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Thursday, April 20, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

My parents came to visit, when I was a freshman in College, and I took them to the Computer Center, where I'd begun hanging out. While showing them the Ready Room, I went over and ran out the Ready Printer, sorted the output onto the output table, checked the bins for anything of mine I'd forgotten to pick up, and generally bustled around a bit. "Wow," Dad said (roughly), "you look like you own the place already."

That felt really good.

Now while that was clearly a pretty important moment in my life (just because I remember it; my memory for events is generally awful), you don't internalize a whole value system from one sentence (do you?). Some powerful validational forces were working together there, though. Approval from my Dad enriched my internal model of him, no doubt reinforcing other times that he'd praised me for knowing what I was doing, or praised other people for knowing what they were doing. A rush of pleasure from the idea that I was (in the eyes of someone who matters, a primary validator) somehow like those older and wiser people (juniors, seniors, even grad students!) who moved around the Computer Center, looking like they owned the place.

So to what extent is that sort of thing responsible for the importance I put on competence, on knowing the lay of the land, how good I feel when I suspect that I look like I know what I'm doing, that I'm someone inconspicuous but respected?

I don't understand pathology well enough. When someone has destructive behaviors, self-destructive or sociopathic behaviors, is it because they have accurately internalized pathological validators, because they have internalized otherwise benign validators in some twisted form, or because something else entirely, not naturally interpreted in terms of validation at all, is going on? All three probably happen, of course.

I took the kids to a friend's birthday party at the local bowling alley today. There were moms, dads, lots of kids, teenagers working the shoe counter and the snack bar, buzzing flashing pinball machines and video games, vending machines, the sun coming in the windows, potted plants, a faint smell of stale cigarette smoke from the bar, Carvel Ice Cream Cake, goodie bags.

Everyone was quite beautiful, I thought.

Looking at a scene like that, what clues, what indications are there about the health of the surrounding society? How close to an objective notion of societal health can we gin up?

We can ask if the people seem happy, secure, healthy, well-fed. We can look for signs of coercion, anger, hatred, disease, filth, cruelty (we wouldn't find many in the bowling alley). We can see if the people seem to be a good mix of races, ages, gender-roles, if people seem to treat each other as peers, if people defer to each other roughly symmetrically. We can ask if the people here, the communities we can try to infer from them, would be able to defend themselves if attacked. (We (or at least I) wouldn't find much evidence on that question there.) We can ask to what extent the people have what they want, and to what extent their wants are untwisted. What subtler questions should we be asking?

This is probably easier to do with a society you haven't grown up in, where you don't take so much for granted. On the other hand, how well can you really understand a society, or even a bowling alley, if you haven't grown up there?

Can we have any confidence in our impressions of the society's health if the bowling alley is all we've seen? Even if we know that these people are in good health, happy, strong, it may be that disease lurks elsewhere; or would there inevitably be some sign, however subtle, of the infection even here?

Later on we went to the zoo, and I said hello to my friend the Slow Loris again. That was fun.

Oh, and by the way that Windows98 registry twiddle I mentioned yesterday seems to have worked just fine.

Wednesday, April 19, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

This has the feeling of one of those "too various to describe" days; Nomic fans will find a new round down at the bottom.

Dad gave a sermon at his local church the other Sunday, about the relationship between science and religion, based on one that A. Powell Davies gave back in 1947. Dad's sermon is here; a nice enlightened quote from the Davies part:

If scientists support people in believing -- or appear to support them: it comes to the same thing -- that they can retain their old attitudes, and leave everything to a sort of nursemaid providence for which there is no evidence, instead of allowing the God-power in their own minds to guide their thought and the holy spirit of their own souls to cleanse their consciences, then it is a grave disservice.

Speaking of science and religion, I've had a very nice note from the Famous Brett Watson, whom I slandered on Monday, in which he proves that he does not in fact utterly misunderstand the theory of evolution. He says he's working on an essay to more thoroughly spell out his thoughts about probability and the evidence for a supernatural origin of life; I'll link to it once it's done and someone tells me about it.

