but still visible.

And finally, Nomic! I'm ignoring for now a suggestion that the Scribe be required to display certain artwork beside the Nomic summary, just because I can't envision a good design that would satisfy the requirement. I'm also not applying a suggestion that would bar mice from playing the game, since I'm afraid that it would conflict with Rule 1, and that Rule 12345 would thus nuke both of them, and it'd be hard to play without Rule 1; I know, I'm squeamish! And with sadness I'm ignoring one attempted move that I rather liked, but that I judge failed to be a Valid Move because the Name did not "more or less clearly identify" any entity, even under my rather liberal reading of Rule 2 (if the submitter would like to submit it again, with something just a tad more definite than "anon" in the Name field, it'd be welcome!).

I'm applying:

proposal = Any Proposal that is not deemed a Valid Move shall be deemed a Silly and Useless Suggestion.
name = judith
integer = 501

We can never have too much nomenclature, after all! This adds Rule 501, brings judith's score to 12, and causes a Rule 6 event that gives The Devil ten points. Just to be perverse, I'm also applying:

proposal = The scribe shall not intentionally try to elevate the status of other such that they get the amusing name of 'Grand Pee-Pee' <grin>
integer = 9
name = Gerph

This creates a second Rule 9, and gives Gerph five points. This has the Historic Result that someone other than Bovine is now Champion and Grand Poo-Bah. Gerph should consult Rule 50 at this point (and the former Bovine should get his new site going already!). I'm assuming the grin is not intended as part of the new Rule.   *8)   Status, as usual, is here.

Monday, April 10, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

The crowd of nicotine-addicts bunched around the "ash trays" by the door to the lab seemed thicker than usual this morning, perhaps only because the cold had them huddling together for warmth. I actually breathed in a bit of the effluvium from one of their "gaspers", but I seem to have suffered no ill effects.

I once had one of these pathetic souls working for me (back when I was a manager for a year), and the addiction took a terrible toll on him. He was always going out for "a smoke" or to "light up", and (either as a consequence of the lost work-time, or because of the insidious effects of the drug on the cognitive faculties) his work was far below par. It was really quite sad.

I've put up yet another Bryce picture, and organized some of the existing ones into a (tiny) gallery, on the brand-new Pictures page. Stop by and have a look! Send me compliments and insults.

New motto for Oklahoma: "Even dumber than Kansas!" [Oklahoma House Passes Creationism Bill]

How good are you at judging ages? I'm pretty bad; anyone younger than me could be 13, for all I can tell.

State of Emergency in Bolivia (i.e. the army's been sent against the people, the radio stations have been seized, and so on). See the AP story, what is apparently a firsthand account from RRE (although there's always room for doubt), and some comments from Jessamyn, who has friends there.

Part of the comfortable feelings I get from actual contact with the U.S. military is that the aura of honesty, tradition, and rationality suggests to me that It Can't Happen Here. Am I naive?

Did you know the London Stock Exchange crashed last Wednesday? That is, their computers were down -- for more than seven hours. That's gotta hurt. There was initially some speculation (which I can't find a good link for) that it might have been the result of an intentional attack, but apparently it was just some coordination problem. (At least that's the official story, heh heh heh.)

(The Toronto Stock Market had its own glitch that same day. Good thing these systems aren't doing anything important!)

Validation: So do people who broadcast content (writers, performers, bloggers) look to their audiences, their readerships, for validation? Almost certainly almost all of them do. Some readers, the ones who give the most frequent and personalized feedback, will lead to individual internal models in the content-maker, individual internal meters of the "what will Nina think?" sort. But there are also mass-models, systems in the brains of content-makers that model the audience as a whole; we internalize, that is, the tastes or expectations or behavior of the audience as a whole, we have systems that predict audience reaction as a whole.

Now of course I write this stuff here solely for myself and the eagles, and I never even think about you lot our there except when I'm mining your mail for things to post. Of course!   *8)   But that's only on the conscious level; below that down in the mud, I'm sure there's a reader-simulator running, guiding me ineluctably (a delicious word, "ineluctably"; I wonder what it means) toward those things that it thinks will cause you to pat me on the head.

I (we?) have this sort of ideal, that the best authors write solely for themselves, out of their own inner drives and needs. But of course some parts of those inner drives and needs are little internal models of validators, and some of those are modelling the audience, the readers, us. Most of the time, anyway.

I'm sure this will all lead somewhere eventually!

Tomorrow, probably: Nomic, the Quest.

Sunday, April 9, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

In a perfectly rational world, everyone would check for Phil Agre updates before checking for David Chess updates, but fortunately the world is not perfectly rational, so some of you may not yet have seen the latest RRE Notes and Recommendations. Stimulating reading, as usual. Agre's comments on the Census privacy fuss, for instance, are unusually informed, because he was one of the privacy experts whose advice the bureau asked (and, apparently, ignored) when preparing for the 2000 census.


A new Bryce image; I call it "Comedy and Tragedy".

The hot-chocolate machine at the bagel store this morning was broken, so I had a cup of Butterscotch coffee with a slug of half-and-half and a packet of sugar. I don't go in much for coffee or alcohol, but I admit to envying the variety and the culture of both. All the special devices, the dedicated outlets, the rich and exotic names. "Orange-grapefruit" just can't compete with "Kahlua and Cream" in the mystique department...

M and I are eating our bagels and lox alone together this morning, and not watching Arthur; the kids slept over at a friends' house last night. Sometime after they come home, one or both of them is probably going to gasp and say "I missed bagels! Did you save me any?".

This is going to keep happening, I know, over the years, as some treasured childhood thing is missed, once or forever, because of some desirable new grownup thing. I don't know if the pangs will be deepest when the kids notice it and mourn, or when they don't notice at all. Kids...

Saturday, April 8, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

As promised yesterday, the Log now exists as a my.netscape channel, in case anyone's interested. Amazing how easily this stuff works!

The human brain is like an enormous fish; it's flat and slimy, and has gills through which it can see.
-- Monty Python

An amazingly lovely day. I just walked the kids over to a friends' house to play, and stopped by the lake on the way back. We lost a big old tree in Hurricane Floyd, and one of the more ambitious neighbors was down there harvesting some firewood. I should probably be out working in the yard, but somehow the coming of Spring just makes me want to lie in the sun and sleep.

Except for that tree, the Association area by the lake seems to have survived the winter pretty much undamaged by weather or vandals. The water is very cold and quite clear, without the algal blooms that'll cloud it in the summer. I walked in the edge of the kids' area, and got my feet deliciously wet and chilly.

Friday, April 7, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

OK, I went and did it! An RSS summary of this Log is now available at http://www.davidchess.com/words/log.rss. It's registered with my.userland, as seen on this page (apologies if it wants to you sign up or anything), and on XMLTree, as seen on this page. It's also registered with the punishingly slow my.netscape, but I don't know the ID yet (I'll brag about it again later when that arrives). You can probably use it with Headline Viewer, too, at least if you run IE5 (which I don't, so I can't try it).

I can't decide just how thrilling this all is: I mean, I've always been underwhelmed by XML itself (it's just a little ASCII data format that looks like a bright highschool kid could have written it), but the potential network effects are staggering: if everyone uses it, after all, then everyone will use it.

On the size of the worlds, a reader writes somewhat bafflingly:

My inner world is larger than the world outside; compounds geometrically.

The most interesting story on NPR Morning Edition this morning was about Greg Marshall, a marine biologist who is working on technology to (humanely and temporarily) attach cameras ("crittercams") to wildlife, in order to be able to see what they actually do when we aren't watching. You can get audio versions of the NPR story on this page if it's still there (search on "critter"). See also this National Geographic feature, this CNN Tech feature, and various other hits. Interesting stuff!

Back to the Quest! Help steer the boat out of another brush with disaster!

The Raven has flown. You stand in a sea of mud, surrounded by flowers which may have hostile intent. The only sound is the dim crashing of surf on the shore far behind you, and the only landmark is a distant light in the twilight sky to the East.

What now?


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