When I was born, we lived in Park Forest, Illinois. I don't remember very much in detail about that house or that place; mostly I remember a big street and wide green lawns and how strange and echoey it was when all the furniture went off on the moving van. I stopped in Park Forest on my Westward jaunt after graduation, and the place had gotten much smaller! Apparently there are also some rather small minds living there: here is a funny, if sorta pathetic, page where some Park Forestians attempt to publicly shame their neighbors for such sins as building tree houses and not taking down their Christmas light quickly enough. Sheesh! Interesting insight into the Suburban Mind, though. (from Lake Effect)

Also from Lake Effect, rfc2555: 30 Years of RFCs. A cool retrospective about some of the things that Make the Net Good.

Another new Bryce image! This one isn't all that exciting as an image, but I'm fond of the little synthetic object that it's an image of. Bryce is like a CAD program for the woolgatherer; you can design peculiar places and objects of all sorts, without having to (or being able to) worry about manufacturability, physics, or anything boring like that. Bryce users can download the object to use themselves (see the notes).

Speaking of Bryce, this feller has done some nice stuff, and even posted brief notes on the images. I am (again) addicted to words; if someone puts up a cool picture, I want to hear about how they did it, why they like it, what it means to them.

Suffering from Windows98? In particular, suffering from the new Start/Programs menu-thing, which insists on scrolling annoyingly up and down rather than laying itself out horizontally like Win95 used to? This page points to some registry changes which produce a checkbox in Explorer/View that lets you turn that behavior on and off. (In fact, these registry changes suggest a way to stick all sorts of amusing things in Explorer/View!) I haven't tested them yet myself, but they look convincing.

My favorite Tao Te Ching translation, that I lamented that I couldn't find the other month, has turned up; it turns out to be the Shambala Pocket Classics edition of John C. H. Wu's translation. He gives those two key lines in Chapter One as:

So, as ever hidden, we should look at its inner essence;
As always manifest, we should look at its outer aspects.

which I rather like. I haven't been able to find the whole text of Wu's translation on the Web, but I did stumble across this neat page, which has a couple of dozen different Chapter One translations, for comparison.

And speaking of things Eastern, Steve found this novel page about using your computer as one or more prayer wheels while looking for a digital karma-meter on a bet. I have to admit I don't take very seriously the suggestion that having certain bits spinning around on your hard drive is actually better for your soul than having those bits sitting still, or having other equally benign bits spinning. But hey, whatever floats the boat...

Finally, Nomic! I'm not applying a move that would have specified that certain computers could not be used for submitting moves, as too unenforcable even for my taste. I'm also not applying a move or two that seem to make sense only if you assume that the entity submitting a move is also the entity named by the Name; but we don't assume that. The submitters of those moves are of course welcome to try again, with or without modifications to overcome these objections.

I'm applying this:

proposal = Rule 35: The name of the nomic game is : The Curvature of my Spine is Overwhelmed by Local Aneasthetic Nomic.
name = wetlog
integer = 35

In my interpretation it creates a Rule 35 which conflicts with the first Rule 9, and by Rule 12345 they immediately mutually annihilate, leaving the name of the game unspecified by the Rules, which is OK by me (I'll leave the now-unofficial title on the Web pages, though, at least for now!). Five points to "wetlog". By the second Rule 5, Gerph's score (which was 35, of which 35 is a factor) is reduced by half, and then rounded down (by Rule 15) to 17, and Gerph's name is removed from the Scared Piece of Paper (Rule 5). Bovine is now again Grand Poobah, and Hillary Clinton Grand Poo-Poo, at least for a moment.

I'm applying what I think is the longest Valid Move in history:

proposal = Create the three following rules: 1. the Official Domain consists of the integers between zero and fifteen (inclusive); the Official Range consists of the integers zero and one; the Official Mapping consists of a mapping from the Official Domain to the Official Range. Initially, the Official Mapping maps each element of the Official Domain into zero. 2. In addition to the valid moves provided for in other rules, a Mapping Change Suggestion is also a valid move. A Mapping Change suggestion differs from the normal rule-changing kind of valid move only in that rather than suggesting a change to these rules it suggests a change to the Official Mapping, by specifying one or two elements of the Official Domain and for each the element of the Official Range to which that element should now be mapped. Mapping Change Suggestions are applied as, and otherwise function exactly as, normal rule-changing moves. 3. the Official Tableau is a 2-dimensional visual representation of the Official Mapping; the Scribe shall display the Official Tableau along with the Rules in all places in which he is required to display the Rules.
name = Hillary Clinton
integer = 437

Whew! By Rule 14, this creates Rules 13, 16, and 17 with the texts as above. Pixel-art, anyone? Five points to Hillary Clinton, who is for the moment Grand Poobah and I have to rig up an Official Tableau for the Rules page. Next I'm applying:

proposal = Entities deemed forgetful shall have the word 'forgetful' next to their names in the scores section.
name = Bovine
integer = 771

Five points to Bovine, followed by a Rule 6 event giving ten points to Hillary Clinton, who is still Grand Poobah. I am provisionally deeming Bovine and Gerph forgetful based on present evidence, but I would welcome any corrections in either direction!   *8)

And finally we have two different suggestions on what to do with Rule 501 Silly and Useless Suggestions. I'm Applying this one:

proposal = Amendment to rule 501; 'Silly and useless suggestions' may be published for the general amusement of the cosmos.
integer = 99999
name = gerph

as giving the Scribe somewhat more discretion than the other move would have. Five points to Gerph.

(The other suggestion, as it seems somehow utterly fitting to mention here, was

Names and Integers associated with Silly and Useless Suggestions shall be recorded on the Timid Piece of Paper, which shall be created by the Scribe and shall reside on the home page for the Nomic game currently called "The Curvature of the Earth is Overwhelmed by Local Noise Nomic" following the Scared Piece of Paper.

which would have interacted interestingly with the fact that there is now to my knowledge no Nomic game that is officially called that, but I didn't quite want to Apply both, and as it turned out I might not have been able to comply with this one.)

So are we done? Looks like! Status, and the new Tableau, here. I wonder if Ms. Clinton will send in a Rule 50 link? (Note that it has to be Hillary Clinton herself, not merely someone using her name.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

A recent issue of Apathy has a bunch of good links to consciousness-related sites (all of which I ought to read for the improvement of my own Problems of Consciousness pages) as well as the usual fun and/or interesting Apathetic stuff.

Geegaw is back!

Confession: in yesterday's Log entry, I abused an apostrophe, writing "perpetrator's" for "perpetrators" (it's fixed now). I hate it when people do that! How should I be punished?

Two good current-events links from Rebecca: a former chief economist for the World Bank says that the protestors have a point:

They'll say the IMF is arrogant. They'll say the IMF doesn't really listen to the developing countries it is supposed to help. They'll say the IMF is secretive and insulated from democratic accountability. They'll say the IMF's economic "remedies" often make things worse -- turning slowdowns into recessions and recessions into depressions. And they'll have a point.

and the founder of a hot new dotcom startup turns out to be a fugitive, wanted for fraud:

A fugitive embezzler who was on the state of Virginia's most wanted list changed his name, moved to California, raised $35 million from investors and founded a splashy "dot com" billed as the first online broadcast network, authorities said.

You've no doubt already heard that the Sony Playstation 2 has been classified as a munition in Japan, and may therefore be hard to export.

When you talk to yourself, what pronoun do you use? I tend to use "we", myself ("Where did we put that?"). Other obvious candidates are "I" and "you". No doubt this reflects something deep about us.


From Larkfarm, to Cheapass Games (I'm tempted to buy a bunch of their products just to keep on the shelf and chuckle at now and then; they're cheap enough), to XXXenophile online (Phil Foglio's justly famous series of smart funny sexy dirty comics).

Nomic? Maybe tomorrow. Forgetful players (Rule 789575) take note.   *8)

On the speakers: MP3.COM's Latin Pop / Balada channel. Besame mucho!

Monday, April 17, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

So at some point over the weekend, I thought to myself "I really ought to update the log, or at least do the RSS file update that I forgot on Friday." Then I realized that not only did I not really feel like it, but I didn't have to! It was a very liberating feeling; the laptop stayed in its case all weekend (and while I did mess around in Bryce a bit, none of the new images were anything I want to inflict on you).

Herve cut open the pepper, and his eyes widened with surprise.

"Hey, look! It doesn't have any seeds!"

The twins exchanged a quick, shocked glance. Cyril knew his sister was thinking the same thing: did this mean the Oracle hadn't betrayed them after all?

Catherine and my referrer log point out that Jane Duvall said some nice things about both Naked Eye and this here site in her April 15th diary entry. She linked both the Log and "On Pornography".

I suppose I should warn readers that Jane's site is very much Adult Material, and rather kinky Adult Material at that. Jane is one of the co-perpetrators of Jane's 'Net Sex Guide, one of the less sleazy and more intelligent sex portals on the Net. I didn't know she had a journal online; looks like interesting reading.

Silly business name of the day: RedGorilla.com; think they got it from WordURL?

Our house, I am somehow ashamed to admit, now hosts a Nintendo 64 as well as the various real computers lying around. The kids wanted to play Pokemon Stadium, and the system turned out to be cheaper than I thought. I'm not sure why I've always disliked the idea. I guess having a computer that can do nothing but play games seems wrong, somehow.

Painful Food Label of the Week:

Pineapple slices
in its own juice

Ouch! And it was Dole, too; you'd think they could afford proofreaders.

Words of the competent: I was thinking for some reason about the essay in Jaguars Ripped My Flesh where Cahill talks to an expert in cave-diving about how to avoid dying. I enjoyed the essay alot, which is sort of odd at first glance, since it seems veeeeeery unlikely that I'll ever cave-dive.

I think it's just reading the words of someone who really knows what e's talking about, and is saying those words with the (relatively) pure intention of communicating that knowledge. FAQs are often fun to read that way, too; even if it's not about anything I'm directly interested in, just hearing someone who knows things doing a good job of communicating that knowledge is somehow an elevating experience.

The Usenet FAQ Archive on the amusingly-named rtfm.mit.edu machine.

Of course, even people who write FAQs are only human; I was disappointed to find, for instance, that at the end of the very cluefull and amusing essay "The Mathematics of Monkeys and Shakespeare", the Famous Brett Watson suddenly veers into the rather clueless "improbability argument for the existence of God", which depends on utterly misunderstanding the theory of evolution. Ah, well.

I got to the Famous Brett Watson's essay from the very funny footnotes to the very funny RFC2795, "The Infinite Monkeys Protocol Suite", the April 1st RFC for the year 2000. See also RFC1097 and a bunch of others.

Part of the thing about smart people is that they don't take themselves too seriously. Or perhaps that part of the way they take themselves seriously is to be silly now and then. (Oooooh, that's profound!)

Friday, April 14, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

One avoids vain talk, and abstains from it. One speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the law and the discipline; one's speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by arguments, moderate and full of sense.

-- adapted from the Anguttara Nikaya,
translated by Nyanatiloka


Also, yet another Bryce image on the Pictures page. Gad, this is becoming a habit!

Given that I mentioned the possible back-door in some e-commerce shopping cart yesterday, I feel obliged to mention the backdoor in Microsoft Frontpage Extensions, even though everyone else will be logging it, too. But the Buddha quote is more interesting. Read that again, and pretend I resisted the impulse to write the rest of this stuff...

On the speakers: WNYC.


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